People who enjoy a good cry, today is your lucky day: The film version of Les Misérables is now out on Blu-ray and DVD. The epic musical has been running all over the world for over 26 years, and according to movie producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who also produced the original show, an idea to make a movie version has been kicking around for nearly as long, but only recently – despite an occasional exception – have movie musicals been seen as a commercially successful idea. “Musicals 25 years ago were very few and far between,” Mackintosh explained to EW. “I think in the sort of last seven or eight years we’ve started to see more and more musicals get made. There’s no doubt that the success of Moulin Rouge and Mamma Mia! and Chicago plus Sweeney Todd [helped Les Mis get made].”
For fans who grew up singing “One Day More” into a hairbrush and were mighty nervous about a big-screen version that stayed closer to Victor Hugo’s original work, but lost a lot of the musical moments they’d fallen in love with, they may owe a thank-you card to director Tom Hooper and Mackintosh. “There was a lot more dialogue in the original screenplay,” Mackintosh explained. “And then Tom said, ‘What I want you to do is turn the dialogue and [put it] into the form the show is in.’ And I think by setting us to work, both to deconstruct the stage musical and take the material and remake it as a story that happens to be told through music for the movies, that was the key to shooting that laid the groundwork for the film to be successful….One of the other things [Hooper] said to me when we first met was that he felt we should record [the songs] live, which is something I felt passionately about for years. …[Singing live] was a risky step, but it was a risk that paid off.”
Watch below for an EW exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette about the live singing on location:
For Samantha Barks, who was already an old pro as playing the “pretty badass” Eponine, having already performed the role on stage in London and in the 25th Anniversary Concert, belting “On My Own” live may not have seemed like a big deal – but singing on stage is a bit different than singing for film. “Although I do it on stage every day, on stage you know at 7:30 p.m. you’re ready to go,” Barks told EW, while also explaining that on film she had to wear a mouth guard and practice singing around that. “Whereas with this, sometimes I’d be picked up at five in the morning and [have to be] ready to sing at six. And then you’re singing at 10 o’clock at night and then again the next morning. So it required stamina in different ways.”
And, of course, besides the singing, the movie provided a few thrills that weren’t seen in the stage show, such as “one of the high spots of the whole film” for Mackintosh: The moment when Javert (Russell Crowe) pins his badge on young Gavroche. For Barks, the movie thrill came a bit earlier in the story, during the first screening she watched alongside Eddie Redmayne (Marius) and Amanda Seyfried (Cosette). “There was an amazing moment when Hugh rips up his parole letter and throws it up into the air and then it goes into the opening song [sings opening melody] I got chills; I welled up. I grabbed Eddie and Amanda’s arms in the cinema. We couldn’t believe [we got] to be a part of it.”
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