Why ‘A Christmas Carol’ Made Scrooge As Young As Guy Pearce

Charles DickensA Christmas Carol has been told over and over. The tale of Ebenezer Scrooge visiting his past, present and future to become a better person is the true Christmas spirit. FX has produced a new miniseries version for the holidays starring Guy Pearce as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Guy Pearce in A Christmas Carol
Guy Pearce in A Christmas Carol | Robert Viglasky/FX

Usually Scrooge is an old man in A Christmas Carol, whether played by Albert Finney or Scrooge McDuck. Even Jim Carrey‘s version allowed him to play an old man with special effects. Scrooge has accumulated his wealth through a life of miserliness.

Guy Pearce is the youngest Scrooge since Bill Murray. Pearce and writer Steven Knight were on a Television Critics Association panel discussing A Christmas Carol and explained why their Scrooge is younger. A Christmas Carol premieres tonight at 7:30 p.m. on FX.

Scrooge would have to be a charming businessman to get to ‘A Christmas Carol’

Guy Pearce acknowledged the “wizened, miserable, old kind of curmudgeonly” Scrooges that came before him. The vision of Knight and director Nick Murphy was more aggressive.

“Somebody who has actually some swagger and actually is a powerful businessman and is able to take on the world,” Pearce described. “He isn’t just turning his back on the world because he hates it all. He actually takes on the world in a way that a bully might.”

Guy Pearce as Ebenezer Scrooge
Guy Pearce as Ebenezer Scrooge | Robert Viglasky/FX

Bullies aren’t charming, but you can see how businessmen turn on the charm when it suits them. 

“It got me thinking about playing this character in a different way than what I might have sort of expected, to give him a kind of a confidence as a businessman in a ruthless kind of way that he functions,” Pearce said. “If he weren’t doing bad things to his employees and being as ruthless as he was, you might consider him to be a fairly charismatic and appealing human being.”

Guy Pearce has met real life Scrooges

For research on Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Guy Pearce didn’t have to look far.

Guy Pearce and Andy Serkis
Guy Pearce and Andy Serkis in A Christmas Carol | Robert Viglasky/FX

“I’ve met people who seemingly have a kind of an outward confidence or an ability to sort of take on a room, and yet I recognize, and that other people may recognize, that underneath a lot of that is a bit of a front,” Pearce said. “Or it’s a survival technique or it’s just a way to mask any pain that this person may have experienced in their life. I think we’ve all experienced pain in our lives and we all deal with it in different ways.”

‘A Christmas Carol’ wanted a hot Scrooge

Guy Pearce isn’t going to say this about himself, but he’s still in strapping good shape. At 52 he’s still got the looks he had in L.A. Confidential and Memento. That was important for this Scrooge.

“What I wanted to do was to make Ebenezer Scrooge someone who, if it weren’t for what he is and how he behaves, would be an attractive person, would be an attractive man,” Knight said. “Guy Pearce is someone who, given a different circumstance, a different history, and a different way of being, would be a perfectly personable human being. I didn’t want to make him look like his soul, because his soul is pretty wretched.”

Guy Pearce in A Christmas Carol
Guy Pearce in A Christmas Carol | Robert Viglasky/FX

To Knight, reconciling how Scrooge became a, well, Scrooge is what A Christmas Carol is really all about.

“What I wanted to do is have an audience say to themselves, why is this person like this?” Knight continued. “The burning question is: why is this person doing this? Why is this person like this? And I hope that in the three hours, we explore the reasons behind what Ebenezer Scrooge is, why did he become this person.”