The Man Who Invented Christmas
by director Bharat Nalluri
I was on holiday with my family, by the beach watching a beautiful sunset, when I got a phone call from Paula Mazur and Robert Mickelson—two of my producers on the film. “We hear you love A Christmas Carol and we have this incredibly original take on it, would you be interested?” How they had found out about my love for the book I have no idea, but I immediately downloaded Les Standiford’s book The Man Who Invented Christmas and read Susan Coyne’s wonderful script, based on the book. As the waves lapped at my feet, I was magically transported back to a cold Christmas-y Victorian England.
Before long we were on set. Casting, often a fickle process, had been very straightforward. That’s always the sign of a good script. Everyone I approached had jumped on board: Dan Stevens (Charles Dickens), Christopher Plummer (Scrooge), and Jonathan Pryce (Dickens senior). We set ourselves a tight deadline and in a life-imitating-art journey, we shot the movie over a fever pitched six-week period, around Christmas 2016 (Dickens himself wrote A Christmas Carol in a mad six weeks, prior to Christmas 1843).
Dan and Christopher had extraordinary chemistry together and it was obvious from the outset that they were creating something special. On a personal level, working with Christopher has been a long-held ambition fulfilled, and being in the wake of Dan’s on-set energy was a thrilling experience. The rest of the cast played their parts perfectly: Simon Callow, Justin Edwards, Miriam Margolyes, Donald Sumpter, Bill Paterson, and Morfydd Clark. They all brought their own wonderful interpretations to the table. To get a seal of approval on the script from Simon and Miriam (both renowned Dickens experts), was an extra special bonus.
The crew also played an enormous part in helping me realize the film. Paki Smith (production designer), Ben Smithard (director of photography), and Leonie Prendergast (costume designer) were just three of the many key players who became part of our family. An enormous amount of detailed research took place; from traveling to the British Library in London to see and touch first editions of A Christmas Carol, to creating authentic stitching on the hem of Jacob Marley’s coat. No detail was too small to be overlooked or ignored, making for beautiful, authentic-looking sets and costumes.
From Susan’s wonderful script, to the incredibly talented cast, crew, and producers, it’s been a truly creative journey. In the interesting times we live in now, it’s been a pleasure to be involved in a film that highlights the simple human truths that Charles Dickens reminded the world of way back in the Christmas of 1843.