A few of the student revolutionaries in the cast had actually played Marius on stage as well.
Yes, several of them. Fortunately, I was green enough not to realize it till about day six. But they couldn’t have been more supportive and generous.
Did they give you any tips?
They were so lovely. They had some really helpful stuff. I would just ask if I was struggling. I would be like, “Alistair [Brammer], how did you do this bit?” Or, “Killian [Donnelley], what were you thinking here?”
So much of what we try to do on film is to make it sound, or make it feel – as you do with any piece you do – to make it sound like the thoughts had just arrived. But some of the stuff is so poetic. Particularly there’s that song “In My Life” and he’s singing [sings] “in my life, she has burst like the music of angels, the light of the sun. And my life, seems to start as if something is over and something has scarcely begun.”
It’s so full on, and so poetic. And so I’m like, how do you make that sound new? How do you make it sound fresh when it’s so poetic?
And Alastair was told me that he’d found this idea that maybe Marius wrote poetry, and he almost had written it out before, so it’s like he’s reciting something. That was really helpful.
Your big number, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” came rather late in production. What was that like?
There was this thing that would happen on the set that one by one you’d hear mumbles, like “Did you hear ‘I Dreamed a Dream’?” And then “On My Own,” and so on.
I once lied to Tom in an audition years ago for this Elizabeth I thing about being able to horse ride, and so there were various sadist things he did to me on this film to sort of get back at me, and one of them was every day he would go “oh, we just pushed ‘Empty Chairs’ back” and I was like “oh please just let me get this over with! Let me do it!”
And then he put you down in the sewers too! What WAS that stuff?
Oh my god. It was…I don’t know what it was. It was apparently clay something, and you’re swimming in it for a day and a half, you know? But again, Hugh Jackman never complains, so you’re certainly not allowed to complain.
I remember after sort of a day when we’re meant to be almost dead and Sacha (Baron Cohen) comes and steals my ring, and we were lying there and we were shivering. We’d been there for almost six hours, and Tom was like “guys you have to be still.” And we’re like “we can’t control our bodies! We’ve lost control!”
And then I have a makeup artist coming over and going “apparently it’s made of clay, very good for your skin!” And it’s like “Oh thanks, lovely to hear!”