"DISNEY'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL, a multi-sensory thrill ride re-envisioned by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, captures the fantastical essence of the classic Dickens tale in a groundbreaking 3-D motion picture event.
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Ebenezer Scrooge (JIM CARREY) begins the Christmas holiday with his usual miserly contempt, barking at his faithful clerk (GARY OLDMAN) and his cheery nephew (COLIN FIRTH). But when the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come take him on an eye-opening journey revealing truths Old Scrooge is reluctant to face, he must open his heart to undo years of ill will before it's too late." - Rope of Silicon
Even as Robert Zemeckis was writing the script, he had only one actor in mind to play the role of Scrooge - Jim Carrey.
“Jim’s not just a wonderful actor, he’s a chameleon,” says Starkey. “He can work his body in ways other actors can’t. He’s just so versatile. I can’t imagine the film without him.”
Neither could the director. Zemeckis had no doubts that Carrey’s talent as an imaginative and risk-taking actor would make him the quintessential Scrooge. “When I did my first performance-capture movie and I realized the potential of what could be done, I couldn’t help but think that the greatest performance-capture actor that exists is Jim Carrey,” says the director. “His face is so incredibly expressive, and he’s so great at creating characters, giving him the ability to completely change his physicality. All of his talents as a performer and as a comedian are included in his performance.”
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Here's a new clip. I find it eerie how much the computer-generated character of Cratchit looks like Gary Oldman...
Producer Rapke agrees, “There is a place that he goes to that in a million years you wouldn’t think it was possible. He has an unlimited amount of extraordinary physicality. The way he transforms himself into Scrooge is amazing. He gives his all, pursuing every single permutation of the character. He comes up with so many alternatives and they are all great. It’s an embarrassment of riches.”
“Since the ghosts are all an extension of Scrooge, it’s only fitting that they all have a bit of Scrooge in them. So it was a perfect fit to have Jim play all the parts.” - Robert Zemeckis, Director/Producer/Screenwriter
Zemeckis called on several other cast members to fulfil more than one role. Gary Oldman plays the meek, but optimistic Bob Cratchit, as well as Cratchit’s young ailing son Tiny Tim, and Marley’s ghost. “We hired a great actor who himself is a master of disguise,” says Zemeckis.
“Gary Oldman is one of the most brilliant actors working today and to have him come and do these characters that require different aspects of personality and experience, it’s amazing to watch,” adds Rapke.
Classically trained British theatre actor Colin Firth is one of the few actors playing only one role, but he plays a central figure in the film. Firth portrays the forever optimistic Fred, whose cheery disposition and opposing outlook on life is a stark contrast to that of his grumpy uncle Scrooge.
“Fred is quite simply the opposite of Scrooge,” explains Firth. “He’s the foil. If Scrooge is the ultimate pessimist, Fred is the ultimate optimist. I think Fred sees life very simply. ‘Why can’t we be friends? It’s not complicated. I’m inviting you to dinner. Why don’t you just come for dinner?’ I think he embodies the Christmas spirit. He wishes no ill to anybody.”
“Colin Firth is a dashing actor,” says Starkey. “He is just a perfect, proper young Englishman.”
Robin Wright Penn, who appeared in Zemeckis’ previous performance-capture film “Beowulf,” as well as the director’s acclaimed hit “Forrest Gump,” portrays Belle, the beautiful young woman whom Scrooge chooses not to pursue, turning his back on a life of love and light. Penn also plays Scrooge’s young sister Fan, for whom Scrooge had a great affection; he could never quite get over her untimely death.
“Robin is part of our repertory company,” says Rapke. “There is not a female role that we don’t think of her first. She is so talented, and she is part of our creative family.
“As Belle, she is part of the moment that forms the older Scrooge,” continues Rapke. “She is the object of his love. She represents what could have been and is the source of Scrooge’s greatest sadness. His life would have been totally different. And for Fan, we needed somebody to portray that kind of beautiful innocence, that verve for life with a slightly naive quality - that’s Robin.”
The filmmakers called on one of England’s most distinctive actors, Bob Hoskins, to join the cast. Hoskins left school at 15 to pursue an acting career. His breakout performance came in 1987 with his Academy Award-nominated role in “Mona Lisa.” He continued to dazzle audiences in films such as “Nixon,” “Maid in Manhattan,” and “Mrs Henderson Presents.”
“There is an amazing history between Bob Zemeckis and Bob Hoskins because of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,’” says Rapke. “Bob said, ‘The only guy I can see being Fezziwig is Bob Hoskins. He can dance and he has a great face. And Bob should play Old Joe, too. He would be fabulous in that role as well.’”
Although it had been 20 years since the actor had worked with Zemeckis, Hoskins was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the director again. “My main reason to do this film was to work again with Robert Zemeckis,” says Hoskins. “Bob is the Einstein of cinema. His imagination is always worth seeing. It’s extraordinary. I’ve got a very soft spot for Zemeckis - he’s mad as a March hare, but I love him,” laughs Hoskins.
Starring alongside Hoskins as Mrs Dilber is the Abbey Theatre-trained Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan. On stage and on screen, Flanagan has appeared in films including “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood,” “Transamerica,” and “Waking Ned Divine.” Filmmakers tapped Flanagan to portray Scrooge’s charwoman, a poor woman who takes advantage of her master’s untimely demise by stealing his personal belongings and haggling with Old Joe over the items.
“Their way of celebrating is to gloat over what she’s managed to steal from Scrooge’s house,” says Flanagan.
The multitalented Cary Elwes joins the cast and plays a menagerie of characters with great diversity and range: the mad fiddler who plays at Fezziwig’s big bash; Dick Wilkins, Scrooge’s roommate from years ago; and a businessman who is shunned by Scrooge when he solicits donations for the poor.
“Cary plays multiple characters and he’s got the versatility to support them all,” says Starkey.
Elwes has a unique connection to the story. The actor is actually related to the man believed to be the inspiration for Scrooge. “John Megid Elwes is an ancestor of mine who was a renowned miser,” says Elwes. “He was a politician who changed his name from Megid to Elwes in order to gain favour with his uncle, Sir Harvey Elwes, who he knew was going to die without an heir and he had tons of money. And it worked. He managed to get all Mr Harvey Elwes’ estates and proceeded to become one of the most famous misers in English history. He was renowned for never changing his clothes.”
Completing the cast are Leslie Manville as Mrs Cratchit, Leslie Zemeckis as Fred’s wife, and Paul Blackthorne as Belle’s husband.
Director Robert Zemeckis didn’t have to contemplate who he’d call on to score the music for “DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL.” Composer Alan Silvestri was his first choice. “Alan and I have a long working relationship that spans 25 years,” says Zemeckis.
The two began working together on Zemeckis’ film “Romancing the Stone.” Silvestri’s suspenseful score helped make the action-comedy a hit. They continued to collaborate with films including the “Back to the Future” series, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” the Oscar-winning “Forrest Gump” (for which Silvestri received an Academy Award nomination for Best Score), “Contact,” “What Lies Beneath,” “Cast Away” (for which the composer won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition), and the spectacular Christmas fantasy “The Polar Express.” The song “Believe,” performed by Josh Groban, which Silvestri co-wrote with Glen Ballard, was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Original Song category and won a Grammy Award for Best Song for a Motion Picture. Zemeckis and Silvestri also teamed up for the epic tale “Beowulf.”
Silvestri teamed up with Glen Ballard to create the perfect song to cap the film. “God Bless Us Everyone,” an original song inspired by the film’s famous line delivered by Tiny Tim at the end of the movie, was recorded by none other than Andrea Bocelli. Says Zemeckis: “Bocelli heard the wonderful song composed by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri and immediately decided he wanted to record it. I think the song will be a Christmas classic.”