Nope...Not Tired of Talking About "Les Miz"

Way behind on my blogging this week, so let me rant rattle off one of the most theater-relevant things on everyone’s mind. Of course, I am talking about the Les Miserables movie-musical slated to open next December.

Admit it, you’ve talked about it with your friends (I know I’ve had, time and time again) and even though you act like you are over it and maybe you have pledged to boycott the movie given *some* of its “questionable” casting…accept the facts: you are seeing it. Let’s not act like you are not…

A movie is naturally going to cast some big name actors/actresses because…well, box office receipts and publicity win out over “unknown, but talented” casting every time. It’s the nature of the business; this should be no surprise to anyone with a pulse. If they wanted to put on the best version of Les Miserables, they probably should have cast the entire 25th Anniversary Concert ensemble, only swapping out a few *cough* Nick Jonas as Marius *cough* of the main players.

You are not going to find many big name celebrities who can match Norm Lewis’ Javert or Lea Salonga’s Fantine (amongst others). Being a talented, stage-trained performer is a huge advantage for any form of entertainment, but ESPECIALLY for this film considering it is an adaptation of the stage version (as opposed to a direct adaptation of Victor Hugo’s original novel) and the cast is slated to sing live while filming.

Say what you will about this film, you have to applaud their ambition. Especially on that last part; it is a HUGE fu** you to Glee and anything else similar by not having the autotuned pre-recorded tracks to go off of.

Look, I am not expecting this film adaptation to blow me away…and I never was, quite frankly. Even so, casting is only one of the components of any production. They still have to get the cinematography, the direction, the music, the staging, the costuming, etc… on-point for any serviceable feature. Besides, even some of those cast that I am excited for may misfire or the not-so-good cast members, at least in my opinion, may surprise me.

The bottom line: the casting is not the see-all, be-all of the Les Miserables film…but for the duration of this entry and while we still await the announcements for Gavroche and company, let’s act like it is and have some fun commentating on the cast. Hit it, Miserable Folk!

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean: Obviously, this is a great one. When the film adaptation was announced, Jackman was the only one signed and who could blame them? He is basically a one-man show – he just had a sold-out one on Broadway for a few months – and he probably could single-handedly carry this film if tasked with the challenge. The man can act and sing with the best of them…who is not on Team Jackman?

I'm going up against Hugh Jackman?
Oy, crap.
Russell Crowe as Javert: This is a wildcard, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Crowe pulled it off. His acting skills are undeniable, but it is his singing that poses some concern. Javert has moments requiring belting power and range, which Crowe seems to be lacking. I hope he is in some vocal training (he probably is), because the Confrontation number really only works with Valjean and Javert are equals on the vocal front. Granted, matching Jackman is a tall order for anyone; regardless, Crowe is actually one of the more understandable casting decisions.

Anne Hathaway as Fantine: I can’t cosign on to this one; regardless, Fantine is only in it for a little while. She can kind of sing, but her voice is not consistently pretty or even controlled. The thing is, she sings “I Dreamed a Dream,” which is one of the most well-known numbers from the show (and even though the song is terribly cliché, it is a great one). While it is inevitable she won’t match Salonga’s outstanding portrayal, I am not convinced Hathaway is going to do the role justice, no matter how small it is. Sure, she can go against type and play disheveled and downtrodden (she stunned me with how good she was in Rachel Getting Married), but Fantine’s sort of innocent, prostituting, fragility seems like it would be lost on Hathaway’s tendency for bombast.

Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thenardier: I love her and she is an amazing actress, but this is not her role and she should set it free. The Thenardiers are the fun (by Les Miz standards), comic-relief characters…question, does that sound like Helena Bonham Carter at all? While I can admit that Madame Thenardier does not need to be a powerhouse singer, Carter seems to struggle with singing in general. In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, her “singing” was highly problematic, so much so I put it in quotes. What she did to “The Worst Pies in London” and “Wait” was unforgivable…and some of Madame Thenardier singing is talk-sung just like Mrs. Lovett’s numbers. Uh-oh…talk about a PTSD attack.

Sacha Baron Cohen as Monsieur Thenardier: Now, THIS I love. So much so, I feel like he might bring out the best in Carter as well (even though I am not holding my breath there). Cohen’s performance and singing as Pirelli is Sweeney Todd was great, making this an unusual, but brilliant choice. That joking, thieving schtick of Monsieur Thenardier seems right up Cohen’s alley, without being too obvious about it.

Eddie Redmayne as Marius: The casting of Marius could have been a lot worse, so this was a bit of a relief. I am unsure of what his vocally capable of, but he at least looks the part and can act fairly well.

Even photoshopped Enjolras Tveit
looks fitting.
Aaron Tveit as Enjolras: Many of us Broadway folk may have shed a tear when this was “announced.” I say that quite loosely because Tveit did not get his own press release or media drama, quite the contrary actually. The notice of his casting was a couple paragraphs down in some UK tabloid and just inserted like no one would care. Well, let me tell you something…anything involving Aaron Tveit is in fact, important and worthy of “Breaking News” status. Even his butt is worthy of its own (hilarious) article courtesy of the lovely ladies of The Craptacular.

Yes, he might be a little too All-American looking for a period, French piece. Yes, Ramin Karimloo a.k.a Enjolras in the 25th Annviersary production, was too awesome for words. But leading a revolution and belting for his life (literally) is no concern for Enjolras Tveit. I fully expect his voice to kill (literally) those who stand in his way.

Amanda Seyfried as Cosette: You know what, I will actually toss my hat in defense of her. Not that there is a large outcry over her casting, like say, some other pop star with a pension for writing songs about men she has dated for five minutes and suffering from a lifetime of heartbreak at the age of 22.

Anyways, I had no idea Seyfried was a trained opera singer, but it does explain why her singing was surprisingly great in Mamma Mia! (even if her acting falls below standard at times). Plus, considering Cosette and Marius date, she and Redmayne look…right for eachother. Bonus points that Seyfried could pass as the daughter of Anne Hathaway if you squint your eyes a little and ignore their three year age gap (thankfully, they don't appear together throughout the entire production).

Taylor Swift as Eponine: I really hate to be vehement with my disgust…but yes, this was an AWFUL decision. Leave it to Kate Shindle to tell it like it should be though...

She really does have a point.

Still, my issue with her casting is quite simple: how do you have three other women in the running {Lea Michele, Scarlett Johansson and Evan Rachel Wood} and wind up with Taylor Swift? Out of all four, she is clearly the one that does not belong. Clearly, the casting director broke out the dartboard for this decision and the darts landed on Swift…either that, or the booze was flowing long enough that they drank Swift into a different actress by the time the hangovers started.

Stop it, Taylor. No one is even near
as excited as you are.
It is also weird that she was considered at all given that Cosette, Marius and Enjolras are all being played by performers age 26 – 30, whereas Swift is only 22. This is Hollywood, where actors are cast to play a character half their age. You can even argue that Swift looks younger then her actual age (even though she is almost six-feet tall). All-around bizarre, I say…

Oh, right…her “singing” also seems ill-fitted for the part, so much so she might give Katie Holmes a run for her money. And that is really saying something…

If I had to throw out my opinion, I would probably have cast Evan Rachel Wood. She just has a quality to her that is perfect for Eponine. In fact, she probably could pass as a boy during the barricade scene, yet appear pretty, vulnerable (and slightly strong), for the well-known (and also cliché) “On My Own.”

Oh, and Lea Michele would do well too, for obvious reasons. But I think the decision to not cast her is justified (if I do not entirely agree) because (1) Too easy (2) No one would think of casting her until she breaks out of the Rachel Berry mold. On the other hand, given that star power and publicity are baked into any movie’s formula, she would have had a bunch of people showing up because they probably missed her during both of her outings, as Young Cosette and as Eponine, in the original Broadway production and subsequent Hollywood Bowl production respectively. Oh, and she is on Glee. Can’t forget that…

Photo Credit: AaronTveitIsMyEdwardCullen.tumblr.com
Photo Credit: mamapop.com

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