Major muttonchops are part of the look when you’re playing a Charles Dickens miser or, for that matter, a mutant with blades for fingers.
Just ask Campbell Scott, who’s sporting the telltale facial hair as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway through Jan. 5. “I’ve been waiting for the Wolverine jokes,” the actor says, raking his face with his fingers. “I got one the other night from someone on the street.”
That’s fitting. Like the X-Men antihero, reclusive Scrooge retracts his humbug claws. And for Scott, who’s 58 and has three kids – ages 21, 8 and 3 – that’s the key to the classic’s staying power. It’s also why he accepted the invitation from director Matthew Warchus (God of Carnage, Boeing, Boeing) to star in this adaptation by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).
“The core idea that someone can be redeemed overnight and change and go from being closed down to opened up is pretty attractive and moving,” says Scott. “That appeal doesn’t go away.”
Since 1843, Dickens’ tale of the tightwad-turned-altruist visited by ghosts on Christmas Eve has been adapted many times. Thorne’s version, seen in a seasonal run in London since 2017, comes with a more contemporary and political spin the original – plus caroling, bell-ringing, free preshow treats for the audience and a post-show collection for the charity Hearts of Gold.
George C. Scott, Campbell’s father, played Scrooge in a 1984 telemovie. “I wasn’t on the set for dad’s film,” says Scott. “They made it in Britain. I was just out of college.” While he’s making no conscious nod to his late dad’s take, he adds there may be some similarity “in a cellular way. Honestly,” he says, “I steal from any good actor.”
That includes his mother, Colleen Dewhurst. In 1988, they costarred in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. “I didn’t even want to try out for the role because, really, who wants to work with their mother? But I was young and ambitious and Edmund is a great role.
“My mother died just a few years after that, so I’m grateful for the experience. You get to know your parent in a slightly different way,” adds Scott. “In that play, there are long stretches when you’re not on stage. At one performance I was backstage and I saw my mother sitting in the wings, smoking. She smoked all the time. I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ and she said, ‘Listening to the play.’ It blew my mind.”
Among Scott’s high-profile films are Dying Young, a 1991 weeper with Julia Roberts and Dewhurst, and Longtime Companion, which tackled the AIDS crisis in 1989. The latter movie is a current topic of conversation in some Broadway circles thanks to the two-part drama The Inheritance, which deals with the impact of AIDS. Like the movie, the play by Matthew Lopez summons young gay men who’ve died in dramatic fashion. Scott, who’s seen part one, noted the overlap. “It was sort of a beautiful connector for both pieces,” he says.
Scott reports that he’s always happy to reconnect with Broadway. He made his debut in 1982 playing a soldier in The Queen and the Rebels (“a terrible play,” he says). In 2016 he played a director in Noises Off alongside Andrea Martin, who, like fellow Tony winner LaChanze, play ghosts in A Christmas Carol. Beyond the stage, Scott can be seen in December in Soundtrack, a new Netflix series set in Los Angeles. He calls the show “hard to describe."
That said, it’s easy for Scott to express what he’s thankful for this year. “For work, of course,” he says. “And to be here."