The Dickensian story of Ebenezer Scrooge is one that has kept its charm for the near two centuries since its origin. There have been many retellings since, but none, perhaps, led by a mouthy marketing specialist with a penchant for controversy. In Apple TV+’s Spirited, Scrooge—played by Ryan Reynolds—is better known as Clint Briggs, a morally-grey media consultant who is so fiendish that he has been branded irredeemable by the very spirits designated to save his soul in time for Christmas.
Leave it to the soft-hearted Ghost of Christmas Present—played by Will Ferrell—to take Clint on a journey through both their pasts in an earnest attempt to convince him to turn over a new leaf. Instead, Clint steals the reigns from Present and chaos quickly descends. Oh, and did I mention that this is all happening in a musical?
“The panic that was induced by the volume of singing and dancing in the film was most of what I fixated on during the filming process,” laughs Ryan Reynolds. With no formal background in either performing art form, Reynolds’s choice to star in Spirited seems fairly unconventional, but the actor shares one central reason for wanting to do the film. “It was a very elaborate excuse to get to work with somebody I’ve admired my whole career, which is Will Ferrell.”
Partnering up with the master comedian for the must-watch Christmas special of the year, Reynolds predicts that the film is one his young daughters will enjoy. “The original story by Charles Dickens is quite serious. It’s a little bit morbid and quite scary. My kids have seen little snippets of some of the other interpretations of the classic and it scared the absolute daylights out of them. Spirited is meant to be a lot softer, more fun, and is meant for every member of the family.”
If you needed any excuse to curl up on a couch and watch Reynolds and Ferrell croon passionately about the spirit of Christmas for just over two hours, there’s a good one. Here, Reynolds talks the magic of Christmas, the joys of working with Will Ferrell and how he is giving back this festive season.
Have you always wanted to be in a musical?
I’m not a natural singer, nor am I a natural dancer. It’s not something I’ve spent my entire life making a craft of, unlike the many incredibly talented singers and dancers we worked with. I was so taken by the sheer level of talent they brought to the set every day that I almost felt like a bit of a spectator. So my job was, in some respects, really fun and fantastical, because I got to just warm myself off of their extraordinary aura, but also scary as heck because I have never done this before.
In Spirited, you play the Scrooge, who clearly has a complicated relationship with Christmas. Do you personally enjoy Christmas?
I really love the lead up to Christmas. I would say that Christmas Day is never quite as magical as the several weeks leading up to it. I have three daughters and we have so much fun in that lead up. And you know, they believe in the magic of Christmas so they believe in every aspect of the holiday. For me, it’s a bit of a creative exercise because we see it as our responsibility—both my wife Blake and I—to create the magic that will allow them to look back on their Christmases with the same kind of fondness that I had a kid.
What was it like working with a tremendous comedian like Will Ferrell?
Historically, I have really loved and celebrated so many of my co-stars. Will was special though. I’ve admired him for such a huge part of my career. I’ve sat back watching him, wishing and hoping that I would one day get to work with him. Really, if you were to distil one reason why I wanted to do this movie, it wasn’t to sing and dance, it wasn’t to play the Scrooge character. It was to be next to Will Ferrell and hang out with him.
Were you nervous playing scenes with Will?
It was pretty magic to get to bat the ball back and forth with him. I think I was more nervous in the beginning because I have been so influenced by his work that I was worried I would do a Will Ferrell impression to Will Ferrell. (Laughs) That was going to be the death of me. I was a little bit too self-aware, or self-conscious, rather. But I relaxed into it, once I saw that Will is just about the best human being you’d ever get to work with.
You know, they say never meet your heroes. But once in a while they can exceed your highest expectations. And Will certainly did, because he’s obviously an incredibly gifted comedian, but he’s also not ‘on’ all the time. There’s something really nice about that, since you get to connect with him as a human being and have a beautiful, wonderful and dynamic conversation with him. Him and I would waste hours every day just cracking each other up—it was very special.
What was the energy on the set of Spirited like?
It was pretty intense, because I was learning something that I had no experience doing, so it felt like I was in a bit of a crash course. Will was making us laugh all the time. He had seen a picture of my wife wearing jelly shoes—I think a magazine had done an article on it. And Will thought it was very funny, so he sent a text to both my wife and I saying “I love your jelly shoes.” It’s just such a hilarious thing to do. And then Blake made him jelly shoes that were also tap shoes, which I didn’t know about. And Will just came out on set wearing them one day, trying to tap dance. It was probably the hardest I’ve laughed in my entire life.
Have you picked out this year’s ugly Christmas sweater?
That’s a great question. It’s always the same one—my ugly sweater that I do for the Sick Kids Foundation in Toronto. My production and marketing company Maximum Effort and I are working on the campaign for this coming season and it’s pretty awesome. I’ll be doing it this year with some special guests, which I’m extremely excited about. Who knew that a simple practical joke from Hugh Jackman would end up helping thousands of sick kids, not just in Canada, but all over the world. It’s pretty awesome.
Watch Spirited on Apple TV+ now.