BY PAULA SCHWARTZ
Director Tom Hooper told the full house Friday before the 7 p.m. screening (it also screened at 3 p.m.) of “Les Misérables” at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, “The fact that you are all here must mean one thing: It means I’ve finished the film.” He added that he just made the final touchups at 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving.
Movie folk are a superstitious lot, and the date is also significant for another reason: “Two years ago on this Friday, 'The King’s Speech' opened in New York, so I’m kind of hoping I’ll be lucky twice in a row,” said the British Academy-Award winning director.
The feverishly anticipated “Les Miz” is one of the last of the previously unseen Oscar contenders, and Oscar strategists, even before they saw the film, singled out Hugh Jackman, who plays paroled prisoner Jean Valjean, and Anne Hathaway, as the ill-fated Fantine. (Only “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow’s thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, is left in the awards-season tango.)
“Les Miz” didn’t disappoint the audience, who clapped, cheered and wept throughout the film.
After the 7 p.m. screening, Hopper, actors Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks took part in a 40-minute Q&A.
There’s a lot of weeping in “Les Miz.” Seyfriend was asked how hard is it to sing while she was crying. “It actually takes pressure off of you because if you’re crying then you,” and before she could finish her sentence, Hooper chimed in, “can be out of tune,” and Seyfried finished the director’s sentence with, “and it doesn’t matter as much.”
Hooper said Barks, who plays Éponine, as well as singing while she’s crying also had to “sing and cry in the rain, again and again and again.”
The Brit actress laughed, “and then it’s really cold and your teeth are like chattering away so there are a few things to contend with.” She is unfamiliar to American audiences, but she won’t be after the movie comes out. Her big solo, “On My Own,” is a show stopper reminiscent of Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of “And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going” in “Dreamgirls” (2006), which went on to bring the actress Oscar gold.
The central songs were filmed as one take, Hooper related, and they were also performed live. “I didn’t want any barriers between emotion and realism and truth, so for me it was very important,” he said, adding, “I wanted to feel like these wonderful actors playing these characters were producing these songs out of the depths of their soul in the moment and I wanted to avail myself of any possible means at my disposal to create that sense of being in the moment.”
Only Barks had ever performed in the musical onstage, an entirely different experience than she was used to, “because when you’re on stage and you perform a number like ‘On My Own,’ it’s kind of like an instant reaction you feel, like you feel the buzz from the audience with the applause whereas you wait for months and months to see if people are enjoying it. It’s very different and this being my first film, it was scary.”
Asked how hard the live singing was on the actor’s voices, the director joked, “Hugh Jackman admitted he did a one-man show on Broadway in order to prepare how to sing” for the film, “so I was kind of shocked that none of the other actors had."