By Gabrielle Gesek
It is hard to judge a rendition of a movie that’s been re-adapted more times than one can count on both hands, but the new movie-musical “Les Miserables,” set for release this Christmas, is holding its own. With a star-studded cast including Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried and Russell Crowe, success is almost guaranteed.
To top off the A-l
ist cast, Tom Hooper, the Oscar-winning director of “The King’s Speech,” will be calling the shots. Oddly enough, the night Hooper won an Oscar for the “The King’s Speech,” Hathaway, the ceremony’s cohost, took stage and sang one of “Les Miserables’” best-known songs “On My Own” to Hugh Jackman. Perhaps the skit set off a spark with Hooper as Hathaway now leads in the “Les Miserables” trailer singing “I Dreamed a Dream” alongside Jackman once again.
However, landing the coveted roles in “Les Miserables” wasn’t easy. The cast had to survive marathons of auditions surpassing thousands of contenders all vying for the same few roles. The Tony-winning song-and-dance man Hugh Jackman is no beginner when it comes to musicals, but he was nonetheless subject to multiple three hour auditions until he finally landed the lead role of prisoner-turned-politician Jean Valjean. Hooper set the bar high for his cast, as even Russell Crowe, who had not been asked to audition for a movie since 1999, spent weeks with a vocal coach until he could perfect his pitch and score the role of Javert, the dogged policeman.
Anne Hathaway, who plays the ill-stricken Fantine, put her full effort into achieving authenticity. Even with her approaching wedding in sight, Hathaway dropped weight and admitted it was her idea to have her hair actually cut off during a scene where her character sells her locks to a wig maker.
Aside from a cast of megastars, Hooper is taking the movie to new heights with his bold risk-taking. Hooper’s unorthodox decision to have the actors sing live during every scene (a major difference from the typical movie-musical where lip-synching to a prerecorded track is the norm) received skepticism early on but will pay off soon enough.
‘’It utterly transforms the experience of what a musical is like on film. When it’s live, the actors can actually think the songs,’’ Hooper says during an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Hooper’s unconventional approach will help establish intimacy between the actors and audience adding to the raw emotional intensity of the material. Other changes to look out for, or rather listen for, are the camouflaged microphones donning the outside of the actors’ costumes. The discrete accessories help to achieve perfect sound, something unthinkable of a movie-musical 10 years ago.
“Les Miz,” storming into theatres this Christmas, is going to be one for the record books. Hooper’s bold risks and daring decisions have left his cast pushing themselves to perform like never before.
As for Crowe, he admits the experience was equally terrifying as rewarding and says, “I have never sung anything as challenging as the songs in ‘Les Miz,’ never pushed my voice to that place. I’m still not sure if I can do it. I guess I’ll know when the movie comes out.’’ All eagerly await the arrival of this fresh rendition to a classic tale this upcoming holiday season.