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

singing competition Marvel Baby Yoda Music Heroines Spring TV TV binge Disney Plus renewed TV shows directors mutant Discovery Channel First Reviews Netflix anime Freeform Watching Series USA Network crime thriller 45 DirecTV 2018 Black Mirror Biopics Cosplay Thanksgiving NYCC YouTube Red Hallmark Amazon Prime Video Mary Poppins Returns Marvel Television Sneak Peek reviews GIFs Certified Fresh Superheroes PBS Podcast Opinion quibi RT History series thriller elevated horror facebook Walt Disney Pictures technology game of thrones A&E cars YA Tumblr Rom-Com ratings cancelled Comedy Central space green book El Rey sports Lifetime YouTube Premium dceu Mystery kids Musical 007 historical drama blockbuster Sundance Now crime drama Pixar Avengers The Walking Dead screenings halloween romantic comedy Sci-Fi Winners foreign cults vampires doctor who CBS A24 Set visit Cartoon Network Netflix Christmas movies slashers composers Countdown Valentine's Day Disney Channel Quiz toy story theme song TCA 2017 blaxploitation documentary crossover Spectrum Originals Tarantino social media comics sitcom Endgame ABC Family MSNBC zero dark thirty Arrowverse Apple TV+ Acorn TV breaking bad IFC 2019 boxoffice adventure Syfy hist CNN universal monsters YouTube Women's History Month zombies BBC America CMT TNT spinoff Apple TV Plus Masterpiece Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Anna Paquin MCU BET Academy Awards OneApp Red Carpet Premiere Dates 2020 Elton John Turner scary movies Toys Showtime DC Comics south america Amazon GLAAD Year in Review Britbox natural history Reality Schedule Sundance Action Sony Pictures Hulu ABC 2016 The Purge Television Academy comic Hallmark Christmas movies Turner Classic Movies Nickelodeon Calendar Ellie Kemper Peacock movie batman Columbia Pictures miniseries spy thriller justice league spain based on movie History FOX Pirates Best and Worst Trophy Talk nature latino Writers Guild of America Crunchyroll talk show independent what to watch Nominations NBC Logo Pride Month Interview christmas movies canceled AMC Fox News Animation TCA VICE Winter TV Paramount Network sag awards The Witch OWN 21st Century Fox Super Bowl Apple dragons Emmy Nominations spider-man casting cats Fall TV ghosts robots television game show name the review travel National Geographic movies Funimation DC Universe Cannes Universal BBC screen actors guild teaser Musicals sequel ESPN Polls and Games Summer tv talk Video Games Crackle Marvel Studios DGA FX APB psycho Food Network First Look anthology Ovation politics IFC Films TBS political drama Tubi Teen science fiction Bravo Film harry potter Disney+ Disney Plus Election PaleyFest Nat Geo Oscars TruTV President Mary Tyler Moore Comic Book TLC Captain marvel dc CBS All Access psychological thriller RT21 unscripted supernatural docudrama Spike Rock animated Binge Guide Starz Photos Lionsgate TCA Winter 2020 Amazon Prime SundanceTV police drama The CW medical drama FXX Comics on TV USA biography Awards Tour New York Comic Con E! cancelled TV shows Mary poppins VH1 period drama WarnerMedia cartoon Holidays Film Festival Tomatazos Creative Arts Emmys SDCC ITV Song of Ice and Fire Superheroe Star Wars dogs 2015 X-Men joker Country 71st Emmy Awards Shudder Dark Horse Comics reboot comiccon Comedy GoT true crime Adult Swim Drama hispanic Lifetime Christmas movies Vudu LGBT Horror Disney streaming service MTV Character Guide Rocky TV renewals finale aliens FX on Hulu Disney Pet Sematary Trivia jamie lee curtis festivals See It Skip It Fantasy cooking Awards Epix canceled TV shows Rocketman cancelled TV series Ghostbusters romance Grammys TV Land cinemax cops TCM war stand-up comedy Martial Arts Classic Film Extras Shondaland 2017 free movies Paramount indie WGN 24 frames witnail Trailer werewolf Amazon Studios serial killer Travel Channel award winner The Arrangement LGBTQ revenge Brie Larson zombie richard e. Grant HBO Max Esquire Chernobyl E3 American Society of Cinematographers Pop TV mockumentary Family rotten movies we love Reality Competition Black History Month strong female leads 20th Century Fox Infographic video cancelled television Emmys golden globes children's TV Christmas Box Office adaptation diversity Stephen King DC streaming service Holiday Star Trek CW Seed Western discovery TIFF crime HBO dramedy Mindy Kaling Warner Bros. versus Marathons spanish language book franchise Mudbound streaming disaster Lucasfilm transformers Sundance TV Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Pop Kids & Family San Diego Comic-Con SXSW