How come no one ever thought of it — Jim Carrey as Scrooge? But thanks to director Robert Zemeckis, in Disney’s A Christmas Carol , Carrey will play the ill-tempered miser, haunted by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come. He plays the ghosts as well, sharing screen space with Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Robin Wright Penn and Robert Hoskins. “The great thing about playing Scrooge is that everyone has a little of bit of Scrooge in them. My inner Scrooge rears its head on a day-to-day basis,” the actor confides. Here’s more…
A Christmas Carol was published over 150 years ago. Why do you think it’s still so popular?
It’s one of the greatest stories of transformation and redemption ever written, and its theme is universal. I think everyone can relate to the idea of someone who doesn’t feel loved and therefore doesn’t return love. Scrooge is faced with looking at his life — at the life he’s had and how his life is going to be if he doesn’t change. But, who hasn’t had a glimpse of that in their own lives? Who hasn’t looked at the future, and gone ‘Wow! I have to get it together!’
Do you remember reading the story or watching a film version when you were a child?
Yes. My introduction to A Christmas Carol was with the one starring British actor Alastair Sim (1951). He did such an amazing job of bringing Scrooge to life. It was like he had a bad taste in his mouth the whole time, and was bitter to the core that you felt his pain — that’s what I wanted to bring; the bitterness that a loveless life brings to someone. There’s that expression that by the time you’re 50; you have the face you deserve. Scrooge is like a road map of pain.
You mentioned the Alastair Sim film of A Christmas Carol, which is just one of the 50 or 60 film versions. Did you have to be convinced that Robert Zemeckis had an approach that made the story worth telling again?
When you can bring a story to people in a way it leaps out of the screen and touches them, then that’s exciting to me. I’ve followed all of Robert’s films - Roger Rabbit, Cast Away, The Polar Express and so on - and his artistry is such that I knew he could do something original.
Scrooge is iconic. What was the best part of playing him?
I love getting inside the head of a character — sounds like a cliché, but I’ve always liked psychology and trying to understand why people become who they are. I also liked Robert’s idea that I should play all the spirits, which I believe is brilliant because all the different spirits could just be different aspects of Scrooge’s character. So, it’s all very Freudian (laughs).
You also had to play Scrooge at different ages…
If you look at it like that, it’s eight different characters, because I had to have the mentality of a seven-year-old Scrooge, the slightly older adolescent Scrooge, who suddenly realises that no one is going to pick him up from the orphanage, and so on. And, of course, your voice changes as you get older, which was a challenge in itself. Of course, there are these accents for the spirits…
How did you think you did with the British accent?
I just hope I pulled it off, and I’m not going to cause an international incident of some sort ( laughs).
How about the technical aspects of the film? It’s a performance-capture film, which, perhaps, is not very well understood…
No, I think people think it’s like voice-over work, but it’s more like doing a play. All the actors are in a room together, and give a complete performance that is captured by a camera. It’s just that those images are then processed by computer to give the film its amazing look.
So it feels quite natural?
Yes - apart from the fact that you have to wear a strange spandex suit and something that looks like a bicycle helmet that has several cameras in it! I had some scenes with Robin Wright Penn that were just clank, clank, clank. It was like we were locking antlers.
Is there a moral behind A Christmas Carol? Also, do you have a favourite Christmas memory?
I think the moral of the tale is to love - to love yourself and to love the people around you and to know that you can make a difference in someone else’s life. My favourite Christmas memory is from my childhood. My big thing was that I couldn’t wait to lie under the tree and squint my eyes up at the lights. I also liked to listen to Johnny Mathis and all other Christmas songs that just never got old, as far as I was concerned.