‘Les Miserables’ star Eddie Redmayne on his ‘X Factor’-style audition and being dragged through freezing sewers by Hugh Jackman
Photo: Universal Pictures
Thelma Adams: When did you first see "Les Miserables"?
Eddie Redmayne: I'd seen the thing when I was 7. I wanted to be Gavroche, the little rock star guy, since I was young. Even on set I was living vicariously through Daniel Huttlestone, who plays Gavroche onscreen. I still want to be that kid. The idea of building dens and barricades is every 10-year-old's dream.
TA: What were you first, an actor or singer?
ER: I sang first when I was a kid, and I got into acting when I was 11 or 12. I did play urchin No. 30 in Cameron Mackintosh's "Oliver," directed by Sam Mendes. I never met Sam because I was so far at the back.
TA: How did you nail this role? Did you have to audition?
ER: I was filming "Hick" with Chloe Moretz and Alec Baldwin in L.A. in a field in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly I had two hours off, so I went to my trailer and filmed myself singing Marius's song on my iPhone. I sent it to my agents to show I was interested. I had worked with Tom (Hooper) for the TV miniseries "Elizabeth I," and Nina (Gold) had cast me in "My Week with Marilyn." But they were friends – and they didn't know about my singing.
TA: How hard was the audition process after that?
ER: Rigorous. It was an "X Factor"-style audition in front of the lyricist, the composer, Mackintosh, the producers, the director, and Nina. I have a newfound respect for American singers on "The X Factor." The pressure mounted. But knowing that so many people in the world loved this story weirdly made it easier because I kept pushing myself until I reached the emotional core of it.
TA: You see actors gaining weight or losing weight for a role. But it seems like you must have had to muscle up your vocal cords for this role.
ER: Mark Maitland was my vocal coach. Training your tongue and throat muscle was like training for a marathon. We had to be able to sing take after take after take.
TA: There's been a lot of fuss about the use of live singing on "Les Mis," as opposed to lip-syncing to a prerecorded tape. What was that like?
ER: It was a constant debate between serving the musical and prioritizing the storytelling. Tom (Hooper, the director) described it as thinking in the present tense -- not songs, but spontaneous. The challenge was finding that freshness but still serving this beloved score.
TA: And then there's the singing and crying -- how do you sustain the emotion when there's so much buzzing around you on set?
ER: Amanda Seyfried said that sets are rhythmically weird places. You work hard for an hour and then take a two-hour lunch break. The challenge is keeping your place emotionally. A lot of actors take themselves off to their music or iPhones. What was wonderful here was having the music actually playing in your ear to sustain that emotional pitch on camera.