With 'Les Miz,' a new kind of speech for Hooper
This undated publicity photo provided by Universal Pictures shows Oscar®-winning director, Tom Hooper, center, and Daniel Huttlestone, right, as Gavroche on the set of Hooper's new film, "Les Misérables," the motion-picture adaptation of the beloved global stage musical adapted from Victor Hugo’s novel. (AP Photo/Universal Pictures/James Fisher)
NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Hooper, the director of intimate character studies like the Oscar-winning "The King's Speech," the HBO miniseries "John Adams" and the TV drama "Longford," would not seem the sort of chap likely to make a sprawling adaptation of a beloved Broadway musical.
"I've always had an epic filmmaker within me clamoring to get out," explains the British director.
That much becomes clear in Hooper's new film, "Les Miserables." From the musical based on Victor Hugo's novel, the film is an enormous, star-studded affair overlaid on a French revolution canvas yet painted with a naturalistic brush.
The film, which has been nominated for four Golden Globes, has returned Hooper to the thick of the Oscar race two years after the Academy Awards' coronation of "The King's Speech." A few months after that film won best picture and best director for Hooper, he was onto "Les Miz," spending the "capital," he says, that he earned with "The King's Speech."
"I just thought: How can I follow this?" Hooper said in a recent interview. "In the end, I thought the best thing to do was just get back to work and to get back on the horse. I felt that the longer I left it, I might get kind of self-conscious or it might become this big thing in my head."
This undated publicity photo released by Universal Pictures shows director, Tom Hooper, on the set of the film, "Les Miserables." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Kerry Brown)
His approach to "Les Miserables," a sung-through musical without dialogue, was centered on filming all of the singing live, as opposed to lip-syncing it. While that's been done piecemeal in films, few movies (most notably Peter Bogdanovich's "At Long Last Love") have applied it so completely.
"Even the ones I most love like 'Fiddler,' 'West Side Story,' 'Sound of Music,' I noticed that I was having to re-forgive the film continuously for lip-syncing," says Hooper. "I didn't want people to watch 'Les Miserables' knowing in advance that I would be seeking for them to forgive me."
The live singing meant Hugh Jackman (the escaped criminal Jean Valjean) would be singing while standing in a river of mud; that long single takes would be necessary for some numbers to maintain tempo continuity; and that the actors would be performing with tiny earpieces piping in live piano accompaniment. But the choice also injected "Les Miz" with rawness and realism and gave its cast the ability to act in the moment.