BEYOND THE BARRICADE: LES MIS Cast Talks Crying on Screen and Real Life Inspirations
Christmas can't get here fast enough, because that's when LES MISERABLES hits the big screen. The movie, directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper, features Hugh Jackman as 'Jean Valjean', Anne Hathaway as 'Fantine', Russell Crowe as 'Javert', Amanda Seyfried as 'Cosette,' Eddie Redmayne as 'Marius,' Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as 'the Thenardiers.'
Stars of the film Jackman, Hathaway, Barks, Redmayne, and Seyfried chatted with the press about their experience, and in this edition they cover getting through the crying scenes, their real life inspirations, and more! Check out the interview below:
Q: First of all, the movie's fantastic and you were all amazing. There's a lot of crying in this movie [laughter]
AH: With the audience or the actors?
Q: A little bit of both, actually. Anne, Tom had mentioned that you practiced crying and singing, and Samantha, you were singing with rain coming down your face. I was curious about how actors cry on film, the secrets to that, and also how you manage to cry and sing at the same time.
AH: Alright...I don't know that there are any secrets to it, it's just...it's a pulse, it's a vein that you follow. In my case there's no way that I could relate to what my character was going through--I have a very successful, happy life and I don't have any children I've had to give up. Or keep. [laughter] And so what I did was I had to get inside the reality of her story as it exists in our world. To do that I read a lot of articles and watched a lot of documentaries and news clips about sexual slavery, and for me, for this particular story, I came to the realization that I had been thinking about Fantine as someone who lived in the past. And she doesn't. She's living in New York City right now-she's probably less than a block away. This injustice exists in our world, and so every day that I played her, I thought--this isn't an invention, this isn't me acting, this is me honoring that this pain lives in this world and I hope in all of our lifetimes, like today, we see it end.
HJ: There's certainly a sense, from the students' point of view, that this book that was written in the 19th century had such relevance, contemporary relevance. So, songs like "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" and all the stuff that happens at the barricade--all you had to do was open a contemporary newspaper to see the equivalent that's happening, whether it's protests in New York or in the Middle East, this idea of young people lighting a flame to try and expose truths or pursue their own passions for a greater good. I think there was a relevance across the board for us to tap into, for those actors.
Q: So Samantha, crying in the rain?
SB: I think-
AH: Have you cried in the rain? [laughter]
SB: I'm coming from the point of view of, I've done the show as a theater production and so I think-for me, when there's rain pouring on your face, you're crying, you're sniffly and you kind of have to leave your vocal vanity at the door a bit. Because at first you're thinking, does it sound nice, does it sound right...? I think that kind of realism in your voice adds to the emotion of that live singing, I think. And especially moments like "A Little Fall of Rain" it's so intimate, we're crying, trying to add that to your voices. When you're speaking and you cry, you can hear it in someone's voice and I think to be able to hear that when you're singing adds to the emotion of it.
HJ: I just thought--maybe to add a little bit of light to the process--Tom Hooper from the beginning told us all there were going to be rehearsals. I'm not sure any of us expected nine weeks of rehearsals--I've never been on a film where the entire cast signs up for the entire time. I come from the theater so for me rehearsal is vital and a way of life. There are many directors and some actors who prefer not to rehearse but with a musical you have to. With Tom, we would rehearse full out, it wasn't like a half-hearted thing and Tom would be sitting here. In fact he would be in this chair, and often from a very uncomfortably close place. [laughter] the whole way! Everything that we ended up doing, it was brilliant--by the time we got to the set, it was not uncomfortable, having the camera that close. There had been times where I had, Annie, all of use had done a version of our song with snot coming out of our nose and Tom was like all right, that's a little too much! So everything was really tested properly and I mention that because I'm so grateful to Tom and to everyone at Working Title and Universal that they spent the money and time on that, to make it possible.
Anne, you mentioned having watched documentaries about sexual slavery. I wonder if you could tell us which ones you watched?
AH: You know, I watched the documentaries sort of piecemeal, through different YouTube clips. I'm afraid I can't give the names of the sources...I've been very inspired and moved by the work Emma Thompson has done. And so I just started off--the Internet is a spectacular tool, to answer any questions you might have. I just started Googling and I started reading various articles. It stays with you, and I read things that are unimaginable. You just think these human beings that have experienced them. I remember a few--they would just jump out at me. I remember there was a police raid at one of the brothels and a camera crew went along. And there was a crawl space up in the ceiling--oh my God. It was probably about four of those long, and one wide, and 14 girls came out of it. Yhey were all so tiny and scrunched up there together. And when they came out--they weren't shocked there was a camera there, they weren't worried about getting arrested, they were gone, they were numb. They were unrecognizable as human beings.
There was another piece--there was a woman, she was blacked out because she didn't want her identity revealed and she sat there, and she kept repeating "I come from a good family. I come from a good family. We lost everything and I have children. So, now I do this." She doesn't want to do this but it's the only way her children are going to eat.
She let out this sob that--I've never heard before. She raised her hand to her forehead and it was the most despairing gesture I've ever seen, and that was the moment I realized, I wasn't playing a character--this woman deserves to have her voice heard. I needed to connect to that honesty, and to recreate that feeling. I just couldn't get it, and she's nameless, I'll never know who she is. She really was the one who made me understand when Fantine says shame--what it's like not just to go to a dark place, but where you've fallen from a place where you didn't imagine anything bad was ever going to happen to you, the betrayal and rage you feel at life, Because of that you've gone to a place that--by the way, I don't believe Fantine would've gone to if she didn't have children to support. I think she would've let herself die. It all added up to be--Fantine is just so heartbreaking, and it just kind of all layered within.
What emotional toll did this take on all of you? And how did you recover at the end of the day?
ER: Sacha Baron Cohen [laughter]. It was this wonderful thing--it was such a reverse shooting process and fueled by passion but my God, there were hard days. The way Tom likes to work, he likes to create real scenarios so--Sam was singing in freezing rain, Hugh was carrying me--carrying me--through a disgusting sewer. But, there was this wonderful thing where about three quarters of the way in, Helena and Sachar arrived and it's just--this lightness, my God we needed.
AS: I created an alternate reality. However I think I was the most comfortable of all of us, physically, I literally did nothing but stand. And sing. And sit. [laughter] But I feel like--I'm blown away by the fact that you guys got through it.