Warning: excessively picture-heavy post to follow. Proceed at your own risk.
The first time I ever followed a movie's production progress was when Samantha: An American Girl Holiday came out in 2004. I checked the American Girl website nearly every day, scrutinized every movie still that was released, watched and re-watched the trailer every time I was allowed to use the computer. The Felicity movie came out the year after that, and though I wasn't quite as excited as I'd been the first time (was anyone else just a bit peeved that the Samantha movie didn't follow the books more closely?), I kept up with that film's progress as well. The same went for Molly and Kit, and then American Girl stopped making historical movies and I stopped keeping up with movie productions.
Then my eleventh-grade World Literature class introduced me to Les Miserables in January of this year. I read the book. I listened to four different recordings of the musical and watched both concerts. And I thrilled to my fingertips when I found out that Cameron Mackintosh was superintending a big-screen adaptation of the musical, to be released this December.
That's only a little over three months away.
Are you excited yet?
So, in honor of the forthcoming event (about which I am insanely excited, as you may or may not have gathered already) I'm dumping my personal opinion regarding the movie cast onto all you lovely readers. Comments are always encouraged on my blog, naturally, but I would especially love to hear your own PO's on this topic today!
(Oh, and before I begin I should just say that I have mixed feelings about quite a few members of the cast-- I've compiled my own Dream Movie Cast, but I'm not listing those people here for sake of space. If anyone's interested in seeing the dream cast, I'll make another post for that one.)
Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean
Let's get this out in the open here and now-- I was definitely not thrilled when I heard that some random movie star was playing Jean Valjean on the big screen. I'd hoped for a Broadway name, someone who could really sing and sing well. After all, this movie is pioneering the new technique of having all the singing recorded live on-set instead of in a studio. There's no option of having a voice dubbed. And since Valjean's part is incredibly vocally demanding, I wasn't at all sure Jackman could pull it off. I'm still not sure, but I'm a lot more confident than I was at the beginning. Apparently he's played the leads in Oklahoma! and Carousel in Australia as well as several other shows in the U.S. So he's not a stranger to the world of musicals, but then again, there's a huge difference between playing Curly or Billy and playing Valjean. ("Surrey With the Fringe On Top" isn't exactly of the same caliber as "Bring Him Home.")
As far as appearances go... eh, well, he has the starved convict look, all right. But I've been accustomed to seeing more robust Valjeans, and Jackman struck me right off the bat as being too skinny (not to mention way too young) for the role. Seeing production stills of him in full costume have helped somewhat, but I'm still a little unsure. After all, Valjean is noted for being this enormously powerful man with strength way beyond his age (er, way below his age?). He also happens to go from age 40-ish to his mid-60's throughout the course of the story, and from the pictures I've seen so far, Jackman doesn't look much older at the end than he does in the beginning (if indeed the pictures I saw WERE from the end). We'll just have to wait and see.
Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert
Really, the big question here is "can this guy sing?" Because as far as looks go, he is Javert to a T. This is the man I pictured when I read the book, and even though Philip Quast quickly replaced that mental image when I saw the 10th concert, I'm still very pleased with Crowe's appearance. But again, Javert is a really difficult singing role. "Stars" isn't the kind of song that can just be floundered through, and though I did listen to a clip on YouTube of his singing voice, the song wasn't.... uh... Les Miz material. It's one thing to belt out a rock-and-roll number with electric guitar in the background and another thing entirely to do justice to the "no way to go onnnnnnnnnnnn!" at the end of "Javert's Suicide."
I'm also anxious to see how Crowe and Jackman interact with each other as Javert and Valjean. I read an article that said Jackman had requested to re-shoot some of the confrontation scenes with Crowe near the beginning because he was having so much fun hitting him. ....Um, okay. I'm really hoping this doesn't mean that they're playing up the violence in the first half of the film. Doesn't "The Confrontation" have enough angry tension in just the lyrics to get the meaning across? I'm not opposed to seeing Valjean punch out Javert, of course, since that's in the original story (even though I'm not a fan of violence in movies--had a hard time with that scene in the mill in North and South) but I do hope they don't overdo it.
Anne Hathaway as Fantine
Here was at least one actress whose name I recognized-- though from seeing her in bits and snippets of The Princess Diaries (and her role in Nicholas Nickleby, which from what I hear wasn't too accurate to the book), I couldn't quite fathom her as Fantine. Then came the trailer, and I have to say I was MAJORLY impressed. Her voice isn't as strong as I might have liked, but hey, Fantine is supposed to be a broken character who's been completely trodden down by the life that killed the dream she dreamed. She's not an opera diva.
The only other complaint I might have had about Hathaway's portrayal is that she's not blonde, and the book very specifically says Fantine is blonde-- but Lea Salonga isn't blonde either and nobody complains about that. She just has to have gorgeous hair, and from what I can see, she does.
Eddie Redmayne as Marius
Ah, yes, Marius Pontmercy himself, the heartthrob of the barricade, the guy who is reportedly so good-looking that all the girls turn to sigh after him in the street (according to the book)... played by a fellow whom my sister and I have rather uncharitably dubbed Signor Monkeyface.
While I still don't understand why one of the dozens of much more aesthetically pleasing Broadway actors out there couldn't have been chosen for the part, I'm actually really liking what I've seen of Redmayne's Marius. In the trailer, I got goosebumps during that sweeping shot of him on the barricade, and the scene where he and Cosette meet for the first time? Cuteness! In all of two seconds! I think he might do a good job of bringing out Marius' youthfulness and naivete, something that's kind of hard to convey in a concert (Michael Ball was amazing, but he only had so much stage time to work with, and do not mention that Jonas kid to me at this time). Also, he sings amazingly. I heard a bit of a choral piece he did on YouTube and it was fantastic. So "Empty Chairs" should be great.
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette Tholomyes (Fauchelevent? Which IS it?)
Another blonde Cosette-- hmm, do I see a parallel with the 25th anniversary concert? I actually don't have any problem at all with Cosette being blonde, because I pictured her as blonde when I read the book (though I've heard since then that she's supposed to be a brunette). This actress definitely looks pretty and innocent enough to be Valjean's slightly airheaded adopted daughter, but the big question is... wow, you guessed it! Can she handle the singing? Cosette is a very challenging soprano part, and that ending bit of "A Heart Full of Love" is definitely not for a beginner. Amanda Seyfried has apparently taken voice lessons and been in a couple of musicals (sing ho for IMDb, isn't it wonderfully useful?) but that doesn't necessarily mean she's ready to take on Cosette. I do like what I've seen of her in the trailer, though it bugged me a wee bit that her hair's down in the run-into-Marius sequence. Maybe the style's just meant to represent her youth, but it seems to me that a girl in her mid-to-late teens would have had her hair up in 1832.
(I happen to be a really big fan of Keep Calm posters, and this one cracked me up. YAY!)
Samantha Barks as Eponine Thenardier
Words can't express how happy I am with this casting choice. Eponine is one of my top three favorite characters in Les Miz, and it's really important to me that she be played well. And Samantha Barks did an outstanding job in the 25th concert. The only thing that would be better than Barks playing Eponine would be if someone put Lea Salonga in a time machine... ah well. Anyways, I'm greatly anticipating this performance at least-- and hopefully "Little Fall of Rain" will be MUCH better than it was in 25th. Plus, since the movie is a movie (thank you, my dear) and not a stage musical (thank you again, dahling, they never would have known that, what on earth WOULD we do without you...) and projection isn't such an issue, she might not be so tempted to belt out "On My Own." *ducks as Samantha Barks fans begin throwing tomatoes* Stop, stop, I'm sorry! She's an amazing actress and a great singer! I just felt that she could have been a little more gentle with "On My Own" in 25th, okay? Okay.
And while we're on the Samantha Barks topic, I might add that her obvious enthusiasm for the part is HUGE plus. Did anyone else see the video in which Cameron Mackintosh tells her she's going to be Eponine? That was pretty much my reaction when I found out she had the part... rumors had been flying about Taylor Swift playing Eponine, and, well, let's just say I was quite pleased with how it all turned out.
With all due respect to Victor Hugo and his preference as to Enjolras' hair color, I firmly maintain that Enjo is not blonde. NOT. BLONDE. Nor, I might point out, is Aaron Tveit. He's wearing a wig in this picture, and not a particularly flattering one at that. Both amazing Les Miz concerts featured dark-haired Enjolras, and though I'm not going to go into a tirade about how a certain actor who recently portrayed Enjo would be SO MUCH better for the part, I will say that I'm not very pleased with the wig. Or the apparent lack of the Red Vest of Power and Awesomeness. (Let's just hope it appears on the actual barricades... these photos may be from "Red and Black.") However, Aaron Tveit is a seasoned Broadway performer and will probably do a good job with his songs. Though I still say nobody does "at the barricades of freedooooooooom" like Ramin Kar--okay, I'm stopping.
For some reason I'm also slightly annoyed by the fact that Marius is taller than Enjolras... it could be the way they're standing, of course, and I do tend to be overly picky about things like that. But where, where, WHERE is the vest of power??? *weeps*
Isabelle Allen as Young Cosette
Young Cosette really doesn't have a whole lot to do in the movie except look cute and terrified and squeak out a few bars of "Castle on a Cloud", but Isabelle Allen looks pretty promising and she actually resembles Amanda Seyfried. Which is more than Mia Jenkins did in the 25th concert... she and Katie Hall look nothing alike.
Claude-Michel Schonberg has apparently written a new song for the film, "Suddenly," sung by Valjean and Cosette after he rescues her from the Thenardiers. I'm hoping it's up to par with the other songs in the film-- I'm sure it will be, though, since the original composer is doing it. Maybe this picture is from that scene?
Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche Thenardier
I can't say I'm completely thrilled with this casting choice, because Huttlestone strikes me as being a little too young and cutesy for the part of Gavroche. Gavroche is supposed to be a tough kid of the streets, not some adorable little boy with missing teeth. But Huttlestone's played Gavroche on the West End in the past, as well as the Artful Dodger in Oliver!, so we know he can sing. To be honest, I haven't yet seen a Gavroche who perfectly fits my image of the character. Ross McCall in the 1988 Complete Symphonic Recording is the best I've heard so far, but he'd be way too old now and I don't even know what he looks like.
This shot is actually from Les Miz's 2011 West End run, with Fra Fee as Marius (that's him on the right), who incidentally is playing Courfeyrac in the movie. Yay for stage performer cameos!
And speaking of which...
Colm Wilkinson as Bishop Myriel
Okay, so not the best picture (this is a shot taken off-set), but who cares? LET'S TURN SOMERSAULTS! Colm Wilkinson's in the movie!!!!
I was more thrilled about this casting choice than with any of the others, even Samantha Barks as Eponine. The sad truth is that Colm's too old now to handle the entire role of Jean Valjean (even though he's the best and only Valjean ever in the history of musical theater, world without end, amen) but I'm SO pleased that he's been given at least a small part in the movie. And the Bishop has some pretty heavy-duty singing to do in the beginning, so this should be outstanding.
Other familiar names from various stage productions are making an appearance in smaller parts as well-- Killian Donnelly is going to be Combeferre, Frances Ruffelle is playing the head Lovely Lady (ahem), Katie Hall and Adam Searles will be extras in crowd scenes and Hadley Fraser is going to be the Army Captain of the National Guard! (I'm much too excited about that last one. Heh. "Give up your guns or die... that's all I ask of you!" Okay, moving on.)
It looks like the movie is also going to include several little details from the book that didn't make it into the stage musical for practical reasons-- Gavroche's elephant, for instance. (Yay!) The whole scope of this movie is just going to be so much bigger and more impressive than anything that could be conveyed in a stage play or concert. (I still love you, 10th. You're still the best. This just might be... second best.)
Somewhere beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing, say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!
What are your thoughts on the upcoming movie? What did I leave out in this post? What's your opinion of the cast? Who might you have chosen for the parts? And why on earth isn't Samantha Barks on that movie poster instead of Amanda Seyfried? Leave a comment, do!
Also... this happens to be my 200th blog post! I forgot to say anything at the 100 mark, so I'm saying something now. Shall I throw confetti or would you prefer not to have the mess everywhere?