Fantine's assault by a rejected customer is based on an actual incident from Victor Hugo's life that resulted in Fantine's creation: he was on his way to his editor's office when he encountered a young man harassing a prostitute. When she rejected his advances, he shoved a handful of snow down her dress and shoved her to the ground. When she defended herself with her fists, he immediately called the police to arrest his "assailant". Hugo was a minor celebrity at the time, and spoke up on the woman's behalf when the police arrived, and was able to have her set free. Hugo said he was horrified by the unfairness of the woman's situation, and began to imagine that she might have children depending on her, and thus Fantine appeared in his mind.
Hugh Jackman lost considerable weight and went 36 hours without water, causing him to lose water weight around his eyes and cheeks, giving him the gaunt appearance of a prisoner. He also grew a real scraggly beard for scenes of Valjean as a prisoner, though mercifully they were shot first in production and he could shave and return to his usual weight for scenes playing Valjean as a wealthy man. '
Typically, the soundtrack for a movie musical is recorded several months in advance and the actors mime to playback during filming. However, on this film, nearly every song* was recorded live on set to capture the spontaneity of the performances. Everyone involved, from Hugh Jackman to Russell Crowe to producer Cameron Mackintosh, has praised this approach as it allowed them to concentrate on their acting as opposed to lip-syncing properly. They have also praised director Tom Hooper for attempting this on such a scale; something no director has ever done before. One song (Look Down) set in the dock yard, did have to be pre-recorded, as it was not possible to perform and record it live due to the water and other ambient noises in the scene.
Recording the actors' singing live as they're acting may not be a first for this film, but the scope (and especially the manner in which it's being done) is: The actors wore ear pieces which fed the sound of a live piano being played off-stage to keep their singing in key. The main novelty here is that there's no count-in or predetermined tempo and the piano is following the pacing of the actor, not the other way around - a first for a filmed musical. Orchestral music was added post-production.
Anne Hathaway reportedly blew everyone away at her audition, leaving them in tears.
Due to the physical demands of daily singing, none of the cast was allowed alcohol. Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried both admitted it was a challenge to not be able to drink, and Crowe bought Seyfried a bottle of whiskey as a present after filming wrapped.
The first musical in ten years to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture since Chicago (2002).
Eddie Redmayne's audition was on his iPhone. He recorded himself singing in a trailer during a movie break in North Carolina.
According to an interview between Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, they agreed that Samantha Barks had weirdest vocal exercise; she would meow in different pitches and frequencies.
Amanda Seyfried also played young Cosette before, when she was seven years old in a concert.
Anne Hathaway refuses to discuss how she lost 25 pounds to play the dying Fantine, as she admits her methods were life threatening and she does not want other young women to try them. However, she has confirmed eating oatmeal paste was one reason of her weight loss.
Despite reports of having the number finished in one shot, Anne Hathaway confirmed in a interview, that it took eight hours to film "I Dreamed a Dream", because she wanted to get the scene deeper and more emotional. The fourth take made it in the final cut.
The set for Diagon Alley from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) was remodeled and used for the barricade scene.
While it seems odd, the "coffin" to which Fantine takes her first "john" is really the type of bed used by poorer people at that time. The raised sides helped to keep the sleeper warm. People who were better off either had bed curtains on all sides or slept in a small partition with curtains that could be closed to hold in the heat.
Anne Hathaway actually allowed her hair to be cut very short for the scene where Fantine's hair is cut. Her male hairdresser was put in a dress to double as the haircutting woman, actually cutting Hathaway's hair on set.
Helena Bonham Carter has played Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) and Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables in film, paralleling Jenny Galloway, the original Madame Thenardier, who played both roles on Broadway.
Anne Hathaway's first exposure to the role of Fantine was in 1987 when her mother, Kate McCauley Hathaway, played the role in the first U.S. tour of the musical.
This is the second adaptation of Les Misérables to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The first was Les Misérables (1935).
Alfie Boe auditioned for the role of Jean Valjean, having played the role for the 25th anniversary concert. He later claimed that his audition immediately preceded Hugh Jackman's, whom he saw waiting outside for his turn.
Amanda Seyfried said in an interview that it took over four months of auditioning to get the part of Cosette. She was entirely unaware of the other young women auditioning/ being considered for the role, but she was constantly told that she was "not right" for this musical film. During the audition process, Seyfried was also singing and reading for the role of Fantine, and forced herself to get into vocal and physical shape for strong consideration for either one of the roles. When Anne Hathaway signed on as Fantine, Seyfried was given the role of Cosette.
After many months of auditioning, Samantha Barks landed the role of Eponine, which she had previously played in the West End and in the 25th anniversary concert. Barks was performing in Oliver! in Manchester when, to her surprise, Cameron Mackintosh came on stage and announced that she had been cast. Barks later described it via Twitter as the "Most incredible moment of my life!!!!".
Coincidentally, Anne Hathaway sang with Hugh Jackman at the Academy Awards (twice). The second time, Hathaway was hosting and sang 'On My Own' to Jackman, because he refused to sing with her. Later, Jackman was cast in this movie, and he suggested Hathaway as Fantine. She was later cast.
In a running gag, Thénardier claims to love Cosette like his own daughter but can never quite remember her name correctly. He incorrectly calls her "Colette" several times, and also once calls her "Courgette." "Courgette" is the French word for "zucchini." Although not mentioned in the musical, in Victor Hugo's source novel explains that "Cosette" is in fact also not the girl's real name; her given name is "Euphrasie," and "Cosette" is a nickname that her mother gave her.
Hayden Panettiere, Scarlett Johansson, Lea Michele, Emily Browning, Lucy Hale, and Evan Rachel Wood auditioned for the role of Eponine, before it was rumored that Taylor Swift had been offered the role. In the end, Samantha Barks was cast.
Emma Watson, Shailene Woodley, Miranda Cosgrove, Emily Marie Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Portia Doubleday, and Danielle Hope auditioned for the role of Cosette, before the role went to Amanda Seyfried.
Rowan Atkinson, Billy Crystal, Ricky Gervais, Steve Martin, and Robin Williams were all at one point considered for Monsieur Thernandier.
The film was going to be four hours long, with a fifteen minute battle. But, it was shortened to two and a half hours. Fifteen minutes of the final film were cut out.
In addition to the actors singing live, which allowed them to improvise their singing patterns, much of the movement was improvised as well. Particularly, Valjean's first solo, the Soliloquy, was filmed using a Steadicam and allowed Hugh Jackman to move as he saw fit in order to convey the heavy emotion of the scene.
Early in the movie, Fantine sings 'I Dreamed a Dream.' When Anne Hathaway accepted her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Fantine, her first words were "It came true!"
Helena Bonham Carter is a first cousin five times removed from French politician Achille Fould, a major rival of Victor Hugo due to Fould's support for Emperor Napoleon III, whom Hugo opposed.
Colm Wilkinson, who plays the Bishop who covers for Jean Valjean's thievery, is the original Jean Valjean from the original English language Les Misérables stage productions, in both London (1985) and on Broadway (1987). He has also reprised the part in several of the concert versions.
Geoffrey Rush, who played the role of Javert in the non-musical Les Misérables (1998), was considered for the role of Monsieur Thenardier before Sacha Baron Cohen was cast.
Eddie Redmayne said that Tom Hooper shot the "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" scene about fifteen times in a row.
Colm Wilkinson, playing the Bishop of Digne, originated the role of Jean Valjean in both the London and New York City stage productions.
The battle, along with other scenes, were filmed on the campus of the Old Royal Naval college in Greenwich, London, which is home to the University of Greenwich. Many students were used as extras in crowd and battle scenes.
Years earlier Anne Hathaway had the chance to play the female lead in another Broadway musical film adaptation; that of Christine Daaé in Joel Schumacher's The Phantom of the Opera (2004). She had to turn the role down, as she was under contract with Disney to make The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004).
According to Anne Hathaway in an interview, Tom Hooper suggested that she try a take of her big song, "I Dreamed a Dream" in the coffin. But it was agreed by all involved that it looked too ridiculous.
Hugh Jackman bought a lottery ticket for all the extras that took part in Les Misérables to say thank you.
Amy Adams, Jessica Biel, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Emily Blunt, and Rebecca Hall were considered to play Fantine, before Anne Hathaway was cast.
Samantha Barks and Alistair Brammer reprise their roles from Les Misérables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary (2010).
The only time Tom Hooper saw his Miz cast singing together, was on the occasion of the 85th Academy Awards ceremonies (Dolby Theatre, Hollywood, February 24, 2013).
The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and Eddie Redmayne; and three Oscar nominees: Hugh Jackman, Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Cohen.
The large, crumbling elephant statue that features prominently during several scenes in the movie was both a real statue in Paris (between 1813 and 1846) and a focus of vivid description by Victor Hugo in his novel Les Misérables. Known as "The Elephant of the Bastille," Napoléon Bonaparte originally intended the statue to be a bronze monument to his military achievements at the former site of the Bastille, cast from the guns captured at the Battle of Friedland; the design was only ever rendered in plaster and wood, but was considerably larger than the replica shown in the film. By the time of its demolition in 1846, the statue had become a haven for vermin and was significantly degraded structurally. In the novel, Hugo describes it as an ugly, dilapidated, widely despised public eyesore. The circular basin on which the elephant stood remains to this day, supporting the socle of the July Column.
An extended version of "Beggar at the Feast" was filmed, but not included, due to the length of time it took for filming. It included the Thenardiers frolicking with the wedding cake, among other things.
In the audition process, Eddie Redmayne started auditioning for Enjolras because Tom Hooper "wanted a young seventeen-year-old" for the role of Marius.
Composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyricists Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil wrote a new song, "Suddenly". exclusively for the film. Schönberg also composed new incidental music.
Les Misérables is categorized as a "sung-through" musical. Unlike most musicals, which alternate between singing and spoken dialogue, sung-through musicals have very few spoken lines. If the spoken lines were eliminated altogether, it would be an operetta.
Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried have both performed with Hugh Jackman at the Academy Awards, although separately.
Many extras in the film are either West End stars or have been in various productions of the stage version of Les Misérables, including Kerry Jane Ellis, Hadley Fraser, Katie Hall, Dianne Pilkington, Nancy Sullivan, Gina Beck, Robyn North, Fra Fee, Alistair Brammer, Killian Donnelly, Linzi Hateley, Caroline Sheen, Katy Secombe, Christopher Key, Gemma Wardle, and Alexia Khadime.
Tom Hooper admitted that the opening song "Look Down" contains some rerecorded singing, since the exterior setting and splashing water caused too much ambiance on the live recorded tracks.
To keep Hugh Jackman's morale up while repeatedly carrying Eddie Redmayne through the sewers on his shoulder, a fake, odorless face-cream mud, like the type in a spa, was used for the sludge, rather than real mud and sewage.
Producer Cameron Mackintosh, who also produced the original stage musical in England, has wanted to do a film version of it since the early 1990s.
Warren Beatty, Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, and Christopher Walken were all at one point in time during the film's years in production hell, considered for the role of Jean Valjean.
As in the novel, the group of students led by Enjolras and Marius call themselves the "Friends of the ABC". This name is a pun, as the French pronunciation of the letters ABC (ah-beh-seh) sounds like the French word "abaissés" (the "lowly"/"abased"/"oppressed").
The primary poster used to advertise the film is a head-and-shoulders cropped photograph of Isabelle Allen as a weary, sad young Cosette, with her hair blowing across her face. This photo reproduces the image usually used to market the stage musical, which is a black-and-white sketch of young Cosette, often superimposed over a red-white-and-blue image of the French flag. This is based on an etching by Gustave Brion of the waif Cosette sweeping the Thénardiers' inn, which is in turn based on a drawing by Émile Bayard which appeared in several of the novel's earliest French-language editions.
Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen (The Thenardiers) have co-starred before in another musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).
Paul Bettany was considered for the role of Inspector Javert, before Russell Crowe was cast.
After Les Misérables (1935), this was the second adaptation of the novel to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
This was Samantha Barks' (Eponine's) first film, reprising her role from the West End production.
Frances Ruffelle, the original Eponine on Broadway and in the West End, will be returning to Les Mis as a prostitute. When producer Cameron Mackintosh made the announcement, Ruffelle's character name was "The Most Fabulous Whore". Ruffelle also appeared in the 25th Anniversary Concert for Les Miserables taking the stage with the original London cast.
Jackie Marks has come full circle as 'Factory Woman'. She was in the original RSC production, creating the role of the factory girl, and was the first British Fantine taking over the role from Patti LuPone. She also recently played Madame Thenardier at the Queens Theatre in London.
The London production of Les Mis has run continuously since 1985. As of 2017 it holds the record for the longest-running musical in the West End, and the second-longest-running musical in the world after the original off-Broadway run of "The Fantasticks".
Emily Blunt's agent recommended that she audition for the film, but she declined. She would later go to star in another musical, Into the Woods (2014).
The Broadway production of 'Les Misérables' opened at the Broadway Theater on March 12, 1987, and ran for 6,680 performances, making this production the third longest running show on Broadway (February 2013). In 1990, it transferred to the Imperial Theater. Les Misérables was nominated for thirteen 1987 Tony Awards, and won eight: Best Musical, Best Featured Actor (Michael Maguire), Best Featured Actress (Frances Ruffelle), Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Score and Best Book.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
All of the singing scenes were performed live. The actors and actresses had an earpiece, in which they could hear a faint piano version of the song, so they could sing to it in time.
The film's plot occurs in three time periods. It starts in 1815, with Valjean's parole at the Bagne of Toulon prison and encounter with the Bishop of Digne. It then jumps to 1823, with Valjean living in Montreuil, Pas-de-Calais, his encounters with Fantine and Javert, and his recovery of Cosette from the Thénardiers in Montfermeil. Then it jumps again to 1832, in Paris. The climactic "Friends of the ABC" battle at the barricades, known by historians as the June Rebellion or the Paris Uprising of 1832, took place on June 5-6, 1832.
Eddie Redmayne plays Marius, a role previously played in Les Misérables (1998) by Hans Matheson, his Tess of the D'Urbervilles (2008) co-star.
Les Misérables (1998) starred Liam Neeson. Neeson appeared with Russell Crowe in The Next Three Days (2010), Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and Amanda Seyfried in Chloe (2009).
Several of the melodies are reused from song to song, sometimes given a completely different meaning in the new context. For example. Valjean's songs "Who Am I?" and "One Day More" have the same melody.
The musical version of Les Mis started out as a concept album in 1979, composed by Claude-Michel Schönberg with French language lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, which was staged at the Palais des Sports in 1980. However, the production was unsuccessful, and closed after three months when the booking contract expired. In 1983, stage director Peter Farago convinced producer Cameron Mackintosh to finance an English-language adaptation. On 8 October 1985, the English version, with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, opened in London by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Center. The London show was a resounding success, leading to a Broadway production.