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Credit: Kerry Brown/Bleecker Street

It didn’t require the appearance of three ghosts from different temporal planes to persuade Dan Stevens to play Christmas Carol author Charles Dickens in the film The Man Who Invented Christmas (out this holiday season).

“It was a really spooky, intriguing, funny piece,” the British star of Beauty and the Beast and Legion says of the script, written by Susan Coyne (Mozart in the Jungle). “I just thought it was a really fresh take on that whole world. Particularly in England, Dickens is placed on a pedestal. But the guy was, at turns, quite playful and childish, and, at turns, quite dark and not a very pleasant man.”

Directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) and set in 1843, the film details how a broke and depressed Dickens wrote one of his most famous tales. Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones) plays his father, and Christopher Plummer portrays Scrooge. “Dickens whips himself into such a state that he conjures these characters,” explains Stevens. “Scrooge arrives and haunts him and taunts him. It’s quite an interesting dynamic.”

Sounds like fans of Dickens — and Stevens — should have great expectations.

See the exclusive photo of Stevens as Dickens, above.