“Isn’t Scrooge meant to be ugly? And old?” you might wonder, when you tune in to BBC One’s latest adaptation of A Christmas Carol. “So what’s Guy Pearce doing on my screen?”
The 52-year-old actor has taken on the role of Charles Dickens’ famous miser to tell his story of Christmastime redemption and transformation. But before you cry “humbug!” to the casting, writer Steven Knight has a thoughtful explanation for why he’s made Ebenezer Scrooge younger and more handsome.
“I didn’t want Scrooge to look like Scrooge, because people don’t necessarily look like their souls,” the screenwriter tells RadioTimes.com.
“With Guy you’ve got an attractive man in the prime of his life and it really does mean that you ask the question more profoundly ‘Why is he like this? He could have a really great life so what is he doing?’ That’s part of the reason for casting someone like Guy, to really begin to explore why someone like that would behave like that.”
In Dickens’ 1843 novel, his protagonist’s personality has profoundly affected his appearance: “Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”
Dickens continues: “The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin.”
That’s not the version of Scrooge we’ll see in the BBC’s three-part adaptation for Christmas 2019.
Director Nick Murphy explains: “I wanted Scrooge to have swagger – we all did – and I wanted him to be young enough to have a life left to use in a different way.
“Steve had no interest in presenting a man at the end of his days going ‘Sorry about that everyone, I should have done better’. Steve’s writing is as interested in what one does in one’s life going forward as it is just reflecting on what you’ve done in the past. I think with a younger Scrooge you’ve got the ability to do that.”
The drama also co-stars Andy Serkis, Charlotte Riley, Stephen Graham, and Vinette Robinson and is written by Steven Knight, whose previous shows include Taboo and Peaky Blinders.
A Christmas Carol begins on 22nd December 2019 at 9pm on BBC One
Interviews by Simon Button