Les Miserables: Will the Film’s Groundbreaking Production Mean an Oscar Win?

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It’s only September, but there’s already a lot of talk about Oscar season. Hitchcock, starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson  is now set for a Nov 23 release—potentially shaking up the nominations for best actor and actress. While critics discuss the acting merits of the stars, the Christmas Day premiere of Les Miserables is getting attention for another reason. Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) decided to buck Hollywood convention and have the cast sing on camera.

In an extended-look trailer release, the film’s stars—Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne—explain why singing live created an all-new musical movie experience, one that has never been done before.

“The idea of singing live is daunting,” Jackman says on the four-plus-minute clip. “But what it gives you is this freedom.”

(PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes at Paramount Pictures 1970)

Usually, actors are sent into the studio individually, laying their tracks to prerecorded music—months before even meeting the other cast members. Not this time. Singing on camera means that every person involved in the production witnesses every scene live as it gets filmed. No longer are actors in the dark on how another performer interpreted a scene. They live them together.

Partway through the clip we see Jackman give an example of what a few bars of a song would have sounded like if he had done them based on convention. Then we see how he could—and did!—tweak those same bars, driving the realness of the scene. “You just have to worry about acting it,” he says.

With a piano being played live on set—rather than piped-in pre-recorded music—the actors got a touch of the real, raw music to accompany them as they perform, a powerful motivator in love scenes, Seyfried says. (The piano will get substituted for a 70-piece orchestra for the final cut.)

Hathaway, who stars as Fantine, gave us a peak at her own riveting performance in the first trailer when she sang “I Dreamed a Dream.” Here she said Hooper’s novel production approach allowed her to add truth to the scene.

Gathering such a cast for such a production with so much emotion at stake was a “groundbreaking” move, Hooper says. Let’s see how it pans out during award season.

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