Johan Persson
Grady Smith
August 11, 2013 AT 04:00 AM EDT

As he set out to direct Charles Dickens’ classic novel Great Expectations, Mike Newell fixated on one question: ”Why is Pip such a little s—?” To Newell, the story’s orphan hero (played by War Horse‘s Jeremy Irvine) is ”treacherous and unthinking, uncaring of the people who love him most.” That includes Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter), a wealthy spinster who hasn’t stepped outdoors since being left at the altar decades earlier, and her ward, Estella (The Borgias‘ Holliday Grainger), who won’t return Pip’s affections — even after he’s thrown into London’s high society. Ultimately, though, Newell pities Pip. ”He’s an abused child,” he says. ”What you’re looking at is: What is the fallout of emotional abuse?”

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