During the making of the new film Scrooge & Marley, a retelling of the classic Dicken's story A Christmas Carol "with a gay twist", I had the pleasure of interviewing David Pevsner, who stars as the greedy, bitter, perennial holiday villain Ebenezer Scrooge.
What does Pevsner think of the Scrooge he plays in Scrooge & Marley? Pevsner smiles warmly and says, "I sort of love him."
Yes, Pevsner concedes, Scrooge is a bit of a tyrant at the film's start. But the Scrooge in this version, he explains, "was very deeply, deeply hurt in his youth: he got kicked out by his father, who found out he was gay. That kind of pain doesn't leave you very easily."
Rejection by his homophobic father is the first of a series of painful happenings in Scrooge & Marley that have left Scrooge an outsider even in his own community. He has to learn to reconnect with the things that are important in lifein this version, in a gay context. "It's about finding your family," says Pevsner, "and you can't find your family until your heart is open. So I think that's what it is, essentiallythat you can find the people who love you and that you love."
Pevsnera writer as well as an actorlives in Los Angeles now but hails from Skokie, Illinois. He worked in the New York theater for many years on both Broadway and off-Broadway productions. After moving to LA, he has guest starred in roles on TV, film, and the web. Grey's Anatomy, Law & Order: Los Angeles, Criminal Minds, and Desperate Housewives are among his acting credits. As a writer, he has contributed original material to a wide range of projects, from Primetime with Diane Sawyer to Playboy TV.
"I think the whole idea that 'it's never too late, there's always time to change,' is important," he says. "You can have wealth, and you can have power, but in the end, you can't sleep with it. You can't love itnot the way our heart tells us to love."
Pevsner has wanted to do a film in Chicago. "My family lives here and I don't get to see my parents very often." Though the location sparked his initial interest, after reading the script, he was eager to be involved in the project. "When I read the breakdown of who Scrooge is in this particular film, I thought, 'I have an idea for this.' I felt there was something I could bring to it that maybe nobody else would." When he was offered the part, "honestly it felt like it was one of those 'right place, right time'" moments.
Describing the Scrooge & Marley version of the story, Pevsner says, "This one is contemporary; it takes place in 2012, and everybody else in the film is very contemporary. And my character is a little stuck. He's stuck in the past. He doesn't use a computer, he's very much 'this is how I always did it and this is how I always will.'"
Pevsner felt that the original Dickens classic portrayed Scrooge as "not really that mean. He's ornery and he hates Christmas, but I didn't perceive him as mean." Scrooge & Marley co-director and co-writer Richard Knight, Jr. told him, "No, he's mean. He's horrible to these people in his life." Playing him that way, Pevsner says, he got more range in the arc of Scrooge's transformation. "Instead of going from here to here" he says, holding his hands about two feet apart, "redemption-wise, I have to go from here to here," he gestures, throwing his arms as far apart as he can. "Out of frame, that's how big it is. And not just being mean. I hope I'm bringing many more layers to it than that, but that feels like a big difference in this particular version."
Pevsner has spent his entire career as an openly gay man. Several years ago he wrote a piece for the Huffington Post entitled "An Open Letter to the Closeted Leading Man." He addressed it to A-List actors. "It was an encouragement to come out of the closet. A lot of people have read it, and I've put it out periodically when things happen." As for instance, at the time of our chat, which took place the day after North Carolina voted to ban gay marriage. "It's that kind of thing that justit makes me crazy.
"I've been out my whole life, ever since I could be out, and I get it. I get when people say 'I'm not ready yet,' or 'It's the bottom line that's going to affect me' or 'I haven't worked out my internalized craziness yet.'" But, Pevner feels, in the face of our current struggles against homophobia, those reasons no longer carry sufficient weight. "I think it's too important. I think it's too important that everybodyall you gays, come out already! Deal with your crap and come out. Because they're taking our rights away."
Pevsner has done a number of gay-themed projects before Scrooge & Marley, "and I'm thrilled because I believe the ones I've chosen have gone beyond, 'oh it's a gay movie.'" He sees Scrooge & Marley as a film with great heart and great potential for changing things for the better at the same time it entertains.
"What's great about a film like this is that it's very nonchalant about the fact that there are many, many gay characterslesbian mothers, and hustlers, and everythinginvolved in this movie. But what it comes down to in the end, we all want the same thing. We want love. That's what we all want. And that's what this movie is about: finding love."
Pevsner is much more of a good-natured optimist than his iconic characterwhose signature slogan is, after all, Bah! Humbug! "The people that I've worked with are fantastic. I've watched their performances and they're just funny and heartbreaking and spirited, and it's everything you want in a movie."
In addition to his other talents, Pevsner is also a songwriter, a creative area where his keen sense of humor comes to the fore. He's contributed songs to Adam and Steve and Naked Boys Singing, and wrote the critically acclaimed one-man musical To Bitter and Back, The Todd and Molly Show, and the forthcoming Musical Comedy Whore.
Though still in the midst of shooting when we spoke, Pevsner tells me there have already been a number of humorous moments on set. For example, the Ghost of Christmas Future (played by Jojo Baby) wore an elaborate costume including an eerie, specially constructed face. In one intense scene, Scrooge was aghast to think that Tiny Tim was likely to die. "No, not the boy," Scrooge pleaded with the ominous Ghost. At that moment, "his eye popped off, just like that," Pevsner recalls, laughing. "That's going on the gag reel."
See and www.davidpevsner.com and www.scroogeandmarleymovie.com .