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Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper have dreamed a dream: That they can put butts in seats for their movie version of "Les Misérables" the same way the musical has packed 'em in for over 25 years.
Victor Hugo's classic 1862 novel told the sprawling redemption tale of ex-convict Jean Valjean, set against the backdrop of Paris from 1815 to the student uprising of 1832. The 1985 musical version enjoyed one of the most successful runs of any show on London's West End or Broadway. Now that it's finally singing its way into cinemas, we've been as relentless as Inspector Javert in tracking down all the info you need to enjoy it.
As anyone who's seen him belt out show tunes in "Oklahoma!," "The Boy from Oz" and hosting the Tonys (or winning one) knows, Hugh Jackman is as much Rodgers and Hammerstein as he is adamantium and berzerker rage. The "X-Men" star isn't the only one who's a natural singer, though. His fellow Aussie Russell Crowe has been rocking for over 20 years with bands 30 Odd Foot of Grunts and, more recently, The Ordinary Fear of God. These two will butt heads and try not to go "Oi Oi Oi" as Jean Valjean and his pursuer Javert, respectively. Other stars include Anne Hathaway as factory worker Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as her daughter Cosette and "Sweeney Todd" alums Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as innkeeper Thénardier and his wife.
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Eddie Redmayne ("My Week with Marilyn") has been angling for breakout star status for several years, with strong supporting turns in other period epics such as "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" and the darkly awesome "Black Death." Here he plays Marius Pontmercy, a student revolutionary who falls in love with Cosette. Playing Éponine, Marius' best friend who's secretly got the hots for him, is 21-year-old Isle of Man native Samantha Barks, who makes her film debut here. She was handpicked by the original show's producer, Cameron Mackintosh, after she played the part in the show at the West End and the 25th Anniversary Concert, winning the role over heavyweights like Hayden Panettiere, Scarlett Johansson, Lea Michele, Emily Browning, Lucy Hale and Evan Rachel Wood.
Master of the House
Director Tom Hooper had done extensive television work in the UK before he told the story of our own nation's birth (while making Paul Giamatti somehow even cooler in a white wig) for the stunningly brilliant 2008 HBO miniseries, "John Adams." Two years later he swept the Academy Awards with "The King's Speech," for which he was given Best Director and presumably carte blanche on his next project, which turned out to be "Les Mis." With his atypical framing techniques and precise eye for historical detail, Hooper is the perfect maestro to lend an air of verisimilitude to this most theatrical of projects.
"Rent" – 160 years + Wolverine = "Les Misérables"
Also Check Out: New Trailer Is Anything But 'Miserables'
Of all the contemporary movie musicals, be they "Evita," "Dreamgirls" or "Mamma Mia!," the seeming holy grail of them all would be "Les Mis," one of the jewels in the British theatrical crown and the second longest-running musical in the world after "The Fantasticks." Alan Parker ("Fame," "Pink Floyd The Wall") had the itch to make a movie version as far back as 1988, followed by Bruce Beresford ("Driving Miss Daisy"), who was attached to helm for Sony in 1992. When neither men could hack it, the project lingered in development hell until Hooper's clout got Universal Pictures to finally greenlight the massive undertaking. Original composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyricist Alain Boublil wrote a new song exclusively for the film titled "Suddenly," which revolves around Valjean and Cosette, and Hooper took the rare step of having the actors actually sing live on set as opposed to pre-recording the songs.
Valjean Arrested, Valjean Forgiven
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The story follows Parisian Jean Valjean, imprisoned for 19 years for nabbing a measly loaf of bread for his starving sister. When he breaks parole he is pursued Ahab-like by police officer Javert and forced to assume a new identity as the heroic mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Taking pity on beleaguered factory worker Fantine, he evades authorities in order to seek out and take care of her daughter Cosette, rescuing the girl from slimy innkeepers. Nine years later, Valjean finds himself in the middle of the 1832 Paris Uprising, trying to protect Cosette and her love Marius while finally confronting Javert once and for all.
Buzz At the End of the Day
After previewing the film at CinemaCon this past April, Collider remarked that, "If you were wondering if Anne Hathway could sing, or if Universal was going to f**k up "Les Miserables," the footage we saw today makes the film another early contender for end of the year awards." A 90-second trailer released in May featured Anne Hathaway getting a nasty haircut and belting out the sad lament "I Dreamed a Dream" with quivering, deeply felt sadness. It inspired a cheeky writer for England's The Guardian to write, "This trailer is so unrelentingly demoralising that I just want to crawl into bed and cry myself inside out for a month. This is, hands down, the most bummed out I've ever been. Ever." Fans were also disappointed that no footage of Crowe or Jackman singing was included, but we'll likely see more before its Christmas release.
Do We Hear The People Sing?
Movie musicals have had a spotty track record at best in recent years. Though it's great to see these holdovers from the golden age of Hollywood are still being made, for every hit like "Mamma Mia!" there seems to be two or three bloated disasters the likes of "Nine," "Across the Universe" or "Rock of Ages." To top it off you have some genuinely unpleasant subject matter — it's called "The Miserables" for a reason — which may not sit well with your average Joe the Plumber trying to absorb the plight of the poor through a nacho cheese and Coca-Cola haze during the Christmas season. That said, Hooper's visuals glimpsed in the trailer are nothing less than stunning, harking back to the sweep of his "John Adams," which also took on an unpleasant subject matter while remaining entertaining and mythic. Here's hoping "A Little Fall of Rain" will lead to a shower of Oscars.