Classic 'Carol' Captured for Modern Filmgoers

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Ebenezer Scrooge has been haunting the holiday season ever since Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was published in 1843 and the miserly old geezer has also been "bah humbug-ing" the big screen for decades.

Reginald Owen played Scrooge in the 1938 adaptation of the classic tale. Bill Murray starred as a cynical TV executive based on Dickens' character in the 1988 comedy "Scrooged." Even Oscar winner Michael Caine donned the black cape and top hat alongside Kermit the Frog 17 years ago in "The Muppet Christmas Carol."

Now, Jim Carrey is taking on old Ebenezer in "Disney's A Christmas Carol," hitting theaters Friday.

And why not? He already starred as a Christmas curmudgeon in 2000 when he tormented "Whoville" as the Grinch in "How The Grinch Stole Christmas."

"The thing that's great about Jim is that he works with his entire body. Every muscle in his body transforms into the character that he's playing," says director Robert Zemeckis. "He's able to do these accents and these dialects ... they're flawless."

Those talents come in handy when you're playing multiple roles, which is what Carrey does in the film -- seven roles to be exact. Along with playing Scrooge at all ages, Carrey portrays the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come.

Zemeckis' version of "A Christmas Carol" was filmed using "performance capture," the same technique the director used to bring "Beowulf" and "Polar Express" into movie theaters. Performance capture allows cameras to track even the slightest movements the actors make because they're wearing a suit draped from head to toe in reflective markers.

So the much younger Scrooge audiences see while he's being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past is still Jim Carrey -- with the help of a little movie magic, of course.

"I think performance-capture movies allow you to do stories that can't possibly be done physically and that's what makes them so magnificent," says Zemeckis.

"What's interesting about having [the ghosts] played by Jim is that you can argue that they're somehow all manifestations of [Scrooge]," says Colin Firth, who stars as Scrooge's cheerful nephew, Fred. "This journey through time is a journey through his own time."

Zemeckis, who believes the story "never goes out of style," first read "A Christmas Carol" at age 7, and says Scrooge's journey alone is the reason the tale has lasted the test of time.

"It's a universal human story," says Zemeckis. "I think we all love Scrooge and I guess we all have a part of Scrooge in us."


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