Jim Carrey has multiple personalities in his next movie.
Carrey and director Robert Zemeckis brought a bit of holiday cheer to the Cannes Film Festival on Monday with a sneak peak of "Disney's A Christmas Carol," a new slant on the Charles Dickens classic in which the actor plays skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge and several other characters.
It's the second holiday ogre for Carrey, who starred in "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas." After Disney showed two scenes from "A Christmas Carol" to reporters, Carrey had a wisecrack ready when asked if he had something against Santa Claus.
"It's a hard time of year for some people. It's a confronting time of year," Carrey said. "I've had some bad ones."
Due in theaters worldwide this November and December, the film is being crafted through motion-capture technology similar to that Zemeckis used on "The Polar Express" and "Beowulf." Actors' movements and expressions are recorded by dozens of infrared cameras, with backgrounds, props, costumes and other effects filled in later through computer animation.
The result with "A Christmas Carol," for which Zemeckis previewed about eight minutes of footage, is a richly detailed re-creation of Victorian London. The footage was shown in digital 3-D, though the finished film also will be released in a standard two-dimensional version.
Along with a montage from the whole movie, the filmmakers showed two early scenes, Scrooge's "Humbug!" declaration about Christmas to his merry nephew (Colin Firth) and the old man's visitation by the specter of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley.
Besides Scrooge, Carrey plays the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future that haunt the cold-hearted old miser on the holiday eve, rekindling his spirit of charity and compassion.
Zemeckis said he fell in love with Dickens' story when he read it in his youth, but he felt previous screen adaptations never had been able to do it justice.
"We didn't have any cinematic tools to actually present the story the way it's written," Zemeckis said. "Generally, the Ghost of Christmas Past is played by a woman wearing a wedding gown, but if you read what Dickens actually wrote, it is a very bizarre, surreal character like what we put on screen."
Motion-capture technology allowed Zemeckis to record 3-D renderings of the actors' forms and body language, then transform them digitally into whatever he wanted.
Firth's character closely resembles the actor, while Gary Oldman as Scrooge's clerk, Bob Cratchit, has a smaller gnome-like stature. For Scrooge, Zemeckis turned Carrey into a gnarled, skeletal figure with a harshly jutting nose and chin.
Zemeckis, Carrey, Firth and co-star Robin Wright Penn arrived for the preview in horse-drawn carriages, with Christmas carols playing out of loudspeakers and fake snow wafting under the blue sky over the Croisette, the main drag through Cannes along the Riviera.
Carrey said he drew inspiration from Alistair Sim's performance as Scrooge in the 1951 adaptation of "A Christmas Carol," generally considered the best rendition of the story.
"The one thing I will say that I wanted to, not replicate, but definitely have some of it in there, was the bitterness that he portrayed," Carrey said. "The way he had sourness in his character. It wasn't just on the surface. You imagined that he had the worst case of acid reflux on Earth. There was a true bitterness, a foul taste in his mouth, and that was something that I wanted to consider."
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