Without overstating it, let me just say that this is the best movie I have seen in my entire life. If there is one movie you see in the theater this year, let this be it. Get a babysitter, then go again and take the kids in the name of once in a lifetime movies, and then go again, and again.
I plan on seeing this movie at least 5 more times in the theater. Go to the biggest screen in your city, with the best sound, and let your mind be blown.
Here’s the thing, I’m not a Les Miserables super fan. I’ve been lucky enough to see the play in London and a few more times in the states, and like everyone else with a pulse, loved the music and play.
I had the opportunity to attend a screening and cast interviews in New York City this month and I’ve got lots to share.
When the lights went dim in the theater for the screening I got a little nervous. I mean, the actors sing their way through this entire movie. This could go really well, or it could be really awkward. I was literally holding my breath waiting for Hugh to start singing.
But the minute he did, I was enthralled from start to finish. I think this cast gave the performance of a lifetime. Here’s why:
Hugh Jackman – Jean Valjean:
- His first audition lasted 3 hours and described it as “undoubtedly the most exhilarating audition of my life, but I eventually had to tell Tom I needed to go home and put my kids to bed.”
- Physically, he lost 30 pounds, he grew his own beard, and at the start of the production he went 36 hours without water in order to achieve the look of “hollowness and gauntness of the era”. On top of that, he was working out 3 hours a day as his character was also known for his strength. In the opening scenes, he is almost unrecognizable.
- He read Victor Hugo’s book Les Miserables every night before he went to sleep.
Anne Hathaway – Fontine:
- When she was 7 years old, Mackintosh (producer) had cast her mother in the U.S. national tour of Les Miserables as a factory girl; she also played Fantine a number of times during her time with the company.
- I love that everyone involved in the film called her “Annie” during interviews.
- There is a scene where Fantine gets her hair cut off to sell. She did it in one take, and told everyone that if by chance her scalp was cut, to just keep on filming, it would only make it better. “If there is blood, let’s do it!”
- She lost 25 pounds in the course of 5 weeks. “It was very intense and very extreme and to be honest, if I had stopped and really thought about what I was doing, it probably would have felt too hard. I knew that I had an end moment, and all I needed to do was keep my spirits up and keep my focus on that point. I’m not method, but I was playing a martyr. So any kind of suffering I was going through I wouldn’t feel it as suffering. I would have felt s she would, which was instant transformation.”
Russell Crowe – Javert:
- I think I was most skeptical of his performance going into the film. I knew he was in a band, but I could not imagine him singing dramatically. He was awesome. Believe it or not, he started his career in musical theater
- Crowe’s audition: “I had this idea on the day of the audition that I would walk there, something I would have done when I was starting out, when the audition was basically the difference between me eating and not eating or being able to pay rent or not. It was 28 blocks from where I was staying and pouring rain. I had the opportunity to jump in a cab, but I knew if I did the audition wouldn’t go right.” He showed up to the audition soaked to the skin!
- During cast interviews the entire cast said that he was the glue that held the actors together socially. He invited everyone to his place after filming for food and singing.
Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen – Monsieur and Madame Thenardier:
- They are so good at being bad. I don’t know how else to say it!
- They provide the perfect comic relief in all of the right places, I’m simply obsessed with their brand of badness.
- The cast was asked how they recovered at the end of the day from shooting such an emotional, physically intense film. Eddie Redmayne’s (Marius) answer was: ” Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter.”
Amanda Seyfried – Cosette:
- You may also know her from playing Sophie, the young bride to be in Mama Mia.
- When she was 15 she played Cosette in her school recital.
- There was a funny moment in the cast interviews between Amanda and Anne Hathaway. Amanda was saying that she got to be the most comfortable in the film (no starvation or being dragged through the mud etc.) and Anne jumped in with “You hit a C. You hit a high C.” Her voice is perfect for Cosette, I can’t imagine someone else cast in that role.
Eddie Redmayne – Marius:
- On the audition: “I’d heard Tom was doing this. I was in a trailer in North Carolina playing a cowboy, and I recorded the song (Empty Chairs and Empty Tables) on my iPhone. That was the start of the most intensely rigorous audition process. It was completely terrifying.”
- When I first saw that he was Marius in the film, I was a little disappointed. I had seen him in “My Week With Marilyn” on a flight to Paris earlier in the year and I couldn’t stand his character. But I was trapped on a plane, and I was bored so I had to watch it. Eddie, you’ve redeemed yourself.
- There is a scene where Jean Valjean is rescuing Marius and dragging him through the sewers. It looks disgusting on film. What was in the mud? Eddie: “Hugh was carrying me, carrying me through disgusting sewer stuff, not chocolate milkshake.”
Samantha Barks – Eponine:
- This is her “feature-film debut” and she knocks this out of the park.
- She played Eponine in the London production from June 2010 – June 2011
- In the scene where Eponine sings “A Little Drop of Rain” it’s raining, and they are crying, and she has to sing live through it all. She was asked about singing live: “I think for me when there’s rain pouring on your face and you’re crying and you’re sniffly, you kind of have to leave a bit of vocal vanity at the door a bit, because first, you’re thinking of the sound–is it sounding nice? Is it sounding right? But, I think that kind of realism in your voice adds to the emotion of that live singing. And especially in moments like A Little Fall of Rain with me and Eddie, it allows you to be so intimate. And we were crying, but kind of trying to add that to your voice. Because when you speak and you cry, you can hear it in someone’s voice. And to be able to hear that when somebody’s singing, I think that only adds to the emotion of it.”
As you can see through these interviews there was almost a sense of destiny that brought the cast together. The production of the film was emotional and intense and the performances are like nothing I’ve ever seen. I went back to my hotel after the screening and watched trailers over and over again. And even now, if I see another trailer, I get the chills and I tear up again. It’s involuntary. There’s a lot of talk about awards for films this year. I’m just saying, Lincoln better watch his back. (did you just catch my humor? I’m laughing to myself right now).
I’ll be back with another post with some more behind the scenes looks at the making of the film, the new song written especially for the movie, and the amazing cast. In the meantime, you’ve got a couple weeks now to plan the day, line up your babysitter, and be in your seat. Go all ready!
P.S. Bring a box of tissues and remind your self to breathe every so often.