After seeing The Dark Knight Rises on its opening weekend, I returned home to read the critics’ reviews and to learn about the cast and production crew, as I usually do after seeing a movie. As I was looking over Anne Hathaway’s filmography, I noticed that she will play Fantine in a movie version of Les Misérables this year. Another screen adaptation? Les Mis would then compete with The Three Musketeers for the most frequently depicted novel of French literature. However, I discovered that Les Misérables scheduled to open this December would be the musical. Being a fan both of Hugo’s book and of the musical, I was simultaneously delighted and worried. How on earth would they pull this off well?
The director is Tom Hooper, who made The King’s Speech. The cast is an impressive picking from the Anglosphere’s talent: Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Eddie Redmayne as Marius, Samantha Barks as Éponine, Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, and Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche. Moreover, I did “laugh out loud” when I saw that the Thénardiers would be played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. How splendidly well cast, but can these folks sing?
To maintain fidelity to the musical format, Hooper decided to have the actors sing while filming on set. The actors wear earpieces that play piano renditions of the songs to which they sing, and then the orchestral music will be added later. Therefore, they really have to sing.
I was somewhat surprised to find that many in the cast had West End and Broadway backgrounds. Follow the link to hear Jackman in Oklahoma. Crowe used to sing and play in a band. Who knew? Here is the film’s trailer:
The tagline for the trailer conflicts with Fantine’s woeful song, but we can forgive it given the salvation that occurs later in the story.
The producers are also securing the goodwill of the musical’s longtime fans by offering Easter eggs aplenty. For instance, the musical’s composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and the English version’s producer Cameron Mackintosh have cameos. Colm Wilkinson, who played Jean Valjean in the original London and New York casts, will be the Bishop of Digne. Frances Ruffelle, who played Éponine in both original casts, will portray a prostitute—yet another example of how age is kinder to men. I am pleased that the film’s production acknowledges and respects the musical’s history, and I shall be going its opening weekend. May the film do the most excellent musical justice.