Filming this has been the most demanding thing I have ever done…physically and emotionally… and the most rewardinng
It would be fair to say that you can restore both hope and faith through stirring music. Both cathartic and uplifting, the Cameron Macintosh stage hit and eight time Tony award winner Les Misérables, colloquially known as Les Mis is now a movie from Working Title Films distributed by Universal Pictures and showing here in Australia. An impressive ensemble cast headed by Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, with Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Samantha Barks and Sacha Baron Cohen was assembled for the cinema adaption of the successful stage musical, which was based on the classic novel by the nineteenth century French writer, poet, novelist and dramatist Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885).
It scores high on any scale, with its powerful and sensitive performances and Jackman and Hathaway have both been nominated for the 2013 Academy Awards.
Sensational, dramatic, packed with excitement and set during the days of the French revolution that erupted in May 1789, Les Misérables is a story about, for and of the people best expressed in the amazing finale song ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’. French composer Claude-Michel Schönberg composed the Tony Award-winning score in 1980, with a libretto by Alain Boublil. Its main theme involves the passionate pursuit of a policeman, the persistent and dogged Inspector Javert (Russel Crowe), who is trying to arrest the prisoner Jean Valjean (Jackman). He has broken parole after spending 19 years in prison for stealing bread and many failed attempts to escape.
Jean Valjean reformed his ways so that he could care for the orphan girl Cosette, the illegitimate daughter of struggling factory worker Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who became a prostitute. Valjean rescues Cosette from life on the streets of Paris raising her as his daughter. After two decades and a rise in status he becomes mayor of a town in France.
Cosette was part of the late eighteenth century Parisian underworld, where street children, the prostitutes and the criminals were all vying with each other just to exist. They ended up having a revolution against authority, the monarchy, the aristocrats and their decadent way of life to try and fix the problem and change the way that society worked based on the principles surrounding the intellectual notion that ‘all men are born equal’.
Victor Hugo in penning his opus was trying to draw attention to the plight of the poor and the oppressed with this his masterful detective story – a comic and tragic tale of romance and revolution while ultimately, a tale of redemption and hope.
Interviewed on the Today show on Channel Nine on 28th September 2012 Australian actor and singer Hugh Jackman revealed that he had never chased a role so hard and so long as that of the hero Jean Valjean. His is an enthralling story full of the dreams, dramas, triumphs and tragedies of a world in flux c 1790 – c1830 and about a man’s ability to transform himself and his life. The endless pursuit comes to a major climax with an attack on a barricade rebels have built across a street in Paris.
Will you join in our crusade
Who will be strong and stand with me
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see
Do you hear the people sing
Say do you hear the distant drums
It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes
Hugh Jackman also talked on the Today show about the demands of the production of this version of the famous stage musical, where all the cast sing live on the set accompanied by a pianist they hear playing via an earpiece. “The idea of singing live is daunting, but what it gives you is freedom” he said.
He said it was just like being on stage, which is very unusual for a movie and very ‘old school’.
By playing it live the Director was able to garner the spontaneity normal film acting allows. The orchestra playing the music will be layered in behind the voice later and deliver to the viewers true musical excellence.
Singing live adds to the power and realism of the story’, observed the Director Tom Hooper in an interview about the movie.
Jackman also talked on Today about the performance of Ann Hathaway as Fantine, a role her mother played some 25 years ago when Les Misérables first went on tour. Ann he said, wore her mother’s denim jacket from that show on her first day on set, which was indicative of the passion and emotion just being part of this production has been for many of its players.
Anne Hathaway has had a brilliant career to date in dramatic and comedic roles. Like Jackman she featured in school plays and as a plus, she sings soprano gloriously. Many of the cast gathered for this landmark production have a special investment in their roles, each passionately wanting to be part of what will be a landmark movie for our age as great musicals make a comeback.
Les Miserables the Cameron Mackintosh produced musical began in the West End of London in 1985 the year Hugh Jackman was starring in the Knox Grammar School at Wahroonga in Sydney’s production of My Fair Lady.
After he had graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University in 1994 he spent two years working in stage and television before heading off to London where he became part of the acclaimed stage production of Oklahoma in the West End.
He won a nomination for an Olivier Award for that role and then Hollywood beckoned.
During this time Les Miserables was going from strength to strength on stage in London where it is still running. On Broadway from 1987 – 2006 it wooed a whole new generation of American people to its powerful message of love, liberty, fraternity, hope and freedom, which is also at the heart of their Declaration of Independence.
Victor Hugo was the most well known of all the French Romantic writers. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831, known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. A passionate supporter of republicanism, his work touched upon most of the political and social issues and artistic trends of his time, a period that was filled with violence and heartache.
The latter part of the eighteenth century in France encompassed the ideology and reality of the French Revolution; Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s attempted flight to Varennes and their beheading during the horrors of the Reign of Terror under the direction of the influential Maximillien de Robspierre. It ended when he was arrested and executed ‘face up’ for his crimes against humanity on the guillotine in July 1794. Then there was the emergence of the Revolutionary heroes, especially Napoleon Bonaparte.
Hugo wrote a letter to M. Daelli who translated his novel into Italian in 1862. This extract provides just a few of the very poignant words.
‘You are right, sir, when you tell me that Les Misérables is written for all nations. I do not know whether it will be read by all, but I wrote it for all. It is addressed to England as well as to Spain, to Italy as well as to France, to Germany as well as to Ireland, to Republics which have slaves as well as to Empires which have serfs. Social problems overstep frontiers. The sores of the human race, those great sores which cover the globe, do not halt at the red or blue lines traced upon the map. In every place where man is ignorant and despairing, in every place where woman is sold for bread, wherever the child suffers for lack of the book which should instruct him and of the hearth which should warm him, the book of Les Misérables knocks at the door and says: “Open to me, I come for you…
… whether we be Italians or Frenchmen, misery concerns us all. Ever since history has been written, ever since philosophy has meditated, misery has been the garment of the human race; the moment has at length arrived for tearing off that rag, and for replacing, upon the naked limbs of the Man-People, the sinister fragment of the past with the grand purple robe of the dawn. If this letter seems to you of service in enlightening some minds and in dissipating some prejudices, you are at liberty to publish it, sir. Accept, I pray you, a renewed assurance of my very distinguished sentiments’.
During the first half of the nineteenth century in England, Europe and America was a period of extraordinary political change, scientific discovery, dazzling artistry, literary excellence, military milestones, political and social scandal.
From the dandyism of Beau Brummell to the romantic exploits of Don Juan from the abolition of the slave trade to Catholic emancipation, from revolution to the romantics, it was an age that had an engaging cast of characters.
The extraordinary cast of engaging characters in Les Miserables will no doubt provide some splendid opportunities for its actors. Australian actor Russell Crowe has also proved himself to be one of the greats on the world movie stage, and as Inspector Javert in Les Mis he will no doubt bring great integrity and just the right level of committed intensity to the role of a policeman, who dedicates his life to putting prisoner number 24601 back in jail.
Russell began as a child star on local television in Australia, his parents being movie set caterers. Bitten by the acting bug, he proved to have outstanding abilities in two films Romper Stomper (1992) and The Sum of Us (1994), which led actress Sharon Stone holding up shooting so that he could be the gunslinger in her film The Quick and the Dead.
After that there was no stopping his rise in both fame and fortune. His role in Gladiator (2000) and A Beautiful Mind (2001) and Master and Commander (2003) are highlights of his brilliant career so far. Le Mis the movie is sure to be another.
The role of an older Cosette falls on the very capable shoulders of Amanda Michelle Seyfried, who was born in the year Les Miserables started on stage and when Jackman was dancing and singing his head off in My Fair Lady at school. She also acted in her high school productions and took singing lessons that led to a feature role in Mamma Mia (2008) alongside Meryl Streep. Seyfried has been quoted as saying ‘No matter what’s happening in my life, I can always get lost in the romances of my characters’**
English actor Eddie Redmayne who plays Marius Pontmercy, Cosette’s true love recently came to wider attention in his role in Marilyn (2011). He has been on stage since he was a young man playing a workhouse boy in the Sam Mendes production of Oliver in London’s West End. Since 2002 he has also been appearing in plays in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre at London and won a Tony award in 2010 while garnering huge critical acclaim for his role in John Logan’s ‘Red’ at the Donmar Warehouse at London.
His performance in this is sensitive, touching, deeply felt and beautifully portrayed.
In the tragic role of Eponine, is Samantha Barks, a young singer who appeared in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables.
She is the rival of Cosette for Marius, who only sees her as a friend. She is the daughter of the Thénardier’s and is tortured by her love. She is killed while returning to the barricades to see Marius and appears as a spirit at the end to guide the dying Valjean to heaven.
The young actor Daniel Huttlestone, who plays the part of Gavroche, the brave street child who defies the soldiers and is shot to death at the barricade becoming a martyr for the cause of freedom, is outstanding.
In an interesting casting Sacha Baron Cohen known for being a stand up comedian and his portrayal of unorthodox fictional characters will play Thénardier, a second-rate thief who runs a small inn with his wife played by English actress Helena Bonham Carter.
It is the truly awful Madame Thénardier who abuses Cosette until Valjean buys her. Bonham-Carter has long been more than just a pretty face, a character actor of high renown well known for her ability to move from just being capable to being completely compelling.
With a strong supporting cast and an incredible musical score by Claude-Michel Schönberg including an additional song “Suddenly”, which explains what happens when Valjean takes Cosette from the inn, Les Miserables the movie is an outstanding gift to the whole world.
As long as we are connected and there is love ….*
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012
Enjoy An Extended First Look
* Quotes Hugh Jackman Today Show Interview 28/09/2012 & Les Misérables Extended First Look
**IMDB Notes Amanda Seyfried
Lyrics from ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’ by
FIGHT DREAM HOPE LOVE
Les Misérables is the motion-picture adaptation of the beloved global stage sensation seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries and in 21 languages around the globe and still breaking box-office records everywhere in its 27th year. Les Misérables, the show of shows, is now reborn as the cinematic musical experience of a lifetime.
Based on Les Misérables by Victor Hugo and
Les Misérables (musical) by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer
The poster for the film features the young Cosette, played by Isabelle Allen.
Purchase Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables
Watch the Trailer