Let’s talk about two of your co-stars: the first is Colm Wilkinson, who plays the bishop – a man who gives Valjean a shockingly generous gift that allows him to reinvent himself. Wilkinson originated the role of Valjean on Broadway and in London’s West End, so it seems appropriate that he gets to play this critical part in Valjean’s evolution.
He was that first week of shooting, so it felt odd because Colm was one of the most famous people to ever play the role. I saw him a year before when I did the film, when I was doing my one-man stage show, and it was great to meet him and work with him. There was this strange feeling of him saying, ‘Hey man, it’s all yours. It’s all good.’
Since he played Jean Valjean for years, was there anything valuable you picked up from him?
I did ask him a couple questions, but I remember him saying at one point, ‘It doesn’t matter in the end. What matters is you do it your way.’ He said, ‘I’ve been to some shows, and I see them trying to do it the way I did. And I actually didn’t do it the way it was written. In the end, the way it was written didn’t really serve me, so I changed it. And now people think that’s how it was written, when it wasn’t.’
What a very Valjean thing to do – defy the rules.
That’s absolutely right! The other thing he said was he used to read the book periodically when doing the show, because it’s like dipping into gold. I’d read the book a couple of times, and I marked it up so I would read the scene written in the book the night before I would go on and act the scene in the film.
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