EW: What was your first experience with Les Mis? Had you been a fan?
Eddie Redmayne: My mom and dad took me and my brother to see Les Mis when I was about 8, and I basically hero-worshipped Gavroche. I just wanted to be him. My brother and I would occasionally sing the “Confrontation” bit. I’d sing Javert and he’d sing Valjean…but not quite as well as Hugh and Russell did it.
When I heard they were making it I was in North Carolina playing a Texan meth addict cowboy [in Hick]. I filmed myself singing with my iPhone, sent it to my agent and was like “I do sing. I enjoy singing. Is there any chance I can get in the running for this?”
You sang in a choir at Eton. Had you kept up? Did you have to relearn everything?
I loved singing when I was a kid and then I did it a little bit at school and then at college, and then kind of stopped when acting became what I was interested in.
What was wonderful about getting this film was that you then get the best singing teacher in the world who helps you … get yourself to a place where you can do it. And that’s what I found fascinating.
You know how you sort of watch actors like lose weight, like Annie had to do in this film, or like Hugh had to do, or put on a huge amount? So much of what the singing teacher made us do was a muscular thing on your throat. So rather than a singing exercise, it involved holding your tongue out and getting the back of your tongue strengthened.
I don’t actually know what that was about. But it did feel like a full on work out to get there!
You’d worked with Tom Hooper before on Elizabeth I. What was it like getting to work with him again?
Since Elizabeth I, he became a mate, and he would always come to see the plays that I was doing in London. It was very awkward because at the first audition he was like “you sing?” And I was like, “well I sort of sing.”
I felt like for film “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” would have to be sung a different way. So in the audition I’d sort of come up with a slightly different way of singing it unaccompanied and, in a way that can hopefully draw people in to the severity of what this guy’s just been through. And Tom found it interesting. So it was lovely when we both got excited about the prospect of it.
Was that it? Did you get the part after that?
No! Then it was sort of an X-Factor style audition process with a panel of judges like Cameron Mackintosh (producer of the original show, as well as the movie), Claude-Michel Schönberg (composer), and Alain Boublil (lyrics).
The great thing about this was, like, even though my audition process was pretty hardcore, so was everyone’s. Even Hugh’s, Russell’s, Amanda’s, Sam’s – and Sam had done the show! So there was this sort of instant bond because we had all gone through the mill to get the parts.