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Les Miserables - Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried interview

Les Miserables

Interview by Rob Carnevale

EDDIE Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried talk about some of the challenges of bringing Les Miserables to the big screen, including singing live.

They were speaking at a UK press conference for the film.

Q. Apparently, you had to do 21 takes for Empty Chairs & Tables. Tom said you could have gone on. Do you have to find something within that you never knew was there?
Eddie Redmayne: Fear! [Laughs] It’s a weird thing… I just had the pleasure this morning to bump into Michael Ball who is here and if you’ve grown up loving this musical and listening to the soundtrack, whether it’s Colm Wilkinson, who Hugh [Jackman] performed with, or for me I grew up listening to Michael Ball. It is the version of Empty Chairs & Tables and it’s the one that you know and love. And the stakes get high throughout shooting because, to begin with, you’d hear whispers of the crew going: “Oh my God, did you hear that? It was I Dreamed A Dream and it was breathtaking!” Or they’d witness Hugh singing Bring Him Home.

I think throughout the process Tom [Hooper] would masochistically push Empty Chairs & Empty Tables further back into the schedule. It ended up being at the weekend and I remember coming in and that is the day. With theatre you can go and mend it the next day if you screw it up, you can go and try and do it better. But with this, I knew that I’d leave at the end of that day and I could never do anything about it. I’d just have to wait six months and then see it on film and be disappointed with what I’d done, which tends to be the case. And so, we did seven takes and Tom was like: “I think we’ve got it mate.” But I was like: “No, we keep going until there is literally blood coming out of my eyeballs.” And what was lovely about it is that the stakes are so high in that song, it starts at such an emotional low, because he’s lost all of his friends, and it’s a song of survivor guilt, that you can start it somewhere dark and just take it darker. So, the more takes you did, the more you could feed where you finished the song back into the top of the song.

Q. Amanda, you’ve appeared in a musical before, which was much happier [Mamma Mia: The Musical], so was this a different approach entirely for you?
Amanda Seyfried: [Laughs] Yeah, this was a completely different animal because Mamma Mia didn’t really feel like a musical by the time I got really involved in it. But at the same time, I guess I took a little bit of that confidence with me that I had done something that kind of worked in a way. But this is the biggest challenge of my career. I can’t even compare it to anything. It’s so fun to sing live, as challenging as it is. I don’t ever want to do it any other way at this point. But this, of course, only works this way.

Q. Amanda, what was the audition process like for you?
Amanda Seyfried: I sent in three different tapes over the course of, I think, a month and I was trying desperately to get to audition for Cosette and not Eponine because I knew I didn’t have that voice. And so I finally met Tom [Hooper] in LA and kind of thought that we had this connection and I kind of knew right then that he was going to fight for me. And then over the course of another two months I had two trips to London to finally meet Hugh [Jackman] and the team. And the last time we met was with Eddie [Redmayne] who had just gotten the role and Sam [Barks] and I were auditioning and it was really challenging. And then I got the role a month later. So, it was over the course of four months I would say.

Q. What was your favourite song to perform?
Eddie Redmayne: I loved doing A Heart Full of Love. I thought the set was quite beautiful. Tom became obsessed with the stunt butterflies. They weren’t behaving. There were moments when Amanda [Seyfried] and I were doing these incredibly intense takes of newfound love and Tom would be like: “Yeah it was great but the butterflies…” But something about that song – getting to sing a trio and it’s such a beautifully woven song. It was really fun to be able to sing that song so intimately, as actually was A Little Fall of Rain. I can’t express how weird it is in a huge studio, a vast studio, with hundreds of people, all of them silent, a tiny ear-piece in your ear, and someone standing this close to you, and you are singing a song at the level of [whispers]. It literally is the most bizarre thing in the world because you are literally in a whisper of tone and it felt incredibly private and intimate despite the fact that the scale and everything else was so large.

Q. And Amanda?
Amanda Seyfried: They were all really hard for me, more challenging than pleasurable. I think our stuff [gestures towards Eddie] felt more like we really had somewhere to go. I had more time with it and was able to capture that feeling that I wanted to have, where I was just getting lost in the song and not listening to myself.

Q. What was the mood like on set? Was it kept light to alleviate some of the more depressing aspects of the story? Hugh has said that it was sometimes easier to stay in the zone where possible?
Eddie Redmayne: Absolutely and what was interesting, because none of us had ever done it before, each day on set you learnt something new. And so things like not taking lunch breaks in the middle of performing big numbers, or I remember Samantha [Barks] was singing On My Own in the rain, and because of technical reasons they had to take a lunch break and it was like: “Do you want an hour lunch break or half an hour?” She’s there saturated and freezing cold, because you can’t get out of the clothes and get back into them, so there were silly technical things in some ways… but often on films to keep yourself in an emotional place you’ll listen to something. I will listen to music in my iPhone to sustain a sort of place emotionally but what was wonderful about this film was that you had it being piped into your radio. So, I found that the quality of Claude-Michel’s music meant that your emotions were opened up much easier than maybe in some other films.

Read our review of Les Miserables

Read our interview with Hugh Jackman