Dan Stevens loves playing Charles Dickens — but “A Christmas Carol” isn’t his favorite holiday story
It’s no secret that Hollywood never shies away from a classic literary adaptation.
From the endless Shakespearean adaptations to yet another take on Sherlock Holmes, our favorite childhood classics are always being explores in film. Alongside Shakespeare and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, sits 19th Century British novelist Charles Dickens, whose wide-ranging body of work — including Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and of course, A Christmas Carol — is transformed for the screen every few years.
But while Dickens’ work is often adapted into films and series, the writer himself — whose own upbringing heavily influenced his work — hasn’t been widely explored through the lens of a camera.
Dan Stevens’ new film, The Man Who Invented Christmas takes on this fresh perspective in bringing A Christmas Carol to the big screen, focusing on Dickens’ struggle to write the novella in just six weeks while battling with “ghosts” of his own. HelloGiggles recently spoke with Stevens about the film, and the Legion actor opened up about his opportunity bring a different side of the iconic literary figure to life.
"I hadn't realized quite how few people have actually portrayed him," Stevens explained to HelloGiggles over the phone. "You know, his work is often adapted and A Christmas Carol has been done hundreds of times in many different ways. But, we haven't really seen the man himself on screen a great deal, certainly not at this age, at this very interesting a stage of his life. And it was interesting to me to just approach him afresh and look at the kind of man that he must've been. It was very delightful, delightful exercise."
The film, which often portrays Dickens as a campy writer — talking loudly to himself and making random noises before a name or idea clicked — also illustrates how the writer’s difficult childhood left him with ghosts of his own, drawing a parallel between Dickens and Ebenezer Scrooge, the iconic and dark protagonist of his novella. According to Stevens, Dickens’ mentality in the film reflects “artist’s struggle” he was going through during his creative process writing A Christmas Carol, with the creative team using letters and diaries from from Dickens and his friends and family to piece it all together. Touching on that, Stevens elaborates, “[Dickens] dances this very interesting line between childish, silly, playful sense of humor and this very sort of dark, depressive streak. And I think that’s the line that we danced in the film as well.”
But, the Downton Abbey actor was well aware of the challenges in taking on the role of a renowned figure like Charles Dickens, who nearly 200 years later, often seems more like a legendary figure than an actual person. While admitting that he as a kid, never thought he’d grow up to play the literary icon, Stevens did open up about Dickens’ impact on his life and society in general.
"You know, he really is part of the fabric of, not only the culture of Christmas, but also the culture of education and his works are taught pretty widely from quite an early age, and I remember being exposed to him very early on, I think," Stevens said. "I had a very much loved audio book of Great Expectations read by Tom Baker that I used to listen to a lot as a kid and, yeah, A Christmas Carol is very much part of cultural Christmas in England. So yeah, he's been a part of my life for a long time."
While The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the story of Dickens writing A Christmas Carol, the film — in its own way — still tells the story of Scrooge, taking viewers through the sequence of events as Dickens comes up with the story. Naturally, we couldn’t help but ask Stevens about his favorite adaptation — and really, it’s a no brainer.
"I would say The Muppet Christmas Carol," Stevens said, laughing. "It's gotta be up there. We make sure we sit down and watch that every Christmas Eve. And I love it."
Catch Dan Stevens in The Man Who Invented Christmas in theaters November 22nd.