Les Miserables Begins its Journey to the Big Screen for Christmas 2012.

Les Miserables comes to the big screen for Christmas, 2012. Isabelle Allen plays Cosette as a child.. How will it stand up to the stage version that has been playing for 27 years….

The film has been a long time coming. Initially, back in 1988, Alan Parker was considered to direct the film adaptation of Les Misérables the musical. However, he faded and in 1991, Bruce Beresford signed on to be the film’s director. Both were left standing at the altar.

In 1992, producer Cameron Mackintosh announced that the film would be co-produced by Tri-Star Pictures. However, the film was abandoned again, leaving it stuck in development hell. In 2005, Mackintosh was still hopeful a film would be made, saying that he wanted the film to be directed by “someone who has a vision for the show that will put the show’s original team, including me, back to work.” He wanted the film to feel as alive and “fresh as the actual show itself.” Finally in 2011 director Tom Hooper was chosen to direct Les Misérables from a screenplay by William Nicholson, under Mackintosh and filming began this past March (2012) in the UK and Paris. It was decided not to go 3-D, and to release it in time for the Oscar contest.

For musical theatre lovers there is hope that the unique live recordings during the filming (shown in the clip above) will translate to more of a theatrical experience. But severe changes in the orchestration seem to have been made, including the addition of new material in the arrangements. The clips embedded here seem to demonstrate a light approach to the musical elements, as if there is a fear Broadway style music will ruin the movie.

Those of us in the US have watched the release date slide from December 8 to the 14th and then finally Christmas so the premiere can’t come too soon, especially given the decade of false starts. The film will open alongside Quenton Tarantino’s slave-turned-bounty-hunter western, Django Unchained on that date. In the British Berkshires they will have to wait until a few days after “Little Christmas” since their showings begin January 11, 2013. Here in the US Berkshires, it is hard to predict, this is not first run territory.

For those of us close to the business, Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables begins screening in November, ahead of its Christmas release, at times and places only critics and entertainment editors are invited to. This entails a trip to a New York or Boston, however since the previews are mostly urban affairs.

Without having seen the finished product – they only hired the 70 piece orchestra for the soundtrack last month – I have included it in my five top likely “Best Picture” nomination list in an earlier story on the Academy Awards. (More here) How obvious it is that Anne Hathaway is also getting an Oscar nom: That raw, weeping face. (She famously lost ten pounds to play the role.) That beautiful, choked-up voice. And to think, just two years ago she sort of bombed as an Academy Award co-host alongside James Franco. Or was it the other way around?

Not only are Oscar voters eager to see the big-screen adaptation of the musical, but voters such as me who participate in GALECA, selecting the Dorian Awards, which coming from the LGBT critics and writers can mean a lot. Especially for a filmed musical with a cast this familiar.

Les Miserables stars Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman and has what looks to be a stunning performance from Hathaway, close to bathos without drowning. In the lottery for the golden statues, its unveiling will bring further clarity to the race. It’s likely to factor into all the categories (except original score, of course), although there is one song “Suddenly,” which was written specifically for Jackman and the film.

The background video embedded above will give you a bit of the idea behind turning this spectacular stage show into a major Hollywood blockbuster. Jackman is a Broadway lightning rod – his one man show sold out almost before it opened last year – and his film credits are none too shabby, either.

The International trailer which was released last spring is curious in that it combines the spectacle that film can bring to the big screen, and the incredible intimacy that the close up and whispered voices can bring to a story. The teaser revolves around Anne Hathaway’s bruised take on “I Dreamed a Dream” and it also gives us tantalizing hints of several other songs, including “Castle on a Cloud,” “One Day More,” and “Do You Hear The People Sing?” Even better, it features every one of the film’s stars showing off their pipes. But as Hellary Busis wrote for Inside Film: Everyone, “except Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. My kingdom for “Master of the House”! In fact the mere presence of Sacha Baron Cohen is enough to keep me away completely.

So do you think Russell Crowe’s rock-honed voice translate well to musical theater? Is Amanda Seyfried’s soprano beautifully delicate or woefully thin? Can newcomer Samantha Barks (Eponine) hold her own in a part every theater kid — even the boys — has dreamed of playing? Of the various trailers released to date it has less of the puddling logo with its useless ink/blood idiocy (who goes to a movie to see the opening credits these days?) and more of the action.Watch the trailer below and judge for yourself:

The long awaited motion-picture adaptation of the beloved global stage sensation will likely cause a sensation, and not a little controversy. How will the film recreate the famous marching-in-step movements? (They won’t, they’ll just march.) The stage show has been seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries and in 21 languages around the globe and is still breaking box-office records everywhere. And it is in its 27th year!

Helmed by The King’s Speech‘s Academy Award®-winning director, Tom Hooper, the Working Title/Cameron Mackintosh production stars Hugh Jackman, Oscar® winner Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit (remember him from the Musical Theatre Lab at Barrington Stage?), Samantha Barks, with Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen.

Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption—a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

If you watch the clips provided on this page, you know that the beloved songs—including “I Dreamed a Dream,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More” and “On My Own”— are taking on a cinematic interpretation. It will be interesting to see how the theatre community reacts, as well as the general audiences, many of whom are less familiar with the conventions of the musical theatre on the big screen.

It’s going to be fun, that’s for sure.

5 thoughts on “Les Miserables Begins its Journey to the Big Screen for Christmas 2012.

  1. I am very excited to see this on the big screen, but I am wondering if they really are planning to do all of the songs from the musical? That would make the movie a three hour plus movie something movie makers tend to shy away from.

    • Eirinmarie that is a superb observation. Here’s my take on it since it is all guesswork until the final edit is premiered next month. To begin with many of the song lyrics will be spoken rather than sung, the reprises will likely be cut, the songs themselves truncated with only a portion of the lyrics heard. Some musical passages might be better shown as action sequences on film and some songs no doubt will end up within the opening and closing credits. Still, one additional song was written for the film, but like you, I wonder if it might be a substitute for another. It won’t be long until we all find out. The producers and actors are all pretty mum on this point.

  2. Finally some reviews on the film :) One awesome review told its readers that all the songs from the musical are there + the new one. The reviewer said that they truncated some of the songs to get it to fit into its viewing time. They also mentioned in their opinion that the songs they cut short was done well.

    • There was an embargo on reviews in which nobody was supposed to print their reviews until Dec. 10 so that all the critics could get to screenings and there would be level playing field. The London papers and the trade publications like Variety and Hollywood Reporter broke it earlier today, and now the flow of opinions has begun, not the least of which is coming from film buffs themselves. Sorta sad that the general public doesn’t get to see what the fuss is about until Christmas day. Blame Oscar.

  3. Yes, I’m sad I have to wait until after christmas to see it -got my tickets though :) But on the bright side, the reviews have given me hope that I will see what I wanted to see out of the movie, when I get my turn to see it.

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