Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in a scene from the movie Les Miserables.
Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in a scene from the movie Les Miserables. UPI website

Hugh Jackman hopes his film will enchant new audiences

Les Miserables

  • Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen.
  • Director: Tom Hooper
  • Rating: M
  • Reviewer's last word: Tom Hooper's musical masterpiece has rewritten the book on film adaptations of stage musicals. Stand-out performances, both in terms of acting and singing, from the entire cast. Bring a box of tissues for this emotional ride through revolutionary France.

ONE of the nicest guys in Hollywood is on his way to winning his first Oscar.

Hugh Jackman is a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination, if not an award, for his emotional portrayal of criminal turned adoptive father Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

Despite boasting an all-star cast including Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne, the first ever feature film adaptation of the long-running stage musical was a risk, says Jackman.

"I know what was at risk, not just for the creative people involved but for the business side of it.

"It's an expensive big movie and there's a lot of empirical data that will tell you 'don't make it, most don't work', so it's a big risk for everybody," he said.

"I'm a person who likes to have a go at things… (I like) the idea of being part of a movie that's really not meant to work but does."

Jackman certainly worked for the lead role of Jean Valjean.

Les Miserables producer Cameron Mackintosh originally wanted him for the role of Javert.

"I said to him 'I think Jean Valjean is the role for me'," he said.

"I went in and said 'I want to audition and I want to show you what I can do'.

"Russell is perfect (as Javert). He's so much better for the part."

Across decades Valjean and Javert play a cat-and-mouse game after Valjean skips out on his parole and starts a new life.

He becomes a successful businessman and through a series of tragic circumstances pledges to adopt and care for his former employee Fantine's daughter Cosette.

It's a role to which Jackman, as a father spending weeks at a time apart from his family during filming, felt a strong emotional connection.

"It's a beautiful part of the story, in the second half of the book, when he meets Cosette," Jackman said.

"Like (author) Victor Hugo says, there was this lightning bolt of realization for the first time he ever experienced love.

"I've experienced love of course being in love with Deb, your parents and brothers, all of that, but the love for a child is something so strong. The gravitational pull of it is so massive."

New radio microphones allowed the cast to sing live during their scenes, a groundbreaking approach to the musical film genre.

Jackman was not only singing for 12 hours a day, but training for two to three hours as well to portray Valjean's renowned physical strength.

"It was, on many levels, physically as challenging as I've ever been through but emotionally even more so," he said.

"Emotionally, I'm going to places I've probably never had to go to as an actor and that's almost every song.

"It's not like there's any 'I'm walking down the street to a dinner party' song. There's no easy singing in this.

"Every scene there's something massive going on."

It's the role some would say Jackman was born to play.

"I've done movies and I've done musicals and I've been wanting to combine the two," he said.

"I don't think I ever would have dreamed it would be this because it is just such an incredible musical.

"For years I was way too young to play it anyway, so I'm glad they waited 27 years to do it.

"It certainly felt like an opportunity of a lifetime."

Jackman hopes the film will bring Victor Hugo's story to an entirely new audience.

"I've done quite a few musicals and I like musicals but I'm not what you'd call a musical theatre junkie," he said.

"I get it. I understand why some people don't like it, because if you go to a bad musical it stinks to high heaven.

"So I love nothing more than if someone comes and goes 'I was dragged along and I thought I was going to hate it and I really loved it'. I think in the same way that opera is timeless all great musicals are timeless.

"The story is ultimately about yes we have regrets, yes there's pain and there's some really shitty times in life but there is ultimately hope, there is love and there is the human spirit which transcends that.

"At the end of the day no matter what you've done or what you think you've done, if you're with the people you love at the end of it all then it's ok."

Les Miserables opens on Boxing Day.

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Anne Hathaway

  • Quirky fact: Hathaway's real-life hairdresser, disguised in costume, cuts off her long locks in Les Miserables.
  • Best known for: The Devil Wears Prada, The Princess Diaries, The Dark Knight Rises.
  • If you like this movie you'll like these: Chicago, Dreamgirls, Moulin Rogue!
  • Quote: "I look my best after an entire hair and makeup team has spent hours perfecting me. When do I feel my best? When I haven't looked in a mirror for days, and I'm doing things that make me happy."