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Tom Hooper Says "The Camera Should Be A Meditation On The Human Face" & More From The Cast Of 'Les Misérables'

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by Oliver Lyttelton
December 28, 2012 3:12 PM
5 Comments
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If the box office was anything to go by, if you saw any movie on Christmas Day with your family/friends/ON YOUR OWWWWN, it was "Les Misérables," Tom Hooper's blockbuster adaptation of the long-running musical stage adaptation of Victor Hugo's epic novel. Complete with an all-star cast of Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham-Carter and Eddie Redmayne, the film might have gotten some mixed responses, but it was overwhelmingly the favorite choice of audiences on the 25th, and looks likely to be a major force when Oscar nominations are announced in a couple of weeks.

If you were one of those who've caught the film in the last few days, or if you're eagerly waiting your own showtimes, we've collected together a few key bits of info that Hooper, his cast and producer Cameron Mackintosh revealed at the film's recent press conference in New York. You can read what Anne Hathaway wrote about her gruelling performance here, and head on below for more.


1. The new song 'Suddenly" was written at Tom Hooper's request to make the story clearer, and was penned with Hugh Jackman in mind.
To some, the addition of new song "Suddenly" smacks of awards opportunism -- squeezing in an extra tune, just as "Chicago" and "Dreamgirls" did, in order to have a chance at picking up a Best Original Song Oscar. But according to director Tom Hooper, the song came from the desire to fill a hole in the story. "What I learned from the book," Hooper says, "is that Jean Valjean experiences two epiphanies – when he meets the bishop, where he learns virtue and compassion and faith and starts a new life, and then when he meets Cosette, he discovers love for the first time. Here's this guy in his late middle age who's never loved or been loved, and experiences parental love for a child and re-commits his life to this child. In the musical the first epiphany is super clear but the second epiphany is less clear. So I asked the original composers to come up with a song that's about what that is like."

Hence the creation of "Suddenly," about which Jackman adds, "It also propels the second half of the movie. He doesn't just look after Cosette – he's terrified, he's full of love and anxiety. He asked the guys to write a song and I think I'll count it as one of the great honors of my life to have these two incredible composers write a song with my voice in mind. The first time I sang it I felt like I had been singing it my whole life."  

2. Hooper's shooting style is to serve the power of the songs.
Another divisive aspect of "Les Misérables" is the way that Tom Hooper's distinctive shooting style from "The King's Speech" -- close-ups, often shot on wide-angle lenses that warp the image -- has been amped up for his follow-up. Some adore it, some find it distracting and claustrophobic, but for Hooper, it wasn't so much a way of carrying across that style as finding the best way to serve the songs.

"I thought a lot about how to shoot the songs, and I felt that the physical environment of the actor is not important to the song," he says. "I thought the camera should be a meditation on the human face as the best way of bringing out the emotion and meaning of the song. I felt like there were two languages of epic – the obvious physical landscape of epics, but there was also the kind of epic of the human face and the epic of the human heart. And that way of shooting was a reaction to how good the actors are. With Annie [Hathaway] I shot it with three cameras, I did have some options up my sleeve, but she so brilliantly told the story in the narrative of the close ups, it was so complete a piece of work, that I felt the best way to honor these performances. The first moment of stillness was right before it launches into song. But I also felt it was a great way of serving the live singing experience because one thing you could never do to play back was a three minute shot."

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5 Comments

  • nightgoat72 | December 30, 2012 9:46 AMReply

    Tom Hooper is a god-awful filmmaker and Les Miserables was one of the most appalling movies I've seen since...ever.

  • Max | December 30, 2012 7:52 PM

    It sounds like you have never seen The Damned United and The King's Speech, so you are in no position to rank him as a 'god-awful filmmaker'.

  • Tomfordy | December 28, 2012 9:00 PMReply

    In response to point number 4 where you mentioned, "Given that it's one of the most successful stage musical shows in history, it's surprising that no one has made "Les Miserables" into a movie before now. ", that is incorrect.

    In 1998, a film version of Les Miserables was made with Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman and Claire Danes: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119683/

  • Jeff | December 29, 2012 2:46 PM

    Yes, Hugo's novel has been adapted for film over 50 times (as far back as the Lumieres in 1897), but this is the first time for the musical incarnation.

    As far as Hooper's comments go, I think I now know Hugh Jackman's face better than his dermatologist does. So mission accomplished, I guess.

  • d | December 29, 2012 4:48 AM

    That was based on the novel, not the stage musical.

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