Actor Simon Callow’s Christmas Message To “Wholly Admirable” Rotary

Actor Simon Callow’s Christmas Message To “Wholly Admirable” Rotary

Rotarians are being offered an exclusive pre-screening of a new Christmas film ‘The Amazing Mr Blunden’ starring Simon Callow. The actor has given a special interview to Rotary whose humanitarian work he describes as “wholly admirable”.

The movie is based on Antonia Barber’s novel “The Ghosts” which was made into a film in 1972 but has now been updated by director Mark Gatiss, who also stars in this production.

Adventure arrives for teenagers Jamie and Lucy in the form of a mysterious old gentleman, Mr Blunden, who offers their mother the opportunity to become the caretaker of a ruined country house – one that’s said to be haunted.

But Mr Blunden has a terrible secret.  He desperately needs Lucy and Jamie’s help to travel back in time to change history and save his two wards, Sara and Georgie Latimer, from perishing in a fire, way back in 1821.

Simon Callow spoke about playing this fascinating role in this Q&A:

Q| What attracted you to play the role of The Amazing Mr Blunden? 

As it happens, there are 3 Mr Blundens, each representing a different aspect of the man – the unreformed, callous, impatient, thoughtless Blunden of 1821; the Blunden who has been trying for 200 years to put right the wrong he did; and the Blunden who has at last been released from the ceaseless motion of the Wheel of Time and is serenely living out his last years on earth.

So that in itself was a thrilling opportunity. But the greatest pleasure for me was to play the vulnerable, highly sensitive, benevolent Blunden – a man resolved to confront and resolve his past.

Benevolence is a very rare commodity on our screens. At the beginning of film career, in 1984, I was asked to play the Rev Beebe in A Room with a View, another deeply benevolent man, and I’ve been looking for another part with those qualities; at last I’ve found it.


Q| What is the message at the heart of this film? 

I’m not sure that it has a message as such, but it tells certainly tells us that our actions have consequences, which have to be dealt with if we are to move on.


Q| Does the central theme of turning the clock back and redemption have relevance today?

Never more so. This is very familiar territory to me – for some years I’ve been performing a one-man version of A Christmas Carol, in which Ebenezer Scrooge is likewise compelled to examine his own past.  A couple of years ago, we made a film of my Christmas Carol – just me, playing 37 characters. It’s on both BBC2 and Amazon this year, so you can compare and contrast.


Q| The original novel is set at Easter time, this film is going out on Christmas Eve, is it a good show to be putting out at Christmas?

It’s a story of redemption, and in the Christian calendar, Easter is, of course, the climax of the New Testament story: the God-man Christ dies to save mankind from original sin.  Blunden is clearly out to find redemption for himself, so setting the story at Easter was full of resonance. However, in a secular age like ours, Christmas has become the holiest time – birth rather than rebirth, peace and goodwill to all men, a time of forgiveness and togetherness, so it makes sense to shift the time of year.  It also of course gives us snow and Christmas decorations and the struggle to survive of the Allens, who are as almost as poor as Joseph’s little family in Bethlehem.


Q| You play three different versions of Mr Blunden in different time zones past, present and to come – tell us more about that and how challenging was it?

It was a very interesting challenge, differentiating between three identical people. It needed me to feel quite different while looking the same: the 1821 Blunden, irascible, bossy, abrupt; the globe-wandering Blunden needy, hyper-sensitive, searching; the redeemed Blunden relaxed, calm, amused. I was helped enormously by my make-up artist. We devised subtle changes from one to the other that you would scarcely notice but which subconsciously affect the way you see each character – 1821 Blunden, for example, has false eyelashes which give him a much harder way of looking at the world; we gave globe-trotter Blunden a slightly bushier beard; and final Blunden is tidied up and with slightly trimmed facial hair – he seems to belong to the world of 2021.


Q| They say that you should never work with children, how have you found it? 

With one exception, who shall be nameless – a young lad who hated acting, and had been cast entirely because of his looks – I have always loved working with kids: they’re always lively, unexpected, often very funny. The gang on Blunden – Jason, Tsion, India and Xavier – was simply enchanting: totally alive and full of feeling and, of course, disgracefully cheeky, which is just what you hope for.


Q| This film is a remake of The Amazing Mr Blunden, a 1972 film directed by Lionel Jeffries, based on the 1969 novel The Ghosts by Antonia Barber, how do you think this film directed by Mark Gatiss compares with the original one from nearly 50 years ago? 

Without making any radical changes, Mark’s made it very much a story of today, albeit with a happier outcome than many currently struggling families can hope for. technically, I think our film has the advantage over Lionel’s.


Q| Were there challenges making this film? 

None that seemed insurmountable. Mark is a wonderfully generous, relaxed, appreciative director, who knows how to get what he needs with the minimum of fuss. It was a deeply happy, creative, productive and often hilarious time. Mark in turn was held by the producers, who had planned the whole really challenging production in meticulous detail and were able to deal with such crises, large and small, as inevitably cropped up from time to time with perfect sangfroid.


Q| What is your message to Rotarians as we approach Christmas?  

Thanks goodness for an organisation made up of very successful people who seek to share the fruits of their success with, as Dickens puts it, their fellow passengers to the grave.


Q| What do you think about the humanitarian work carried out by Rotary locally and globally? 

Wholly admirable.


Simon has a past link with Rotary.  In 2012, Past President of the Rotary Club of Warsaw City Mark Krawczynski assembled a talented team of film-makers and secured the services of actor Simon Callow to make a movie, “Out of the Ashes” of his family’s personal history in relation to the destruction and rebuilding of Warsaw.


Rotarians will be able to access the exclusive pre-screening of “The Amazing Mr Blunden” on Sunday, 19th December from 1pm onwards until midnight on a special link, which will be forwarded to all members by their District Leadership Team.

“The Amazing Mr Blunden” is available this Christmas on Sky Max and NOW on Christmas Eve at 7pm.