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Whether we’ve actually read his work or not, we’re all familiar with the name Charles Dickens and what is arguably his best-known work: A Christmas Carol.

In the new film The Man Who Invented Christmas, we see the story behind the iconic Christmas tale as Dickens writes of Ebenezer Scrooge and his visits from three ghosts. When star Dan Stevens and director Bharat Nalluri sat down with Entertainment Weekly: The Show to discuss the film, Stevens said he loved “being able to bring him [Dickens] down gently off the pedestal and dust him off and sort of look at the kind of man that he was.”

Nalluri elaborated, explaining where Dickens was at this point in his life. “He was broke. He had writer’s block and he was a bit of a champagne socialist,” he said. “He wanted to change the world even though he was enjoying his life, and so he had an internal struggle going on at the time. He was a bit of a rock star — he was hitting his third bad album and he needed to get on and kind of break through, and Christmas Carol did all of that.

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Credit: Kerry Brown / Bleecker Street

Stevens remembers that growing up with Dickens in England, he was taught to revere everything the man ever wrote, and he appreciated the film’s opportunity to see the author’s complexity. He also enjoyed being able to bring to life this story of how Dickens’ social parable helped to make Christmas a major holiday. “At the time, it was celebrated as a minor religious festival, it wasn’t the sort of massive cultural event that it is now,” Stevens said of Christmas. “[Dickens] was looking around and deeply depressed by the society that he was seeing emerge, the rise of the rampant industrial capitalism, and instead of writing an angry pamphlet, which this could have been and sort of started out as, he took a much more abstract and therefore more universal approach to say, ‘What can we do in these really, really bleak times?’”

Nalluri also said he was attracted to the time-travel aspects of A Christmas Carol. “It’s a time-travel adventure,” he explained. “It’s a guy who goes back in time and revisits himself. Kind of a bit of a cliché now, but that was the first time it’d ever been done.”

Watch the clip above for more. The Man Who Invented Christmas hits theaters Nov. 22.

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