Four sleeps til Christmas, a very warm and windy day on the red carpet in the middle of Pitt Street Mall, Sydney Australia, did not stop the crowds gathering for The Les Misérables Australian Premiere. Australian stars and self proclaimed great mates Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe were walking the ruby rug together. Dressed sharp in black suits while jovial and giving the fans plenty of waves in between interviews, they arrived to see me and shake hands. After a couple of G’days each, I asked as much as I could within my brief time limit.
Shane A. Bassett – May I ask about collaboration between Tom Hooper and you both, tell me a little bit about that relationship.
Hugh – Tom was up front from the get go to sing live from the very beginning, from my audition actually to bring a whole cast to do just that.
Russ – Yes and it’s a very easy thing to say, oh by the way we are going to sing every take live, but I don’t think anyone really believed him, it sounded insane. Filming a song you may have nine different actors, lens changes, set movements, so you do the mathematics, then work out how many takes that multiplies to, then you go in the next day and you want me to do it all over again. It was massive but after the first couple of days we realised Tom was dead serious.
Hugh – We had a long eight or nine week period of rehearsals and everyone was there singing every day, practicing, connecting, perfecting. I mean you can shoot a feature film in nine weeks, so it was unusual, that was really systematic of his commitment for the film. He went exploring with the actors to try and make it a great ensemble, then try and actually do something that had never been done before.
Russ – The basic rule he gave us was have stamina! We did voice exercises every day, sang everyday either individually or with groups. Extensive but also genius, by the time we started shooting we all had rock and roll profile where we could drop everything and sing for 12 hours.
S.A.B – At the beginning, did you think this was a movie you each wanted to participate in?
Hugh – A project like this comes once in a lifetime, it’s one of the greatest challenges for both of us in our entire careers, you agree (looking at Russell, nodding)
S.A.B – A globe nomination and there’s talk of an Oscar, Russell you are a past recipient, do you think it can happen for Hugh.
Russ – What he deserves and what comes his way may not match up the way it should.
S.A.B – It’s not everyday you have a Manly fan and a Rabbitohs fan working together in harmony like you two.
**(Hugh supports ‘Manly Sea Eagles’ Rugby League team, Russell was a part owner and still a big fan of ‘South Sydney Rabbitohs’ Rugby League team)
Russ / Hugh ‘Both laughing’ – That’s right don’t worry it came up a number of times.
Hugh – By the way, one of my first days on set I walked out and the entire crew were wearing Rabbitohs hats and I looked at Russell, he got me.
S.A.B – Did singing and acting at the same time while in period costume push the intensity up of your performance than any regular role.
Hugh – Of course; it makes you live it.
Russ – It kind of purifies it, the funny thing that happens when you sing is that it gives a kind of attachment to your soul. Sometimes with acting you can play it up with accents and other kinds of trickery, but with this you really had to build yourself up to the emotional levels. I think that was the key to success.
Hugh – There was no easy day on set, you must deliver. That song you have just sung may be the last time you ever perform it.
Russ – Every day demands everything we had to give, something we won’t forget.
S.A.B – Any idea of when your next collaboration with Director Ridley Scott may be?
Russ – I only spoke to him on the phone yesterday actually.
S.A.B – So a possible new project in the works?
Russ – (smiling, nodding). We’ll see.
Then along came DIRECTOR ‘TOM HOOPER’, Oscar winner for ‘The Kings Speech’.
S.A.B – Hello Tom, great pleasure to meet you. Now you have picked a lot of Australians to be in your cast over two movies. Any other local talent you might like to work with that you haven’t used?
T.H – The secret is I am half Australian, my mother was born in Adelaide, so I have a total bias towards casting great Australians and I think probably only I would have thought to cast Guy Pearce as King Edward the 8th and I love Geoffrey Rush. I love Australian ethics, I can’t believe I am the first person to get Russell and Hugh together in a film, what a thrill having these two magnificent Australian towering talents at the top of their game.
S.A.B – Any future projects on the radar?
T.H – No nothing planned really as this film consumed every waking hour from me over two and a half years. I have not read a script, I have not read a book, I literally have no idea what’s up next.
S.A.B – The reaction it is getting from audiences who have seen it already is amazing. You must be very happy about that, it must be making you feel good.
T.H – The London premiere and the New York premiere had the audience stand up and applaud thirteen or fourteen times during the film, I’ve never seen anything like it nor has anyone else. It is great others like it, it’s probably a once in a lifetime thing so I have to keep reminding myself that it’s actually happening.
S.A.B – Did you have to push for Anne Hathaway or was she one of the top selections for the role of Fantine?
T.H – It was a very contested role, a scary list of movie stars came up for that part, but she came up with a distinct way of acting and made it her own. Ascendency in the part was all her.
S.A.B – I would like to see you work with Hilary Swank again (Red Dust – was an early film by Tom starring Hilary – great movie!)
T.H – Yes I am glad you liked that film, I loved working with Hilary. She is another extraordinary performer.
NOT RELATED TO LES MIS, BUT OSCAR NOMINEE FOR ANIMAL KINGDOM, JACKIE WEAVER WALKED BY ME ON THE RED CARPET AND I ASKED HER ABOUT ‘THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK’
S.A.B – Hello Jackie, great to see you again, tell me what it was like in bed with Robert DeNiro?
J.W – It was pretty good, but there was a big film crew all around us in the room.
S.A.B – He didn’t try any Alvin Purple tricks on you (Alvin Purple is a sex comedy film Jackie did when younger)
J.W – Oh get out of it (laughing)
S.A.B – Jennifer Lawrence is about the same age you were when first breaking out as a big star, what is she like to work with?
J.W – A wonderful actress and a brilliant young woman, I think she is going to be enormous. She is already – what am I saying.
And with that I left to the red carpet media area and headed home. For the record I have seen the movie and can’t recommend it enough. I was mesmerised the entire time. Amanda Seyfried is also grand.