Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, ‘Les Misérables’ tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Hugh Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

‘Les Misérables’ is the motion-picture adaptation of the beloved global stage sensation – itself an interpretation of Victor Hugo’s epic novel – seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries and in 21 languages around the globe and still breaking box-office records everywhere in its 27th year. Helmed by Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), the film also stars Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Samantha Barks as Eponine, Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, Eddie Redmayne as Marius, Sacha Baron Cohen as Monsieur Thenardierto, and Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thénardier. ’Les Misérables’ arrives in cinemas from December 25th in the US and January 11th in the UK.

The aspect of singing live in ‘Les Misérables,’ how did that add to the performance emotionally for you?

Anne Hathaway: The perspective is so spontaneous, and you’re allowed to keep that and honour that and explore that – and be really moved by what’s happening in the moment. I can’t sing this part pretty, because it’ll take you out of it. In the film, I’m asking the audience to believe a lot of things. And there seems to me to be something selfish about trying to go for the pretty version of it, so I just sort of decided to apply the truth to the melody and see what would happen. I think it had a very freeing affect on us all.

And for those that don’t know, that method is very unusual on a film?

Anne Hathaway: Yes, it is unusual, it’s not something I’ve ever been asked to do before, everything’s always been pre-recorded. I once was told that I had to play a piano live in a film, and that became pre-record (laughs). I don’t have extensive experience singing on film, but I loved getting to do everything spontaneously. Even to be able to turn the part of your brain off that you have to use when you’re not singing in a film to match your performance. I loved that each take could live on its own, as its own unique expression. And because we shot with multi-camera format, you didn’t have to worry like, “Oh, is the close up going to match the wide shot?” You just release and ride every emotion, and not check yourself as a performer. I loved that.

Was there a day on set that really sticks out to you? I can imagine the experience shooting was challenging when playing it so spontaneous, especially considering Fantine’s experiences in ‘Les Misérables’?

Anne Hathaway: I loved getting, this sounds weird (laughs), but I loved getting to shoot a particular death scene, because I think throughout the rest of the piece Fantine is so miserable – as the title suggests. And on that day she was at peace. The acting on that scene was so incredible, I was working with so many talented people throughout the movie. I think that was my favourite day on set, strangely.

And yeah, the thing that’s tragic about Fantine is that she has an incredible heart, a really rare and powerful, true, generous heart. But she gives to the wrong person. And it becomes damaged by that experience, but she gets a child out of it so she has something to love. But, she lives in a cruel world, it sort of breaks her down.

What do you think it is about this story and these characters that gives it that enduring quality, that makes it so emotive – something that’s been relatable to audiences for over a 100 years?

Anne Hathaway: I think the themes of ‘Les Misérables’ are universal, without being broad. I think Victor Hugo’s storytelling, just the sheer plot that he came up with is so inventive and creative and brilliant. But the people he’s telling the story about are people that we all feel like we know, people that we believe still exist in the world. So he’s able to combine observed truth with invention, and I think that’s why we keep giving ourselves over to it. He just strikes a chord in the book that resonates deeply within us as true. And what I think is brilliant about the stage show is that it kept that feeling, and now I think Tom Hooper has successfully adapted all of that into the language of film. One of the things I love about the book is that it’s an exploration of love, in all its profundity – using language that’s some of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. It just ignited your heart and I know it sounds poetic (laughs), but it just illuminates your soul.

You’ve worked on a number of projects that have a had huge fan bases, but how was it with this particular project, with the stage show having been seen by more than 60 million people around the world?

Anne Hathaway: I’ve been on projects before that have huge fan-bases, but I think there’s nothing like the ‘Les Misérables’ fan world (laughs). I met someone who’s seen the stage show a 100 times! People’s love for the show, it feels limitless and very free. Which is wonderful because it is a show, it is a story about love in all of its different forms. So it’s amazing to be on a film that elicits so much passion in people.