ComingSoon.net talked to director Robert Zemeckis, Jim Carrey, Colin Firth and Bob Hoskins about their new 3D motion capture adaptation of the Charles Dickens story, A Christmas Carol. The anticipated film opens in conventional and IMAX theaters on Friday, November 6th, and we got a chance to sit down exclusively with Zemeckis, Firth and Hoskins. You can watch those interviews using the player below!
We also attended a press conference with Carrey, who said that getting to play the multiple characters “was like a dream come true.”
“Can I tell you how freaky it is for me though?” he asked a room full of reporters about playing Scrooge. “One of the first things I said upon the first close up image of Scrooge was, ‘My family is going to have a heart attack. That is my father.’ Not the mood–he was the happy version–the day after. It’s really a look into the future for me. Not the nose, but it’s what I’m going to look like when I’m older.”
Q: Jim, a lot of people think this is a voice over performance, but it’s not.
Jim Carrey: No, it’s full performances by actors. There are certain aspects of the technology that of course are so exciting and amazing creatively that you can’t wait to see what it turns into. Certain aspects of the technology make things easier to get a lot of scenes done and do a lot of material at once. There are a lot of aspects that make it hugely easy for him to create the world he wants. For an actor, there are extra challenges. You have to create the ambiance and the belief in your surroundings in your head. Often times like when we did our dance (referring to a scene with Robin Wright) you’re clacking these sensors together with cameras on them going clack clack against each other’s heads. It’s really disconcerting at times. I know Gary Oldman at one point said to me, “I want to work with you man, but I don’t know. I never imagined it would be like this.” He not only had the cameras staring at his head and all the stuff everybody else had, but he had a crane up his butt and he was on a crane for 90% of his performance. I said, “You know you kind of have an addictive personality. Don’t get used to that. Don’t start enjoying that my friend. You’ll get pulled over with one of those.”
Q: Talk about the multiply characters you get to play?
Carrey: I let a couple of them stay home.
Q: Did you have them all in your head at the same time?
Carrey: When you look at it from the beginning of the process, it’s a daunting challenge. There are regional accents and things like that. There are a lot of aspects and it’s daunting, but once you go into it the process was very comfortable and Bob’s [Zemeckis] great. He made things very easy.
Q: With all the different Christmas Carol performances, did one stand out for you. Alastair Sim comes to mind for me.
Carrey: He was my favorite from when I was a kid. I would watch Alastair Sim every year. That’s a man whose face was born to play that part. His whole being had an acid reflex bitterness to it that was just splendid to watch. I kind of wanted to have that feeling-that deep feeling that causes rheumatism you know what I mean – that would eventually eat you alive inside. I really based the character from the get go on the lies that we believe about ourselves. This person obviously believed he wasn’t worthy of love so why should love exist for anybody? I think that’s where most of our dysfunction comes from is that feeling of worthlessness.
Q: This is a great role for the physicality you’re so good with.
Carrey: It’s a dream come true for that. Quite honestly it’s challenging in every way and you can use everything you got. It’s just good.
Q: Talk about the rehearsal process.
Carrey: During the process, there were times as film actors you’re used to having kind of the presidium in your head somewhere and boundaries. There are no boundaries anymore. It’s odd to not have any boundaries. Every once in awhile I would say to Bob, “Can you just stick a camera there so I can feel someone?” I was used to having someone. It’s so important to trust your captain and love his work. Acting is always uncomfortable. It is for me. I’m always in a state of discomfort and never satisfied.
Q: What is the beard for?
Carrey: I’m a Geico caveman for Halloween. As you can see even in my life I get into it completely.
Q: You have to do parts with yourself. Sometimes there were three different characters you were playing on screen at the same time so how did that work?
Carrey: I will avoid the masturbation joke. I’ve had the most incredible help anyone could ever ask for in Cary Elwes. He really was there for me all the way. He played opposite me playing all the other characters to give me a reference and to give me someone wonderful to play with. He’s genius. He was also very helpful as far as accents. I called him accent man because you can literally name any country on the planet and he knows the accent. He was absolutely invaluable to me. He’s a brilliant actor and he’s wonderful in some of the parts he does in the film as well. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude because he really supported me completely. Can I tell you a point of interest on Cary Elwes a little bit? I just want to say this because I think it’s fascinating. Scrooge was actually based on one of his great, great, great uncles. I think it’s John Elwes. I’ll have to check on the name, but one of his relatives is actually for that character. He was a member of Parliament and he was so cheap that he would wear the same clothes all the time until they were tattered. He wore a wig that he found in the garbage and he wouldn’t buy new game until all the meat that he had even if it was rancid – he would finish it. He was the character that Dickens based the story on so it’s kind of great.
Q: Can you describe your sense of inner life of scrooge?
Carrey: Oh my gosh, I think that’s a big trail. I think that Scrooge is abandoned. He’s a child who’s abandoned. I always think that the only thing we have to be aware of in this world is the unloved and that’s where it all comes from. So, Scrooge started out there and trying desperately for a long time to whatever is good, his sister and the things that he cares about but slowly being disappointed by life over and over again. There was a transition when we have the breakup scene with Belle where he’s a different person. Even when he was a child, as children do, they try to think positively about their situation and try to make the best of it. I think by the time he’s 35 he’s about done with making the best of it. That void can’t be filled anymore unless he really goes inside of himself and the ghosts are his opportunity to see himself. So he’s introduced to himself and I think that everybody, given the facts, if they could see the whole picture would have that catharsis.
Q: What did he learn?
Carrey: That he’s worthy of love. I think it’s a very prescient story nowadays, too. I think that these stories get told at times when they’re supposed to be told. I don’t think we’re so in control of it. It was Bob’s choice to choose this story but someone was choosing Bob and that story needs to be told right now. Scrooge is the first corporate scumbag. So in this time when all our constructs are breaking down because of greed and selfishness it’s prescient right now.
Q: What made you want to do the film in the first place?
Carrey: I heard that Robin Wright was going to be in it. Honestly, it was the whole picture. It’s a dream of every actor to have the greatest material in the world, the greatest talent in the world to play with and a top flight artist as a director. We have all of that. I’m completely honored to be a part of this cast and this whole experience. It’s really a high point.
Q: Would you do this type of film again?
Carrey: Absolutely. I can’t wait to do this process again. Watching it, of course you never know where it’s going to go. I have to go through months of panic where I go, “Am I going to look like that?” But he knows where it’s going and as time goes on you just slowly start to fall in love with him, like, “God, look at what they’ve done.” It’s unbelievable. Just magical.
Q: Can you elaborate on acting always being uncomfortable for you, as you mentioned earlier?
Carrey: It’s like divine dissatisfaction. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s divine dissatisfaction. Usually the ones after which you go, “I nailed it…” are never the things that end up in the movie because you were conscious of yourself. So you can never get your bearings. At a certain level of professionalism, I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I feel comfortable.
Q: Do you hope that will change?
Carrey: No. It is what it is. The end result is brilliant. I love it.
Q: can you talk about how playing the Grinch prepared you for playing Scrooge?
Carrey: Well, Scrooge is the original Grinch. I think he was modeled after that. There were a lot of similarities in the character’s inner life but it’s a different set of circumstances and of course you want to bring a reality to it and still have it be fun for an audience. I wanted people to really feel this person’s pain and his triumph and everyone’s joy in this thing. I found it myself to be really cathartic. When you go into these things you go, “Wow.” Alastair Sim . That was an amazing version. But I think that Bob has created the best version so far of this story.
Q: You’ve got your own website now?
Carrey: Yeah. I joined the fray, but it’s going to be an interesting one. It’s like the psychedelic landscape of my brain played out and I think you’ll have fun. It’s www.jimcarrey.com.
Disney’s A Christmas Carol opens in conventional and IMAX theaters on November 6.
Heather Newgen’s hair and makeup by Danielle Lyn Saunders Horowitz.