News

Guy Pearce and Andy Serkis Give Us A Christmas Carol Like We've Never Seen

The stars of writer-producer Steven Knight's dark adaptation offer five ways in which this retelling veers dramatically away from previous efforts.

by | December 18, 2019 | Comments


Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of the most-adapted tales in the history of the English language, and Steven Knight, creator of gritty period series Peaky Blinders and Taboo, is the latest talent to have taken on the task.

We all know the story: crotchety miser Ebenezer Scrooge has a Christmas Eve night visitation from his dead former partner Jacob Marley, who warns him of three ghosts who will attend him as he walks through visions of Christmases past, present, and future.

This new FX presentation, directed by Nick Murphy (The Awakening), stars Guy Pearce as Scrooge and Andy Serkis as a grumpy Ghost of Christmas Past and promises a darker take on the 1843 novella that made a superstar of its author: “A Christmas Carol is a spine-tingling immersion into Scrooge’s dark night of the soul,” the promotional materials promise.

“It is a darker retelling. There’s no question,” Serkis told Rotten Tomatoes. “It’s a unique retelling in that respect because… Scrooge in this is not some sort of old miser character. He’s actually a tough businessmen… who is in denial and doesn’t want to really engage with his own moral relativism.”

We caught up with the stars to get a feel for the new adaptation — and it indeed feels scary. Here are five ways this Christmas Carol one-ups previous efforts.


1. This Cool Scrooge Resonates With Modern Audiences

A CHRISTMAS CAROL -- Pictured: Guy Pearce as Ebenezer Scrooge. CR: Kurt Iswarienko/FX

(Photo by Kurt Iswarienko/FX)

Scrooge is not as crotchety here as in previous interpretations of the character; in fact, the character may resemble more real-life people than ever before. Pearce offered a personal assessment of his character.

“They really wanted somebody this time who still had been affected in life the way that we know Scrooge has been, but that his demeanor and his presence in the world was more of a businessman, as a leader who is a kind of a cocky, confident, swaggering kind of asshole, basically,” Pearce told Rotten Tomatoes. “I think it was important for Nick, our director, and for Steven, our writer, to get away from the crotchety old man who exhibits on the surface the pain and damage that he’s experienced in his life. And the fact that he’s turned away from the world and plays somebody who’s actually up front to the world and says, ‘Come on, bring it on. Bring on your questions about who I am and what it is, because I’ve got a really good response for you.’ And kind of like that, be a little bit more affronting and aggressive. And so, in a way, we still get to the point where we drag him through his past, and we make him look at the things he’s done to people, and we crack open the soul that is a damaged soul.”


2. This Ghost of Christmas Past Plays Dirty

A CHRISTMAS CAROL -- Pictured: Andy Serkis as Ghost of Christmas Past. CR: Robert Viglasky/FX

(Photo by Robert Viglasky/FX)

But his Scrooge will face a harder fight in Knight’s version, Pearce confirmed: “It’s a tougher journey because the Ghost of Christmas Past is a really hard nut to crack.”

“The Ghost of Christmas Past is jaded,” the character description offers. “He’s been sent to make lost souls repent before, why should Scrooge be any different? He prods and pokes where it hurts, transforming himself into those known to his charge, finding a place of pain, shame and self-knowledge. But can he get Scrooge to recognize himself, and repent?”


3. The Ghost of Christmas Present Has a Much More Personal Relationship With Scrooge

A CHRISTMAS CAROL -- Pictured: Charlotte Riley as Lottie/Ghost of Christmas Present. CR: Robert Viglasky/FX

(Photo by Robert Viglasky/FX)

Charlotte Riley appears as the Ghost of Christmas Present, while Jason Flemyng is the Ghost of Christmas Future. Both ghosts are updated here with new twists on the characters.

“She plays my sister who has died some years before,” Pearce said, “and she has now come back as the Ghost of Christmas Present. And — particularly after the ruthlessness of Andy Serkis’ Ghost of Christmas Past, who shape-shifts into all sorts of characters through my past, and he’s really tough on me — then she comes in as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and it’s my long lost dead sister, so it’s so emotional and so touching and painful. And then it’s capped off with Jason playing sort of ruthless again, but silent like the silent-killer kind of attitude, as the Ghost of Christmas Future.”


4. Steven Knight’s Take Is Indeed Chilling

A CHRISTMAS CAROL -- Pictured: Jason Flemyng as Ghost of Christmas Future. CR: Robert Viglasky/FX

(Photo by Robert Viglasky/FX)

One of the most unsettling features of the new story is how closely it hews to issues — and personalities — we face today, which is a very intentional choice. Serkis said he knew he was in for something special when he heard Knight was attached.

“When I heard that there was another version of Christmas Carol being made, I kind of thought, ‘Wow, OK. Again? Another one?'” he said. “But as soon as I knew that Steven Knight was writing it, I knew that now, ‘This is going to be an interesting take,’ because I knew this was going to be the beginning of a journey into his exploration of Dickens in other stories as well, which is the case.”

Knight and the stars had previously talked about “stripping down” the story, which Serkis expounded on for Rotten Tomatoes.

“When we say ‘stripping down,’ it was more about not getting bogged down in the sort of tropes of a costume drama, Victorian drama, and allowing it to live afresh as a really contemporary piece of writing,” he said. “And therefore, and so, even though you’re what you, of course, allowing the visuals, you do that work, you want to feel that the character is alive and very present and not sort of imagining what it might be like to have been alive in the 19th century. You’re not doing that. You’re actually saying these are people, people are people, and we still have the same issues, problems. We need to unpack the difficulties of the human condition in this, in a very modern way to make this story resonate with a fresh audience.”


5. Serkis’ Costuming Challenge Continues Here Even If He’s Not a CG-Enhanced Character

A CHRISTMAS CAROL -- Pictured: Guy Pearce as Ebenezer Scrooge, Andy Serkis as Ghost of Christmas Past. CR: Robert Viglasky/FX

(Photo by Robert Viglasky/FX)

Serkis, known especially for his CG-enhanced performances like Gollum and Caesar in the Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes franchises, faced a different sort of challenge here.

“[The costume] was so heavy. It was like going from the sublime to the ridiculous. I couldn’t possibly have more makeup or costume to bear, but it was great, actually. It was nice to play a character in the flesh, and it was a particularly challenging character, not least because it was like sensory deprivation actually wearing this costume. I had long locks of hair and an additional beard. I had an eye that I couldn’t see out of. I had scars all over my face. I had long nails, so once I got into costume, I was able to kind of get into the character and stay there. I had to.”

To compound his costuming issues, they filmed in summer.

“It was pretty brutal at times,” Serkis said. “I just had to at least take the hat off and get the top layer off as much as I could. But — actor problems.”

A Christmas Carol airs Thursday, December 19 at 7:30 on FX.


Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

crime unscripted stop motion Turner 24 frames latino Disney streaming service First Look name the review docudrama Amazon Prime Video Comic-Con@Home 2021 archives CBS All Access worst australia BBC documentaries Family 2017 news ITV Dark Horse Comics RT History See It Skip It spanish language movie MCU mockumentary Countdown harry potter 45 women serial killer Mudbound WarnerMedia new star wars movies Logo History comics TLC reboot 2020 Apple TV Plus IFC Films Polls and Games E3 Sundance Now Pet Sematary YouTube Red TruTV Film Festival Academy Awards TV dragons kong venice psycho YouTube Premium Year in Review Pixar 4/20 AMC Election Valentine's Day biography deadpool Columbia Pictures Spike Reality witnail RT21 target stoner space Star Wars TV movies cars DC Universe Amazon Prime dogs kids Travel Channel GoT documentary Food Network universal monsters X-Men reviews Starz Kids & Family San Diego Comic-Con biopic japanese dramedy hist BBC America fast and furious rt archives The Walt Disney Company fresh miniseries Musicals Acorn TV Tomatazos spy thriller animated Christmas Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt hispanic spanish President Marvel series cancelled book joker Marathons Mystery 007 concert Cannes TCA Awards 72 Emmy Awards transformers CW Seed social media kaiju science fiction Heroines LGBTQ doctor who Winter TV asian-american Horror 2015 halloween tv Toys HBO Go james bond Exclusive Video Lucasfilm Tokyo Olympics hispanic heritage month romance teaser Trophy Talk Britbox Grammys Sundance franchise Martial Arts travel ratings Extras Syfy japan historical drama festival 20th Century Fox dark Binge Guide Fox Searchlight Holiday Drama french Sneak Peek heist movie classics Superheroe slasher ID dc 2018 Awards Tour Reality Competition nbcuniversal SundanceTV Red Carpet south america Broadway Fall TV Image Comics Pop TV royal family new york action-comedy Calendar Infographic Universal Comic Book Set visit indiana jones dexter green book Endgame political drama Rock American Society of Cinematographers VH1 blaxploitation cartoon know your critic 21st Century Fox USA Network FXX Schedule ghosts obituary PlayStation Character Guide Pop justice league OneApp award winner crime thriller Masterpiece TCM Winners theme song BBC One SXSW A&E slashers godzilla crime drama TV Land what to watch elevated horror lord of the rings war legend aliens Trivia Writers Guild of America hidden camera book adaptation a nightmare on elm street dceu versus Nat Geo stand-up comedy Crunchyroll saw trailers Anna Paquin sitcom anthology Pride Month spain FOX Marvel Studios Quiz USA Mary Poppins Returns Spring TV nfl spider-man SDCC Spectrum Originals adventure NBA MTV FX on Hulu Music cooking Crackle Watching Series Rocky WGN independent Baby Yoda Podcast Nominations Tumblr Television Critics Association LGBT 99% Chilling Adventures of Sabrina remakes hollywood king kong mutant Video Games Western nature PaleyFest zombies Cartoon Network Creative Arts Emmys directors italian Best and Worst Bravo 71st Emmy Awards ViacomCBS mcc FX Tubi criterion HBO Max natural history BAFTA Hallmark Christmas movies wonder woman BET Awards The Walking Dead based on movie Cosplay marvel cinematic universe 2019 technology Comedy Central Fantasy Teen Turner Classic Movies Summer docuseries Nickelodeon mission: impossible tv talk ABC Signature Funimation screen actors guild BET ABC Family Adult Swim Apple TV+ boxoffice cats 2021 composers 73rd Emmy Awards Disney TCA 2017 police drama GLAAD Hear Us Out TBS Trailer sequels twilight Animation Action cancelled TV shows Disney Plus foreign The Arrangement international Discovery Channel Amazon Studios Showtime Ghostbusters APB die hard jurassic park Mary Tyler Moore suspense thriller Lionsgate rotten movies we love razzies YA boxing Wes Anderson Holidays screenings rotten Avengers toy story cops comic book movies rt labs critics edition DC Comics Classic Film Black Mirror NYCC high school comiccon PBS debate robots festivals popular Ellie Kemper ESPN game show prank A24 zero dark thirty christmas movies Country Mary poppins king arthur 93rd Oscars Elton John scary movies VICE canceled TV shows Netflix Christmas movies Mindy Kaling cancelled television Emmy Nominations gangster binge batman DirecTV CNN jamie lee curtis satire Sony Pictures Super Bowl critic resources Biopics GIFs Fox News chucky Lifetime talk show El Rey Epix best cancelled TV series NBC pirates of the caribbean Rocketman Superheroes canceled The Purge television Disney+ Disney Plus Ovation CMT Interview Emmys parents The Academy Esquire Tarantino Certified Fresh diversity discovery quibi Apple sequel Film The CW marvel comics streaming IFC Disney Channel 2016 Walt Disney Pictures worst movies Chernobyl sag awards Sci-Fi movies MSNBC toronto rt labs cults feel good period drama Arrowverse young adult olympics black Peacock Paramount crossover Pacific Islander Brie Larson Women's History Month werewolf adaptation Hulu live action blockbuster Television Academy CBS critics Freeform Shondaland all-time Comedy basketball indie child's play Alien streaming movies HBO singing competition emmy awards video TV One sports revenge new zealand monster movies Hallmark YouTube comic richard e. Grant TCA Winter 2020 telelvision rom-coms golden globes renewed TV shows Legendary Sundance TV Marvel Television comedies superhero Song of Ice and Fire breaking bad casting Oscars Black History Month children's TV game of thrones scene in color anime 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Comics on TV DC streaming service The Witch aapi spinoff Photos Pirates OWN finale Star Trek TNT zombie Box Office Paramount Network Shudder First Reviews Opinion Lifetime Christmas movies Paramount Plus DGA Captain marvel 90s supernatural medical drama 1990s ABC halloween scorecard Warner Bros. Awards psychological thriller vampires adenture Musical true crime politics Thanksgiving TCA films football E! posters Vudu VOD video on demand facebook disaster TV renewals laika superman New York Comic Con Premiere Dates Netflix comic books Stephen King Amazon free movies blockbusters TIFF strong female leads cinemax National Geographic comic book movie golden globe awards Rom-Com romantic comedy