Charles Dickens expert Miriam Margolyes informed Dan Stevens that the Oliver Twist writer suffered from bipolar disorder.
English actor Dan plays Dickens in new movie The Man Who Invented Christmas, which tells the story of how the author came up with his famous tale, A Christmas Carol.
Chatting to Time Out London about Dickens’ complicated character, Dan explained: “It was interesting talking to Miriam Margolyes, who plays the housekeeper in our film – she’s a real Dickens expert – and one of the first things she said to me was, ‘Well, of course you know he was bipolar.’ Which I had not known! Some of those symptoms manifest in his writing, which swings between moments of great beauty and extremely dark, gloomy passages.
“There was a darkness to Dickens and I didn’t want to shy away from that. The origins of A Christmas Carol are numerous, but one of them was a great deal of anger and frustration at the child labour laws. I think it originated as an angry pamphlet.”
The role wasn’t an easy one for Downton Abbey star Dan to play physically, as Dickens was known for his high energy. Trying to recreate the author’s vigorous movements left 35-year-old Dan in pain, but the actor is happy to fully embrace the characters he’s playing.
“He left me with odd stresses and strains,” Dan revealed. “He walked very fast, but all accounts. I’ve definitely been thinking about the physicality of roles much more than I used to. In the British tradition of things, there’s a lot of acting from the neck up. I wasn’t thinking about that until doing something like The Guest, and then I did actual puppeteering in Beauty and the Beast. It’s informed how I look at a period role.”
Christopher Plummer and Jonathan Pryce co-star in The Man Who Invented Christmas, which has already begun hitting cinemas.