Advent Calendar / Q&A

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce

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Pull Frank Cottrell Boyce’s debut off the shelf and there’s not much to distinguish it as a ‘Christmas book’, the cover is dominated by pleasant blue sky and it’s only the presence of a rather careworn Nativity Donkey that suggests we’re about to enter festive territory.

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But Millions is one the great contemporary Christmas stories, partly because it foregrounds a compelling plot about a pair of brothers who discover a quarter of a million quid, and have just a few weeks in which to decide what to do with it. The backdrop of a commercialised modern Christmas just heightens Boyce’s central message about the negative effects of money and consumerism.

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Frank talked to me about the impact Charles Dickens, Star Wars and Brexit have had on the story. Firstly I wanted to know whether Millions was actually a ‘Christmas story’, or just a story set at Christmas?

The action plot climaxes around a Nativity play so I think Christmas is kind of pivotal – especially as the theme is money and the power of giving.

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You show us a very contemporary Christmas, set on an English suburban estate, albeit one with visiting saints. Why do you think so many Christmas books still cling to an idealised Victorian fantasia?

Every Christmas comes freighted with nostalgia and the Christmas we love is a Victorian invention.  I suppose to that it’s the inescapable influence of the greatest Christmas story – A Christmas Carol.

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My son was appalled by Damian’s actions end of the book and knew exactly how he would spend a quarter of a million quid. How have children responded to the idea of giving away the money?

That’s so funny!  I’m always taken aback by how many of the kids I meet in schools think that Damian is right.  Your son clearly has a great future ahead of him.

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The film version directed by Danny Boyle was released in May 2005, it seem odd scheduling for a potential Christmas hit.

Oh don’t ask.  Poor Pathe spent so long thinking about how to release Millions and get the best audience for it and then Star Wars opened the same week and we were bulldozed. But it seems to have had a long shelf life and people still watch it.  Partly because of Danny’s enormous and well-deserved reputation

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The plot hinges around the introduction of the Euro in Britain. Will we ever have the single European currency in Britain for Christmas?

When we were making the film we were thinking that Britain might join the Euro before we even finished.  Now of course we can never join it and some people are saying that the currency itself is probably doomed.

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Danny Boyle has said the pair of you considered making Millions as a musical. Is that true?

It’s true but the gap between being green lit and going into production was too tight. I still haven’t given up on the idea.

You heard it here first folks, the next great west end blockbuster, Millions the musical packed with all your favourite singing saints and plenty of Christmas bling.

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Millions is published by Pan MacMillan, the Danny Boyle film is available on DVD.

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