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Hugh Jackman Says Doing 'Les Misérables' Was a 'No-Brainer'

Hugh Jackman Says Doing 'Les Misérables' Was a 'No-Brainer'
Photo Source: Universal Pictures

When director Tom Hooper was looking to cast his Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables,” he quickly realized only one man could pull off the physicality, the dramatics, and the singing. “My shortlist rapidly became one, and that was Hugh Jackman,” Hooper says. “I couldn’t have made this film without him.”

On hearing this praise, Jackman responds, “He certainly didn’t share that with me before I got the role,” then adds, “Nor should he have.” In fact, says the Australian actor, “I approached Tom as soon as I heard he was circling the project and met with him about it before he’d even officially gotten on board to direct.” Jackman has displayed his singing skills before; he won a Tony for portraying Peter Allen in “The Boy From Oz” on Broadway and seemed fated to do a filmed musical at some point. But he was waiting for the right project. “To be honest, I’ve been wanting to do a movie musical for a long time, but I didn’t wait to be asked for this one,” he says. “This was definitely the most aggressive I’ve ever been seeking out a role.” Jackman did the unthinkable for some actors—offered to audition—and his initial meeting with Hooper turned into three hours. Regarding his enthusiasm, he says, “ ‘Les Misérables’ is one of my favorite musicals of all time. Victor Hugo’s novel is easily one of the greatest stories ever written, and to have it paired with some of the best music ever written—it was a no-brainer.”

Jackman even got an early start with a co-star; he and Anne Hathaway work with the same singing teacher, Joan Lader in New York. He reveals, “We would time our sessions to overlap so that we could sing together and practice our interactions.”

When it came to filming, Jackman says the most arduous part of the shoot was portraying Valjean in the early scenes, where he’s fresh out of prison after 19 years. “I had to lose a lot of weight for that part of the movie, and it set the tone for the rest,” he says. The prologue culminates in the song “What Have I Done?,” in which Valjean vows to start a new life. “It was a very difficult song and was emotionally challenging,” says Jackman. “And it was only our second day of filming!”

As to whether or not the film will win over both newcomers and fans of the show, Jackman is upbeat. “Victor Hugo’s story is timeless,” he says. “Its themes will be relevant as long as humans exist, and the music is overwhelmingly unforgettable and equally timeless as well.”

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