Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

What the Dickens? Dan Stevens Steps into the Shoes of Charles Dickens in His New Film the Man Who Invented Christmas. He Meets LAURA HARDING to Talk about His Move to America and Why He Wanted to Find out How Truly Strange the Author Was and See of of ON THE SCREEN BIG

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

What the Dickens? Dan Stevens Steps into the Shoes of Charles Dickens in His New Film the Man Who Invented Christmas. He Meets LAURA HARDING to Talk about His Move to America and Why He Wanted to Find out How Truly Strange the Author Was and See of of ON THE SCREEN BIG

Article excerpt

Byline: LAURA HARDING

IT has been five years since Matthew Crawley died at the wheel of his car on Christmas Day, reducing Downton Abbey fans around the world to blubbering wrecks.

But Dan Stevens, the actor who rocketed to fame playing him, looks as fit as a fiddle right here in front of me, fresh off a plane from Los Angeles.

He has been living there for a while now, having embarked on a Hollywood career after walking away from the ITV drama, and it clearly agrees with him.

ON BIG SCREEN He looks remarkably trim and fit and that is likely down to the fact he is a superhero - playing the X-Men character David Haller on TV series Legion.

But that has not stopped him from returning to period garb for a new role, and a decidedly British one at that.

In The Man Who Invented Christmas he takes on the part of Charles Dickens, as the author struggles to conjure up a hit after a string of flops that jeopardise his financial future.

His agonising writer's block eventually leads to the masterpiece that is A Christmas Carol.

Dan, who read English at Cambridge, said Dickens was regarded as "this giant monolith" - but he did not let the sheer scale of the writer's legacy intimidate him.

Trying to include Dickens' whole life in one film would have been a bit much, he says.

"But what's quite fun about this one is we just take a really neat slice - six weeks of his life, where he sets this impossible deadline of producing this Christmas book, that really encapsulated a lot of things he was feeling about social justice and inequality and also human misery and greed.

"He was trying to bring a bit of laughter and the heart back into the bleakness of Christmas.

"It's an amazing book and it was just nice to dive behind it and see the manic man behind the creation of it all."

Dan doesn't remember the first time he read A Christmas Carol, adding: "It's always been part of the fabric of our Christmas and I think of various film versions - the Alastair Sim one from 1951, The Muppet Christmas Carol which is a firm fixture in our house, Bill Murray's Scrooged.

"I've just been steeped in it my whole life really."

Rather than tackle another A Christmas Carol adaptation, for the new movie they decided to 'look at it from a slightly different angle', he says - and the artistic process it portrays is pretty agonising.

Dickens is essentially haunted by the characters he is writing, but particularly Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Christopher Plummer.

"There is something about the universal artistic and creative process for anybody who has had a success with one thing and then followed it up with something else that hasn't been so well received.

"He was practically a rock star after The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist [but] then Barnaby Rudge, American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit didn't go down as well and he was up against it at the difficult seventh-album phase or whatever. …

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