One of the many twists audiences can expect when A Christmas Carol comes to December 19 is Guy Pearce’s deliberately handsome Scrooge.
“Scrooge is a recluse, but I wanted him to be a functioning and attractive man,” says screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Peaky Blinders). “His appearance doesn’t have to reflect his soul.”
Knight believes this interpretation of the Dickens tale—including a makeover for what is usually a withered, wizened miser—is one that theatre fans will enjoy thanks to a focus on character development and dialogue.
“I’ve tried to make this about real characters that are having an unreal experience,” says Knight. “This is not about special effects. It’s not about ghosts or people going on fantastic journeys through the sky in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve.”
With his richly detailed world, Charles Dickens made it easy to get to know the characters. “You feel quite humble in the presence of them,” Knight says.
And thanks to countless stage and screen adaptations of Dickens’ tale—including one currently running on Broadway—one might wonder why a new angle is even necessary, but this Nick Murphy–directed version will delve into the psyche of Scrooge deeper than ever before.
The film will tap into Scrooge’s backstory, exploring relationships like the one with his sister Lottie, played by Charlotte Riley. There is also reference to Scrooge’s traumatic experience at boarding school in the Dickens original, but it’s never made clear what happened in the novella.
“I’m trying to be forensic with lines where Dickens is referring to things in London that he couldn’t be explicit about,” says Knight. “He wrote for his audience in a way that was ahead of its time.”
That’s all part of what makes A Christmas Carol perfect for a fresh, in-depth look. Of course the staying power of the quintessential holiday tale comes from its concept of redemption.
“It’s the ultimate character arc,” says Knight. “It’s intelligible to everyone. Human beings, no matter what culture they’re in, get it.”