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

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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

(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.


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TVLine Items: Rogue One Prequel Casting, Ninth Doctor Returns and More

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The Rogue One prequel series is expanding its ensemble: Adria Arjona (Good Omens, True Detective) will star opposite Diego Luna in Disney+’s Star Wars offshoot, our sister site Deadline reports.

The untitled spy thriller focuses on Luna’s rebel spy Cassian Andor during the formative years of the Rebellion, while exploring tales filled with espionage and daring missions to restore hope to a galaxy in the grip of a ruthless Empire. Stephen Schiff (The Americans) will serve as showrunner, with the film’s co-writer Tony Gilroy set to write the pilot in addition to directing multiple episodes.

The cast also includes Alan Tudyk, Genevieve O’Reilly and Denise Gough. No details are currently available about Arjona’s character.

Ready for more of today’s newsy nuggets? Well…

* Christopher Eccleston will reprise his Doctor Who role as the Ninth Doctor in a 12-episode audio series to be released in May, our sister site Variety reports.

* Nickelodeon is nearing a deal for the SpongeBob SquarePants animated spinoff The Patrick Star Show, in which SpongeBob’s best friend (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke) hosts his own late-night talk show, per Deadline.

* An adaptation of the Goldie Taylor novel Paper Gods is in development at ABC, with Nia Long (Empire) set to star and serve as EP. Sony Pictures Television and John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co. will produce.

* Judd Apatow will direct a two-part HBO documentary about the legendary comedian George Carlin, who died in 2008.

* The three studios of Disney Television Studios are being rebranded with new names, logos and motion end cards: 20th Century Fox Television becomes 20th Television; ABC Studios and ABC Signature become ABC Signature; and Fox 21 Television Studios will be renamed Touchstone Television.

Which of today’s TVLine Items pique your interest?

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Fargo fans finally get the news they’ve been waiting for

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Each season of Fargo has been a critical winner, but this upcoming slate promises to deliver something special indeed, focusing this time on warring criminal organizations in Kansas City and boasting a particularly wide gamut of a star-studded cast that runs from Chris Rock to Jason Schwartzman to Timothy Olyphant. After the show shut down production, showrunner Noah Hawley sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for its “How I’m Living Now” series, which discusses the major changes COVID-19 has foisted upon their lives and careers. 

One silver lining in the mess caused by the shutdown for Hawley is a massive increase in breathing room to edit the footage he has — since Fargo was trying to make the Emmys deadline, he had previously been rather overwhelmed with trying to edit the episodes in a narrow window. “Our post was also hit by a potential exposure, so our editors are at home now,” he explained at the time. “A couple of them were able to get editing systems in their homes. But because our release date got pushed, we’re not rushing. I get a bit of breathing room where I can actually engage with it more creatively and less in a desperate panic to get it done in time.” 

You gotta take your victories where you can in this year’s production environment, and Hawley certainly has one. Even better, this means that the end product will be the best it possibly can be, now that its artisans have more time to think their work through.

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Bolton Won’t Vote for Trump This Fall: ‘He’s Not Competent’

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In a new interview with Business Insider to promote his best-selling Donald Trump tell-all, “The Room Where It Happened,” John Bolton says he doesn’t plan to vote for Donald Trump. But to any Democrats who think (or worry) Bolton might cross the aisle, relax: He says doesn’t plan to vote for Joe Biden either.

“I’m not going to vote for Biden for philosophical reasons, and I’m not going to vote for Trump for philosophical reasons and because he’s not competent,” Bolton told Business Insider.

Bolton didn’t elaborate on what those “philosophical” differences are, though he did say that he doesn’t actually plan to cast his vote for a viable candidate in any sense. Instead, he told BI he’s “thinking of names” to write in, though he declined to share them out of fear doing so would cause “a two-minute Twitter rant by the president, and they don’t need that.”


Also Read: Seth Meyers Is Really Tired of Trump Trying to Steal Obama’s Accomplishments (Video)


Bolton drew distinctions between himself and Trump, for instance he said he opposes any delay of the 2020 election, something Trump has hinted he might do despite having absolutely no legal authority to do so. “It’s completely beyond any reasonable consideration to delay the election. It’s set by statute and the idea of changing it at the last minute, I just think no one in the Republican Party was prepared to accept outside of the White House staff, perhaps. And I found it very troubling that the president would even talk about it,” he said.

But Bolton also seemed to agrees with Trump, saying he is largely against mail in voting and early voting, measures that expand voter access to people who don’t have the luxury of taking off work to vote on a Tuesday and can also keep people safe amid the coronavirus pandemic. “I think there’s a central element of democratic theory that we have the opportunity as a nation to do one thing all together on one day,” he said, “that we all show up at the polling place and vote.”

That said, Bolton does say Trump’s response to the pandemic has been “a failure,” and said overall Trump “ranks at the bottom” among U.S. presidents, and that he thought about resigning more than once during his final months as national security adviser. So why didn’t he? “If you thought about resigning each and every time something objectionable happened, you’d last about three or four hours in the job,” he told Business Insider.

Read the full article here.

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