If there is one thing we learned in school, it’s that history repeats itself. Just as relevant now as when the book by Victor Hugo was written, the narrative plays on universal themes of unrest and injustice. And the newest cinematic version of LES MISÉRABLES finds itself smack in the middle of today’s geo-political debate. It’s the people versus the government – an 18th Century set “Occupy Wall Street” movement with sweet, sweet melodies and some emotionally powerful performances.
Because we are so amped for this release, we’ve been reading up on Director Tom Hooper’s stellar re-imagining of composer Claude-Michel Schonberg’s 1985 musical and found out a few fun facts from the fine folks at Entertainment Weekly (circa their Holiday Movie double issue and October 26th issue). We decided to compile them into one place for your reading pleasure.
5. All of the actors sang live. To give the film a more organic feeling, Hooper had the cast sing live during the shoot as opposed to lip-syncing to pre-recorded tracks. This unique process allowed the actors to make impromptu changes to heighten emotion. In the case of Anne Hathaway who plays Fantine, this meant she could sing her ballad, “I Dreamed A Dream” in a different manner than she would if she was performing to “the back of the house.” Hathaway explains further,
“I had to put the message in my eyes and let the emotion live in my voice as opposed to trying to sing the song in a way that was aurally pleasing.”
4. 2,200 costumes had to be made – and destroyed – to clothe the extras. In order to achieve the epic scope of Hooper’s production, costume designer Paco Delgado had to create loads of costumes to clothe the begging masses. After they were created, the costumes had to be distressed in order to make them look old. Says Delgado,
“We used chemical processes like bleaching them and fading, then mechanical processes like sanding or making holes. Sometimes we even used blowtorches to burn them.”
3. Jackman’s costume was a collaborative effort. Hugh Jackman’s character Jean Valjean undergoes quite the physical transformation from ex-con to mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. The actor felt it necessary to collaborate with Delgado on his character’s look.
“Hugh wanted [Valjean] to look more bourgeois and relaxed about his appearance when he becomes mayor, so we added padding to make it look like he had a little bit of a belly. You can barely notice it, but Hugh asked for it specifically.”
2. The street grime is real. Since Hooper’s musical adaptation relies heavily on authenticity, no corners were cut when it came to replicating the energy of the streets. This includes not just the sights but the smells on set. In order to help inform his actor’s performances, Hooper shipped in tons of stinking fish and brown Scottish seaweed to Pinewood Studios to create the docks where Fantine works. Production designer Eve Stewart says,
“People were gagging at the smell. It was so sensory. The actors said they only had to walk on set and they felt completely immersed in the world.”
For the Parisian streets, Stewart had,
“…loads of turnips that we got real cheap. We also had a cow living there and some chickens.”
1. Anne Hathaway inherited her musical chops. Not only has she sung many times before (most noteably in ELLA ENCHANTED and at The Oscars in a duet with host/ future co-star Jackman), but her mother (Kate McCauley) played Fantine in the U.S. tour when Anne was 7!
Les Misérables opens on Christmas Day.