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BEYOND THE BARRICADE: LES MIS Cast Talks Crying on Screen and Real Life Inspirations

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.

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