The movie musical is a dangerous animal for any film producer. For every mega-hit like Singin’ in the Rain, you have a two flops like Phantom of the Opera with Gerard Butler. One of the ways studios can try to mitigate the risk of a big screen musical is to cast big name actors: Mamma Mia struck gold with a catalogue of ABBA songs sung by Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan.
With his take on one of the world’s most beloved stage musicals, director Tom Hooper insisted that his actors sing live on-set instead of miming along to a pre-recorded track. It was one hell of a gamble: performing in a recording booth with all the sophisticated studio wizardry at your disposal is one thing. But getting modern film stars to sing out live is another thing altogether.
Thankfully, Hooper also had the good fortune of working with a talented cast, full of triple-threat performers: Actors, singers and dancers — all rolled into one.
Hugh Jackman – Jean ValjeanThe true, traditional triple threat of the cast, Jackman had appeared onstage in musical theatre years before he became a star as Wolverine in the X-Men films. He had appeared in Australian productions of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (as Gaston!); he played the lead in Sunset Boulevard; and he starred in the Royal National Theatre’s London production of Oklahoma!:
After becoming a star in Hollywood, Jackman would return to the theatre, conquering Broadway with his starring run in The Boy from Oz, the musical about Aussie songwriter Peter Allen. His skills as a singer and dancer would also be seen on a larger scale when he hosted the Oscars in 2009, opening the ceremony with an ‘austere’ song-and-dance number.
Dance? Wolverine certainly has some moves on him.
Anne Hathaway - FantineAnd speaking of the ’09 Oscars, it was the moment where Hollywood realised that Anne Hathaway was a reasonable hoofer with a decent set of pipes on her. Having said that, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Her mother was a stage star, who had played Fantine in the first touring production of Les Miz, so it would seem that Hathaway was always destined to own the same role on the big screen. But for those of you who were still surprised to see her appear in a musical, need I remind you of a little film from 2004 called Ella Enchanted:
Act? The Academy certainly thinks so!
Russell Crowe– JavertYou may know him as Russell Crowe, hard man star of Gladiator, Master and Commander and Cinderella Man. But what he’d really like to be known as is a gentle poet; a troubadour; a sensitive chronicalist of the modern male experience. Fans will already know that he often tours as a musician, as he did for over a decade as the front man for Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts. Their best known songs include… erm…. <desperately searches internet?>… Sail These Same Oceans?
Fighting round the world? Hell, yeah! Triple threat!
Amanda Seyfried - CosetteThe years ago we only knew her as Karen Smith, the dumbest Queen Bee in the Tina Fey-penned Mean Girls. Cut to 2013 and she’s probably one of the most coveted leading actresses in Hollywood. As we’ve seen, she can do comedy but she can also do serious drama (Atom Egoyan’s Chloe); romantic fluff (Dear John, Letters to Juliet); and fantasy pictures (Red Riding Hood). Plus, she also starred in one of the most successful movie musicals of all time:
Dance? Um… well there’s this (though some would argue it’s a little inappropriate for high school)
Eddie Redmayne – Marius
As well as being incredibly popular with certain sections of film-going females, Eddie Redmayne also possesses a pretty decent theatrical pedigree. He has appeared in productions of Shakespeare at The Globe and the Donmar Warehouse so by any conventional standards, you would brand him ‘a proper actor’.
Although his voice wouldn’t necessarily get him past the first round of the X-Factor, there’s something about his high quivering tenor in Les Mis that suggests he would have been somewhat of a hit in 50s musicals. In particular, I’m thinking of the character of Freddie from My Fair Lady.
Dance? Does this scene from the BBC’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles count?
Samantha Barks - ÉponinePlaying the adopted daughter of Jean Valjean, Samantha Barks was one of the greenest members of the film’s cast but that didn’t stop her from making one of the strongest impressions. If anything, she stole the movie from some of her more experienced co-stars with her wonderfully assured performance. In fact, she had played the very same role in the West End just months before she went on to appear in the film, displaying the kind of vocal chops that quickly made her the toast of the London musical theatre scene.
Plus if there was ever any doubt she could act, all you have to do is watch Barks maintain an air of humility whilst being condescended to by a group of celebri-judges on live TV. Like all great creatures of the stage, she hits all three categories in becoming a true triple-threat performer. Watch out for her in the future – not that you need us to tell you that!
Les Misérables is now available to rent and buy on blinkbox!