Lost Christmas: Eddie Izzard

Eddie Izzard as Anthony and Larry Mills as Goose.

A terrified six-year-old girl called Milly stands shaking in her pyjamas in the middle of a frozen canal.

As a fireman makes a desperate attempt to save her from the cracking ice.

It’s a heart-stopping, shocking and haunting scene in Lost Christmas, to be screened on BBC1 this Sunday (Dec 18).

A sometimes bleak 90-minute film that defies the sentiment of so many festive tales and shows a family audience that bad things can happen.

That mums and dads and children die.

But also that there may be second chances for those who have lost and are left behind.

Many audience members were in tears as the end credits rolled after the film’s premiere at the British Film Institute in London yesterday.

Agreeing that this was a marvellous story destined to be told for years to come.

Larry Mills plays a boy known as Goose with Eddie Izzard as Anthony, a man with no memory of who he really is.

Standing in a frosty Manchester cemetery, Anthony tells Goose: “Sometimes you have to go towards the things that make you want to run away.”

Lost Christmas is one of CBBC’s most expensive productions to date – a co-commission with BBC1 – and may surprise some viewers.

Sue Nott, executive producer for CBBC, told a post-screening Q&A:

“It’s pushing the boundaries.

“But there’s something about Christmas with Scrooge, with Dickens, with Oliver Twist – the kind of stories that people accept and expect at Christmas.

“Yes, it is quite a hard one for us. But it was very much designed with a family audience in mind. Our hope is that people will watch it as a family and enjoy it as a family.”

The drama broadcasts on BBC1 between 5:30pm and 7pm on Sunday and will be shown on CBBC at the same time on Christmas Eve, with some edits for language and content.

Director John Hay co-wrote the screenplay with David Logan.

John told how Lost Christmas was inspired by classic festive films and songs, including Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

“This is a sort of Fairytale of New Manchester,” he explained.

There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble director John usually auditions thousands of child actors before he makes a choice.

But he was so impressed with Larry, now aged 11, that he saw no-one else for this project.

Even more remarkable considering this is Larry’s first major film role.

Lost Christmas begins “Last Christmas Eve” when we meet Goose and his family.

Before too long we also encounter Anthony, lying flat on his back on inner city cobbles.

“Everybody’s lost something,” he says.

Including Frank (Jason Flemyng), estranged from his wife and daughter and seeking solace in booze and petty crime.

And Geoffrey Palmer’s Dr Clarence, whose once tidy home is now overflowing with books.

Those familiar with Manchester and Salford will recognise many of the striking locations.

Including a spot of fire juggling by Eddie outside Manchester Cathedral.

While some may be moved to subsequently read The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde, which also features in this rather wonderful film.

As well as Lost Christmas – the novel by David Logan.

It’s a TV drama not to be missed, also including the likes of Sorcha Cusack, Christine Bottomley, Steven Mackintosh, Connie Hyde, Brett Fancy, Adlyn Ross, Chloe Newsome, Jessie Clayton and Jason Watkins.

Not forgetting young Libbi Rubens as Milly.

Or some magical original music from Debbie Wiseman.

My transcript of the BFI Q&A is below for those who want to read more.

Edited to remove any potential spoilers.

******************************************************************************

All eyes on Larry. L-R: Writer David Logan, executive producers Connal Orton and Sue Nott, chair Justin Johnson, Eddie Izzard (Anthony), director John Hay and Larry Mills (Goose).

Q: This felt really cinematic like a proper film?

John Hay: “We wanted it to have a cinematic feel. Graham Frake, who is the director of photography, he just did the most amazing job. It really does look stunning. It was a great crew who brought that cinematic look to it. It wasn’t just me. It was obviously about the way it’s staged and the way you present the story. It’s quite cinematic. There was obviously a series of decisions to make…I think a lot of people have got big screen TVs and sound and that cinematic sensibility transfers much better than it did, even five years ago.”

Q: Also plans for a theatrical release?

John Hay: “That’s right. That is the theatrical version you’ve been watching with proper sound for the cinemas.”

Q: And this is the first public audience to see it?

John Hay: “It is, yeah. It’s fantastic.”

Q: How did you feel sitting out there and getting their reactions?

John Hay: “I didn’t realise it was quite so funny, actually. I’ve been watching it so many times. It was just amazing. I was worried about moving from comedy and then going straight into the drama and the emotion of it. But it transferred very well. I was really, really pleased. You guys seemed to like it, I guess.”

Eddie Izzard as Anthony

Q: References to other films and stories?

Sue Nott spoke about reading the first draft of the script:

“Obviously we’d been talking about references of Scrooge and that was all there, and A Christmas Carol and second chances and redemption. I said, ‘It reminds me of one of my favourite Oscar Wilde stories, the story of The Happy Prince.’ It’s a story about a prince who dies and they make a statue of him. And as a statue he’s looking down on the town and he realises that all the people in his town are really poor and he’s really sad that he never realised that when he was alive.

“And then a swallow comes. And the swallow is just about to go and migrate because it’s coming to winter and the prince says, ‘Please take some of these jewels and all this gold that’s on me and take it to help the poor people.’ So the swallow keeps taking more gold and more jewels from the statue until the statue is left completely bare and ugly. And the swallow sacrifices himself because he leaves it too late to migrate.

“The whole story reminded me of that beautiful sense of sacrifice and second chances. Of doing something noble and good for somebody else and being given a second chance.”

Connal Orton said basic ideas for the drama had been discussed for several years until they decided to really go for it: “We then took it to the BBC and it actually happened remarkably quickly from that point.”

John Hay: “It always comes down to those very human losses.”

Jason Flemyng as Frank.

Q: By CBBC – and BBC – standards, it’s an expensive production. Was that a big decision to make in terms of the money?

Sue Nott: “Yes it is a big production for us. We wanted to do a Christmas special and it was a co-commission between CBBC and BBC1. So it will go out first of all next Sunday evening at 5:30 on BBC…and then it will go out on CBBC om Christmas Eve at 5:30pm. So that way, hopefully, the widest possible audience will get to see it. And we hope that everybody from the youngest to the oldest will watch it together.”

Eddie Izzard: “I think it’s actually timeless. I don’t see it as a kids’ thing, I see it as a family film. I think you’ve got to be a teenager really to grab hold of where we’re going with some of the loss.”

David Logan explained how the novel came about: “The screenplay came first and then someone said that it would be a good idea to have a novel too. I jumped at the chance because I wanted to write a novel. John and I had written 17 drafts of the script. So when I came to write the novel we knew the story. There’s lots of little differences.”

Larry Mills as Goose.

Q: Larry – anybody watching the production would assume that you’ve got quite a lot of credits under your belt and that you’ve done a lot of TV and film. But that’s not the case, is it?

Larry Mills: “No, it’s my first film, actually. It was a great experience and weird seeing it up on a big screen.”

Q: How did you prepare? Was it a very scary experience coming on set for the first time and having the cameras point at you?

Larry Mills: “I don’t think so. It didn’t seem to scare me. The whole prospect of this whole thing never really scared me in any sort of way. I was just very excited. Of course I’d never done anything like this before. The whole time I was there it was just brilliant and I loved shooting it and it’s a great film.”

John Hay: “I saw you (Larry) in a little rehearsal room just outside Soho, didn’t I? And your dad was waiting outside. I said, ‘Oh, I’m just going to workshop him for a little while.’ And about two-and-a-half hours later his dad said, ‘Oh I thought he was only going to be 10 minutes.’ So he had to cancel about three appointments. And he’s done such a brilliant job.”

Eddie Izzard to Larry: “This is a great start for you. You’ve got to keep up this standard now, which is going to be fun.”

Geoffrey Palmer as Dr Clarence.

Q: For a child role people normally audition thousands?

John Hay: “I saw about 3000 people for Jimmy Grimble but actually I saw one for this. One person. Actually Larry was up for something called Horrid Henry. And my casting director Suzanne Smith, who is just absolutely amazing and I’ve worked with for years, she rang me one day and said, ‘I’ve just done these auditions. There’s this kid you want. He’s absolutely fantastic. You’ve got to get him. But I think they might want him too.’

“So she said that to me and I thought, ‘Oh great.’ Then I waited until they’d cast Horrid Henry and then I realised that they didn’t want anyone who had no experience. I’ve always used kids who have no experience from Thomas Sangster onwards, like Lewis McKenzie in Jimmy Grimble. I just love someobdy who is completely untrained because it just brings a freshness of approach. So I saw him. But I obviously had to pretend that I was seeing other people!

“I turned round to Suzanne at the end and I said, ‘No, I don’t want to see anyone else. He’s brilliant.’ And that was it. The first time ever in my life. I do normally see thousands of people.”

Q: Eddie – the first family film you’ve actually been in?

Eddie Izzard: “Yes. I see this as a film. It’s like if you look at Harry Potter. You could think it’s for kids but then it’s really for adults but kids can get into it – kids are going to miss some themes of loss because you just can’t really experience it.

“But Larry and his family and me and my family have both gone through family loss. So that was a curious thing. I didn’t know how to broach that and get into it. I don’t know if we needed to. But it’s just in there. So this is the first time, yeah. But I consider it a dramatic film and I was just trying to touch the reality.

“And there’s almost no comedy in it, which I love. There’s one joke that I made up…I’ve waited eight months to see whether that would get a laugh.”

Anthony, Goose and Frank.

Q: There are a few bits and pieces in there that make it perhaps not the normal CBBC commission – there’s a little bit of language and it is quite a bleak story. Was there any concern at CBBC about some of the content?

Sue Nott: “I think it’s pushing the boundaries. But there’s something about Christmas with Scrooge, with Dickens, with Oliver Twist. Those kind of stories are the kind of stories that I think people accept and expect at Christmas. Yes, it is quite a hard one for us. But it was very much designed with a family audience in mind. It was a co-commission between CBBC and BBC1. So our hope is that people will watch it as a family and enjoy it as a family.”

Justin then threw questions open to the audience:

Q: I asked John and Eddie about the experience of filming in Manchester and some of those striking locations.

Eddie Izzard: “It’s great. I’ve played Manchester many times. I went to college in Sheffield. I grew up in the south and also other weird places. But I have an affinity with being anywhere in the UK, having also run through it. It’s great. Some of the locations…that main thing around the canal…loads of different locations in a very small area and some were off in Bolton as well. I loved it. Some of it is very run down. Some of it is a little bit scary. Some of it could be beautiful. I remember looking at the canal and it actually looks beautiful in its knackerdness. It was great to do that and it was freezing and it was doing it on a wing and a prayer but I loved it.”

John Hay: “I shot a film there called Jimmy Grimble. And what I love about Manchester, it’s got a scale to it. It’s got a real cinematic scale and I just really wanted to go back there. Because when you’ve got a small kid and big, big buildings. I don’t know if people know the story of Manchester. It was all mill owners who thought they were so much more important than everyone in London and they just wanted to build everything bigger. So they built huge hotels and huge buildings in the main streets. They’re almost like New York scale. That was what I wanted, like these aquaducts and things like that and viaducts. That was what I really wanted to put on film. There was that mix of old and new as well. We see Manchester as a city on the cusp, really.”

Q: Eddie – did you have a clear idea of how to play such an elusive character? Not knowing who he was? Hard to grasp?

Eddie Izzard: “I made some quick decisions. I didn’t overly think it. It was two weeks after doing Treasure Island. (Sky1 Jan 1) So I came off the island on one leg playing Long John Silver and I was in Manchester. And so I didn’t actually have time to be elaborate. I think this has been a problem with me before, is trying to be too elaborate. Or trying to over-theorise ideas. I actually just let it flow through me. John was giving me very positive reactions straight off. I thought he was just being encouraging. But it actually started bedding in and sitting in a way that I really liked. I was just getting reactions back from people who I was working with there who were just thinking that this was working. And I was feeling like it was flowing out of me. It just sort of happened this role.”

John Hay: “If I’d directed this 20 years ago I would have said, ‘Do this, move that, try that.’ But I think that what you get with experience is the ability sometimes to see that certain actors need space. And as soon as Eddie came into rehearsals I just realised that if I gave him space to do it, he could do that. He could just bring something really special to the role. And that’s what I did. I did give Eddie a tremendous amount of space and really the way you see it on screen is the way he shaped it. It wasn’t in many ways the way I think Dave and I thought about him in the film. But he just brought a magic to it. He builds this relationship.”

Eddie Izzard: “I realised he (Anthony) had no fear. Because he had no memory he didn’t know the consequences of those kids who were tagging (an early encounter in the film) – he has no fear. So he walks without fear and without memory and that’s interesting because you have this ethereal quality.

“I fought against the amount of consciousness he has. Like when he’s talking to the doctor, Geoffrey Palmer, and he’s saying, ‘I don’t know what’s happening to me.’ But he needed to be able to say words. He needed to know where he was. I just didn’t want him ever…I wanted fear to be out so that he could just walk in a very strange plane. And that’s what I want for him.”

Lost Christmas BBC Site

CBBC

Lost Christmas: The Novel

Eddie Izzard Official Site

David Logan Official Site

The Happy Prince

Follow Ian Wylie on Twitter

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62 Comments

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62 responses to “Lost Christmas: Eddie Izzard

  1. Morag Towndrow

    Truly wonderful! All the elements of a fairy tale, but with real truths about compassion and despair and humanity and fear. Knew when I saw Eddie Izzard’s name I had to watch but the rest of the cast was superb too, especially Larry Mills.

  2. Just watched this & was blown away by it, it was amazing. Random question but do you know what breed of dog Mutt was?!

  3. Margaret

    Fantastic piece of television. Just what the BBC are good at. Eddie Izzard’s ‘aura’ was spot on to be able to play this part. A compelling story.

  4. David Thorpe

    Loved this but please tell me who covered “simply having a wonderful Christmas time” at the end

  5. albert pregely

    what a fantastic christmas story well done beeb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Having a lazy afternoon and this came on and thought it was fantastic

  7. Philip Mowbray

    At last the BBC back to its best doing what it does so well, i was extremely transfixed for the whole of the 90 minutes, superb acting and a very well done to all involved. A great xmas present, thankyou.

  8. Claire

    Absolutely brilliant, it had me and my kids gripped from the start. :)

  9. Spellbinding. Eddie Izzard is an angel. More synchronicity than you could imagine. So lovely to see Geoffrey Palmer. I’d been told he was dead. Worked with him once on As Time Goes By. A gentle man, a gentleman and a totally inspiring actor.
    I enjoyed this so much on many levels. So cleverly plotted. Such wonderful surprises right to the end. Everything is possible. Thank you.
    PS. I want to marry Eddie Izzard. (He could do worse. lol)

  10. Marina

    I was sobbing like a baby… Truly poetic heartwarming wonderful Christmas story… BBC at it’s best. I loved every minute of it.

  11. Tony Lorimer

    Thanks for the info and chance to echo the pleasure this show gave my family – a truly magical Xmas story on a par with Wonderful Life and Christmas Carol. Ruing my failure to set it to tape so will watch again on CBBC on Xmas Eve – if only to to appreciate more fully the genius!

  12. Maggie

    Can someone tell me what the closing song was in the film, can’t find anything about it anywhere

  13. Mel Reid

    Thought provoking and intense. Loved every minute of it from the laughs to the tears, of which there were many. Eddie Izzard and the rest of the cast were superb. If the beeb keep this kind of programming up I won’t mind paying the licence fee at all.

  14. Maggie

    Thank you Ian : )

  15. I truly can’t tell you how much i enjoyed wachting this programme, i missed the first little while and had to watch on iplayer this morning, i will record it when it comes on CBBC. Thanks for the tip
    Eddie Izzard is totally amazing along with the rest of the cast, and everything i have seen him in so far has been worth watching again, i smiled and cried in several places. Thanks you for creating something that will hopefully been shown in years to come. xxx

  16. Liz

    I have just watched Lost Christmas on the iPlayer, and thought it was truly wonderful television. Thank you to all concerned. Thanks too to Ian for letting us know that Wonderful Christmastime was by Tom Mcrae, but does anyone have any idea where I can buy it from? I can’t see it on his website that Ian provided a link to, and I think Tom has missed a treat by not having it on amazon.co.uk or on iTunes. I found it on amazon.com, but you cannot download US mp3s to the UK. Anyone any ideas?

  17. Dudley

    I look forward to enjoying this again & again & again and it would be nice if the beeb repeats it every Christmas so that future generations can experience it for themselves.

  18. Remko

    Absolutely brilliant, wonderful acting, great story line! One of the best tv moments I’ve had watching the BBC this year.

  19. Some stories pierce our hearts and open our eyes. This is one such tale.

    Thank you so much for blogging about Lost Christmas, Ian. Just reading this brought it all back to me and tears fell again.

  20. That was just wonderful Television. If only I could get BBC iplayer so I could watch it again. Thanks for posting who sang the ending song too.

  21. Lee wiltshire

    This film was amazing, & ended up blubbering with my wife, brilliant

    • Carl Bayliss

      Pleased I wasn’t the only bloke blubbering with his wife.
      The best TV I have see in years, tucked away quietly in the Sunday afternoon schedules, though we had SKY+ it. Should be shown peak-time BBC1 Christmas Eve – a real treasure. Thank you to all concerned in making it.

  22. Pingback: Lost Christmas – A Beautiful Modern Tale « starfishchronicles

  23. Brian Gamble

    There are not many films that i have been riveted to as this one. Great acting

  24. Jackie

    Thanks Ian, I wouldn’t have picked out this wonderful drama if I hadn’t read your article. The whole idea of one simple action having a profound knock-on affect on ourselves and others has always fascinated me and this story didn’t disappoint. I was a blubbering idiot by the end too!! Great acting all round, (Eddie Izzard is always a dream) and the Beeb at its best.

  25. nicole

    TELLING EVERYONE ABOUT THIS FANTASIC DRAMA, HAVE RECORDED IT FOR PEOPLE TO COME AND WATCH, CRIED AND SMILED ALL THE WAY THROUGH. I DONT WATCH A LOT OF TELE BUT THIS WAS SOOOOOO WORTH IT. LOVED IT WHAT A STORY.

  26. Pingback: Lost Christmas: Eddie Izzard | EddieIzzardFans

  27. Katie

    I have never seen such a clever, magical, touching, thought provoking film in all my life. I was completely glued to it! Well done to everyone involved, I thought it was absolutely fantastic.

  28. Ann Cuthbert

    Accidently fell across this on Sunday and I am so glad I did. What a brilliant story, superbly acted. Love Eddy Izzard in anything and it was seeing him that stopped me channel surfing. Have told friends all about it and so pleased it’s being re-shown on Christmas Eve as I missed the start. Many Sky + boxes will be whirring into life at 5.30pm on Saturday.

  29. sharon

    I want to buy this on DVD when is it out????

    • Don’t have any firm DVD release info yet, Sharon. Has anyone else seen anything? I believe the DVD version will be the same “full edit” cinematic release that we saw at the BFI.

  30. PhilT

    Oh wow, just watched it – well done everyone, especially Eddie Izzard for providing the pathos. Also I now love the song Wonderful Christmastime – Tom McRae’s version is fantastic. Well worth the licence fee just for this!

  31. Rachael Louise Gerrard

    I Will Def Buy It When It Comes Out On DVD, U Can Rent It From Tesco Now :)

  32. Garry Paxton

    Is this the beginning of a new series, based on Izzard’s character, with a new cast each time ?

    Absolutely stunning.

  33. Rosalind Cooper

    Absolutely brilliant, both script and cast were superb. One of the best Christmas tv shows/films I’ve seen in a long time. Props to everyone.

  34. Colin

    I quite enjoyed it, but fond the ‘lightbulb’ error irritating and distracting – it wasn’t invented by Edison, but by by Joseph Swann.

    Colin

  35. Shai

    As usual I live on the wrong side of the pond! Is there a way to view it here in the States? (Or did I miss that answer while scanning messages?)

    Happy Christmas!

    Shai

  36. rick

    Just watched the film and loved it. Like another person said, I tuned in because of Eddie Izzard but enjoyed the entire film. The movie requires significant suspension of disbelief and there a several obvious plot holes but the production is so well done and the piece so well acted, it is easy to overlook any flaws. Definitely a Christmas classic!

  37. J meehan

    Really random question (aside from utter praise for this production) anyone any idea where the wallpaper from in the drowned girls parents bedroom. Many thanks if you do!

    • Libby Daker

      desperate to know this too. really hope someone will come back to us with the answer!!

      Such a great programme. enjoyed every character and story!

      • J meehan

        Found it! Paper by Sara palmer. You can source it on website wallpaperking but it’s made by a company in Barcelona if you want to go direct. Very happy!

    • Libby Daker

      J Meehan – thank you! & well done – I have been searching for what feels like years. Very happy indeed!

  38. jason

    is there a dvd release for lost christmas

    • Jason – see the replies above. I’m sure there will be a DVD in due course but that may have to wait until after a planned cinematic release as discussed in the Q&A. Will do my best to get more official info when the BBC are back in the office after the New Year break.

  39. Lawrence

    Why wasn’t this superb film put on prime time TV either close to or actually on Christmas Day?

    Stumbled across it on iPlayer and am sure that many who would have loved it have missed it.

  40. Steve Marks

    Just watched this, as I cancelled Christmas this time round. Did not really fancy it, but it was really well filmed, with good characters, great use of location, and to top it all a great story. I reckon that it will become as popular as some of the Dickens films that we have on every Christmas.

  41. brian woodhall

    excellent viewing is dvd coming?

  42. can anyone PLEASE tell me where can i find this theme music that goes entire movie? i cant find it anywhere.. please help! BTW,perfect movie

  43. jenny

    watched this boxing day morning, it got me hooked from the beginning, amazing story line and great acting. this should be watched.

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