To say that I love Les Miserables would be an understatement on the scale of calling the Grand Canyon a crack. The first words I ever wrote on this blog were a Les Mis reference. I could write an entire post on how I came to be such a big fan and what I love about it (in fact, I will write that post) but this is not it. This is a post about the Les Miserables movie. Not the 1998 movie with Liam Neeson (now, normally I don’t care that much if movies change things from the book, but this movie, which I probably would have liked if I hadn’t read the book and seen the musical, got SO MUCH WRONG), but the upcoming adaptation of the musical.
A movie adaptation of the musical is one of those things that had been talked about for years and years but always got stuck in development. But then I started hearing casting details, so I thought, “Huh, maybe they really are going to make a movie this time.” Still, things get put off in Hollywood all the time, I figured. Who knew when or if they’d get around to making this?
THEN, just this weekend, I heard that they’re currently filming the movie and that it will be released THIS DECEMBER.
Merry Christmas to me! And it’s being released on December 14th rather than Christmas, which means I’ll get to see it even if the apocalypse happens!
Well, I hope. I am now very nervous about how this movie is going to turn out. Seriously, since Saturday I have not been able to get this movie, which doesn’t even exist yet, off my mind. So this post is kind of a way of getting a handle on all my thoughts about it.
First of all, I have always loved the idea of a movie version of the Les Miserables musical. Some shows work onstage largely because of the visual spectacle, and those musicals, i.e. The Phantom of the Opera, generally make lousy movies because they don’t come across as well onscreen. But the music, the characters, and the storyline are what make Les Mis so appealing, and I think that the freedom to show more than the stage limits a musical production to showing could be great. Already in my head I have visions of how different songs could be filmed—for example, showing flashbacks to Fantine’s relationship with Tholomyes during “I Dreamed a Dream,” and I also have a very clear of how songs like “Who Am I?”, “On My Own,” and “One Day More” would look onscreen.
Then there’s the matter of casting. My favorite Jean Valjean is the one who made me fall in love with this play, Randal Keith, whose CD I own. Here he is doing “Bring Him Home.”
But of course, they need a big-name actor for the lead role. So Jean Valjean, as Gina at Fantasy Casting correctly predicted, is played by Hugh Jackman. After looking up clips of him singing on YouTube and seeing this picture he tweeted of himself as Valjean, I think this is a great choice. He’s done a lot of theater, and here’s a clip of him in Oklahoma! (a musical I don’t really like, but he has a great voice!).
The antagonist, Javert, will be played by Russell Crowe. Hmm. This choice I’m a little warier of. Acting-wise, I can completely see him as Javert. I had no idea that he could sing, but he’s apparently done quite a bit of singing, as YouTube clips indicate. So, yes, he can sing. Can he sing a big, dramatic, belt-y song like “Stars”? That remains to be seen.
Anne Hathaway will play Fantine. She can definitely sing—here she is at the Oscars singing with Hugh Jackman, in fact. Acting-wise, she’s not the first person I would think of to play a nineteenth-century single mother forced into prostitution, but I’m sure she could surprise me. And she definitely has a voice that would sound lovely on “I Dreamed a Dream.”
Amanda Seyfried will play Cosette. Now, my apologies to her, but since her first movie was Mean Girls, I cannot look at her without thinking, “There’s a thirty percent chance that it’s already raining.” Physically, she is not how I pictured Cosette. As it did with Russell Crowe, Youtube is giving me plenty of evidence of her ability to sing, but I’m not sure how she would do in this part, which requires a pretty high range. Wikipedia tells me, however, that she’s trained in opera, so that makes me feel a bit better.
Eponine is my favorite character. She’s poor and down on her luck and madly in love with a man who doesn’t love her back but for whom she’s nevertheless willing to die heroically. For awhile there was a rumor that Taylor Swift would play Eponine. Now, no offense to Ms. Swift, who I’m sure is a lovely person, but that would have been the WORST DECISION EVER. (Thank you, Michelle Collins, who I have found shares my opinions on just about everything, for backing me up on this.) She is just not right for that part at all. Personally, my favorite Eponine is Lea Salonga. If you don’t know her name, you definitely know her voice—she’s the singing voice of both Mulan and Jasmine in Aladdin. And speaking of Disney, if I could steal any person’s voice Little Mermaid-style, it would be hers. Unfortunately, she’s a bit too old to play the role now. I wondered how another Lea (Michele) would be as Eponine, too, since she actually turned down this role on Broadway to do Glee, although I was a bit skeptical of her ability to act the part effectively. But then it was revealed that instead, Eponine would be played by a British actress named Samantha Barks, who played Eponine in the West End. After seeing this clip of her singing “On My Own,” I’m now really excited to see her in the movie.
And the Thenardiers will be played by Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. EFFING BRILLIANT. I know both of them sang in Sweeney Todd, but for these characters, it’s the acting that’s the most important. They’re villains but also the comic relief (it’s a show whose title means “the miserable ones,” so you need to have comic relief somewhere). I think both of these actors will be amazing in these roles. And I really hope that “Master of the House” is as awesome of a scene as it has the potential to be. It’s by far the catchiest song in the show (just ask George Costanza) and is a great ensemble number.
Additionally, the brilliant Colm Wilkinson, who originated the role of Valjean (listen to him here! He holds that last note for like twenty seconds!), will play the bishop and Frances Ruffelle, the original Eponine, will have a small part as well.
A few other tidbits I’ve learned:
- It’s directed by Tom Hooper, who also directed The King’s Speech, which I adored.
- Cameron Mackintosh, the original producer, is producing the movie as well.
- Rather than recording the songs beforehand and lip-synching on film, the actors will be filmed singing live on the set. Interesting. I hate the way lip-synching looks, so I feel like this can only be a good thing.
- They’re keeping the sung-through format and adding very little additional dialogue. A+.
- They ARE adding one additional song—it’s called “Suddenly” and it’s sung by Jean Valjean after he adopts Cosette. This is pretty standard practice for a musical—when they make the film version, they add a song so that they can be eligible for the Oscar for Best Original Song. Dreamgirls added “Love You I Do,” Grease added “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” Evita added “You Must Love Me,” and Chicago threw “I Move On” in at the end credits. That’s definitely an area of the plot that could use a song, and it’s composed by the original composer. So I’m excited to hear it.
- I don’t know if they’re eliminating any songs, though. I certainly hope not.
So, in conclusion, I’m cautiously optimistic that this will be the best movie of all time. I’ve never gone to a midnight showing of a movie, not even any of the Harry Potter movies, but I will absolutely be going to this one.
Until then, I have Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel’s take on the confrontation scene to entertain me.