There’s a Les Misérables movie happening. It’s coming out this year. And no, it’s not just another adaptation of the book. I’m talking about an adaptation of the beloved stage musical adaptation.
I’m extremely worried. Or at least, I was.
Just a little background may be in order. Les Misérables is one of the first musicals I ever saw live. It instantly became my favourite musical by far. I love everything about it. After seeing it I picked up a copy of the book. It’s my favourite book now. I’ve watched a couple movie versions. I’ve listened to Orson Welles’ radio adaptation. I’ve listened to various soundtrack recordings from the musical countless times. I often spend hours online watching clips from performances of the play and the songs from it. It’s kind of an addiction.
The only problem is that my biggest addiction is related primarily to the stageplay, and outside of flying to New York or London, I can only wait for a touring production to come to Toronto. And there hasn’t been one round for a number of years. Since the first time—and only time—I saw it, in fact.
My dream for all these years was that somebody would see fit to make a movie out of it. And not just a videotape of the play on stage. I wanted a movie. Something that could really bring me into each moment so that I could live the story and live the songs and experience it all on a grand scale. That would be the ultimate second-best option.
Then, last year, a movie was announced. Finally! The director? Tom Hooper!
See, I actually like everything I’ve seen from Hooper. I love John Adams, the HBO mini-series he directed. I like The Damned United a lot. And I love The King’s Speech. Yeah, I love it. Fuck you.
Anyway, that should bode well, except that I’m extremely reticent about Hooper’s abilities. In my opinion, the biggest reason his previous works have succeeded has been due to great material, great scripts and great casts. Hooper does have a decent understanding of pace and structure, which is very important in a director, but he also strikes me as visually undisciplined. It’s like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He wants things to look cinematic so he throws in big, garish close-ups and annoying dutch angles. This wasn’t really that big of a problem in The King’s Speech or John Adams, but Les Misérables needs something more. It’s not just some small, fun little musical. It’s EPIC! It’s an epic story told on a pretty epic scale, and in my opinion it needs a director who knows how to master that.
So I was already worried when I heard that news, though still overall very happy that a movie was being made at all. Then I started to hear the casting news. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean. Anne Hathaway as Fantine. Russell Crowe as Javert. I like all these actors a lot and in the case of Hugh Jackman I’m aware of his Broadway bona fides. Yet the focus on hiring film stars over people who I knew for sure could really belt it out Broadway style was troubling.
The biggest bombshell hit when it was announced that Taylor Swift might very well have gotten the role of Eponine. Not only is this terrible casting for the character, but Eponine also has one of the biggest more power numbers in the entire show. Giving such a number to Taylor Swift, the cute country singer with a half-decent voice, basically crushed me. Could anybody really imagine Taylor Swift pulling off this song:
The creatives in charge of this project clearly didn’t know what the hell they were doing. This would all be a disaster and my dream of having an epic production of Les Mis that I could watch any time was gone.
Thankfully, things are starting to look up. First, last week it was announced that Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean, would be taking the small but very key role of The Bishop. Fantastic news. Today it was announced at a performance of Les Mis in London that the current Eponine on stage, Samantha Barks, would be taking the same role in the film. No Taylor Swift, thank Jebus! Okay, so maybe now I’m a bit less worried. In fact, I’m pretty damn excited. But still…
Please, please don’t fuck up this movie for me. I need it to be amazing.
If you’re interested here is Samantha Barks singing “On My Own” at the 25th Anniversary Concert. She’s awesome.