Hugh Jackman is
By Steve Fisher
Jean Valjean in Les Misérables
IT IS THE WORLD’S longest-running musi-
cal, seen by more than 60 million people in 42
countries, and winner of 96 international
awards. It is Les Misérables, based on Victor
Hugo’s epic novel about former convict Jean
Valjean and his efforts to find redemption
amidst revolutionary turmoil in early-19th-
century France. Yet despite the acclaim, it took
more than 20 years for the musical to make it
to the screen. Frustrating for fans yet fortu-
itous for Hugh Jackman, who plays Valjean
and calls it “the role of a lifetime.”
The much-in-demand Australian star of
television, stage and film was determined to
do whatever it took to win the part.
“It was an audition I’d been preparing for,
honestly, probably for about a year,” Jackman,
45, says in a phone interview with The
“When I went to my audition, I went
straight to John [Lader, his New York voice
coach] to warm up for an hour,” he recalls.
“When I came out, someone had stolen the
wheels off my bike. One of the things I always
do before an audition is ride my bike. Literally,
I carried the frame for 16 blocks, then ran up
two flights of stairs, completely out of breath.”
Jackman worked with the film’s musical
director, Stephen Brooker, for an hour, followed by a three-hour audition with director
Once Jackman signed on for the role, he
started to get himself ready for the shoot.
“As an actor, I see my body as an instrument. Changing my body is like changing a
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dialect or hairstyle. It’s all part of building a
character,” he explains.
On stage, Valjean goes from prisoner to
respected businessman and mayor in a matter
of minutes, not allowing much of a physical
“What Tom wanted to do, which you
can’t do on stage, was to really show the difference of the man from the time he exits prison
to the time he was mayor of the town,”
Jackman says. “And it’s an important plot
point, why Javert [the lawman who is determined to put Valjean back in prison] wouldn’t
“So I lost 35 pounds, then put it all back
on. And [putting it back on] was, I’ve got to
tell you, a little more fun,” he laughs.
The shoot was grueling. Hooper insisted
that the actors sing live on set, forgoing the
traditional film music practice of prerecording and lip-synching.
“We were singing eight-and-a-half-hour
days, then spent two to three hours in the
gym, and a very strict diet,” Jackman says.
“Everybody was sucking on lozenges; every-
one had some kind of weird brew. We had
What could have been a nightmare of a
production period was helped by careful
“It was a real bit of genius scheduling,”
Jackman recalls. “Very rarely did you have
two big scenes in a row. It’s just impossible to
sing full out for 12 hours and not have some
effect the next day.”
As prepared as Jackman was—he spent a
year before the shoot doing a one-man stage
show to build stamina—there was an early
bout of self-doubt.
“The moment I got the phone call saying
I had the part, I was instantly so thrilled and
PHOTOS COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
Top: Hugh Jackman, as Valjean, rescues
the young Cosette (Isabelle Allen).
Bottom: With Anne Hathaway as Fantine.
terrified,” he says. “I knew it was going to take
everything I had to pull it off. … I had one
really bad rehearsal. I remember going home,
and I said to my wife [actress Deborra-Lee
Furness], ‘I’m not sure if I can do it.’ … And
she convinced me that I was the right guy,
enough to be able to turn up the next day and
everything was fine.
“Valjean is not a walk in the park,”
Jackman explains. “It has a two-and-a-half-
octave range; every scene is physically, emo-
tionally taxing. It was a mountain to climb.”
Audiences, reviews and award nomina-
tions prove Hugh Jackman made it to the top
of that mountain. C
The Costco Connection
Les Misérables will be available on
March 22 at all warehouses in Blu-ray
combo pack and standard DVD.
MARCH 2013 ;e Costco Connection 71