The musical movie version of “Les Misérables” was nearly 30 years in the making. The story, based on the Victor Hugo novel, centers on Frenchman Jean Valjean’s (Hugh Jackman) quest to seek salvation and avoid the grip of Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), all while revolution and rebellion take over the minds and hearts of his countrymen in the 19th century. Prior cinematic versions of the classic tale have been musicless.
With an A-list cast (Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Redmayne) set to belt out those memorable tunes, the December film release already has lots of buzz and excitement from “Les Mis”-ophiles. MTV News spoke to the film’s director, Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”), for Fall Movie Preview week, and he opened up about the film’s casting rumors (including Taylor Swift) , a brand-spankin’-new track written especially for the film and, of course, Anne Hathaway’s now infamous cropped haircut .
MTV: So, from the announcement of “Les Mis,” it became very highly anticipated from the moment it got put out into the world. Were you anticipating that reaction to this latest adaptation of the story?
Tom Hooper: I did anticipate it because it’s the first time the musical has ever been put on film. After 26 years of the musical being in the world, and after being seen by 60 million people, and there have been thoughts in the past of making it into a movie, I think the anticipation is there thanks to the extraordinary heritage and the popularity of the music globally. So there’s no way that announcing that you’re finally going to do a film with this music was going to be anything other than a big story because it’s so beloved.
MTV: Talk about assembling the cast for this film — there were so many rumors floating around about the casting.
Hooper: [Usually big-name actors don’t audition], but for a musical, everyone accepted that they had to audition for the roles because of the particular need to both sing and act. So I had someone like Russell Crowe auditioning, and I don’t think Russell has had to audition for a movie for many years.
The list of actresses who auditioned for Fantine for example, it was outrageous. It was like half a dozen of the biggest female movie stars on the planet all wanted to play the role. The competition was insane, and they were all willing to go through the auditioning process.
It was rather wonderful and some poetic justice that Anne Hathaway ends up getting the role given that her mother was the understudy for Fantine on the American tour when she was growing up. The first day of filming, she actually wore her mother’s “Les Mis” cast jacket from all those years ago. I am blessed by the most extraordinary cast, a cast I still can’t quite believe, even after having shot the film and worked with them all, I still can’t quite believe that we got this lineup. I’m incredibly proud of the performances in the film and each of them in their own way has done something astonishing with the opportunity. I can’t wait to share it with big fans of the musical.
MTV: And Anne Hathaway, just from the teaser of her in the trailer, is heartbreaking in the film. Talk a little bit about her performance in it, and obviously, when she shaved her hair.
Hooper: When she sings “I Dreamed a Dream,” and you just see a tiny clip in the trailer, it is quite extraordinary. This performance, it is quite breathtaking. The day we shot it on set, the crew were kind of absolutely staggered by it. She went to this incredibly raw and intense place to play this role. She offered to cut her hair because that’s what happens to the character, and she was truly committed to going on this journey and did the most immaculate amount of research. I don’t think I’ve worked with a better-prepared actor in terms of the amount of the months and months of work that she put in to build up to this moment.
MTV: Finally, the new song that’s going to be in the film — can you talk a little bit about “Suddenly”?
Hooper: I’m almost 90 percent sure it will remain in the film, but as we just started editing, I’ll just put that caveat. I don’t know if I want to give anything away. It’s not in the trailer so I think all else said, it’s Hugh Jackman, it’s a totally original song the composers wrote especially for the movie. I think it’s extremely moving and he did it brilliantly. Let the audience decide.
From “Les Mis” to “Breaking Dawn, ” “The Hobbit” to “Skyfall,” the MTV Movies team is delving into the hottest upcoming flicks in our 2012 Fall Movie Preview. Check back daily for exclusive clips, photos and interviews with the films’ biggest stars.