Few movies this last year seemed to be as divisive as Les Misérables. The film adaptation of the hit stage musical split critics and audiences like the Red Sea. On one side, there were those who found Tom Hooper’s in-your-face directing to be haunting, enthralling, and downright beautiful. On the other side, there were those who missed the grand-scale production of the epic musical, and criticized the film for stripping away the excitement of the piece. Whether it was the strength of Hugh Jackman’s falsetto, the pitchiness of Amanda Seyfried’s voice, or the earnestness of Anne Hathaway, audiences ripped Les Misérables apart scene by scene. In the end, one consensus seemed to settle to the top: “it was fine.” (Well, that and Russell Crowe was terribly miscast).
But no matter how divisive the quality of the film may have been, audiences still showed up. The film grossed more than $340 million worldwide. And now the three-time Academy Award-winning film is out in a Blu-ray Combo Pack (including DVD, Digital Copy and UltraViolet) today, meaning that you can take the movie home to your parent’s house, make them watch it, and start the debates all over again.
Here are 12 things we learned from watching all the commentary and extra features from aforementioned Blu-ray Combo Pack.
- For all the talk of Les Misérables using live singing throughout the entire film, there is one scene where live singing wasn’t used. The first scene, in fact. Director Tom Hooper explained that between the rainwater and the wind machine, they just couldn’t hear the audio. So they had to lip-sync for their liiiiiives.
- Adding new content was a tricky process. The scene in which Javert meets Jean Valjean at the factory was completely new to the musical, for example. So William Nicholson took a stab at the dialogue that might occur between them in the screenplay. Original Mis composer Claude-Michel Schönberg then set them to a melody. Original lyricist Alain Boublil then wrote lyrics in French, and then lyricist Herbert Kretzmer translated those lyrics back to English. “It was a constant dance,” says Hooper.
- Defenders of Anne Hathaway’s likeability will have a hard time standing up for the actress in the bonus features. During the “The Stars of Les Misérables” feature, in which the cast talks about the casting process, Hathaway is as smug as she was during her “there seemed to be something selfish about trying to go for the pretty version” trailer. When discussing her weight loss to play Fantine, the Academy Award-winning actress educes a full-on eye-roll. “Any kind of suffering I was going through, I wouldn’t have felt it as suffering,” Hatahway explains. “I would have felt it as [Fantine] felt it, which was as transformation.” BARF.
- Speaking of casting, Hooper says that he “wanted to find those actors who, when they sung, you felt in your heart it was their first choice method of communication.” Not sure he succeeded on all levels <cough cough Crowe cough cough>, but we’ll give it to him!
- There are a lot of ways the Les Misérables actors trained for the film. Vocal classes, weight training, etc. But Hugh Jackman decided to do a three-month run on Broadway in his one-man show. “I figured, two and half hours a night, eight shows a week would be the kind of training I’d need to do this,” he explained. And here you thought he did the show just for the money…
- Curious about how Hooper settled on your two favorite casting choices in the film, Samantha Barks and Aaron Tveit? Too bad. We don’t get to see any of that. But we do get to hear Hooper say “Tveit,” which is kind of sexy.
- Sacha Baron Cohen lost his voice during filming, causing the filming of “Master of the House” to be delayed by a few weeks. After viewing the film, we’re not sure he ever got it back.
- There are a total of three features dedicated to the creation of the fantastic sets. One, “Creating the Perfect Paris,” had production designer Eve Stewart going into detail on how they recreation the now non-existent Paris streets. The Paris streets set were built in under 10 weeks by over 100 carpenters. The biggest challenge” Getting the skilled carpenters not to build things straight! In Les Misérables on Location,” the discussion moves to the real world locations they chose, including a beautiful underground chapel in the heart of London. And the most fascinating of the bunch “Battle at the Barricade,” where Tom Hooper shares something we never knew before. Apparently, the actors built the barricade in real time! And it only took 5 minutes! Damn!
- It was Russell Crowe’s idea to have Javert and Jean Valjean have a sword fight in chapel during the “Confrontation.” <side eye>
- A few people who highly influenced the Les Misérables film, yet rarely got mentioned during initial press, are finally given their due on the bonus features. Author Victor Hugo gets a nice mini-documentary on his life, which also dives deep into the original novel. And “The West End Connection” praises producer Cameron Mackintosh (and the many original theatrical stars appearing in supporting roles in the film) for paving the way for the film today.
- The debated having an intermission in the film to give the audience a breathing point after the intensity of “One Day More.” But once Hooper was able to get the film down to two and half hours, they decided to go right into the funeral/street riot. Imagine if he hadn’t? Ugh.
- Back to the live singing. Remember how this thing was supposed to let the actors have the freedom to choose their own tempo? Well, there were a few numbers where they couldn’t do that, and had to “lock into a tempo” set by the musical director. Most of the time, that was the big chorus numbers, including “Do You Hear The People Sing,” “Lovely Ladies,” and the epic “One Day More.” Sorry Hugh!
There’s a whole lot more on the Les Misérables Blu-ray Combo Pack, available today!