Samantha Barks Interview For ‘Les Misérables’
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. My other interviews for ‘Les Misérables’ can be found through the following links: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne (more to come).
How was it for you being a part of this huge ensemble of actors? The cast is incredible….
Samantha Barks: I never thought I’d see the day that I’d be sat around a table on the first day of rehearsals with Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen… even saying it out loud now is overwhelming for me (laughs). It means so much to me to be surrounded by such a phenomenal bunch of actors. And I think we all came at it from different points of views. I’d had a lot of musical theatre experience, but I’d never done any screen work. Someone like Eddie Redmayne, he’s done a lot of screen work, but he’s never done any musicals. So we all had something to bring and something to learn. That was what made it so exciting as well.
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 around the world for over a 100 years?
Samantha Barks: I think the piece is timeless because of these beautifully written characters. Victor Hugo, he’s incredible; these characters ping out at you and their emotions hit you and you attach yourself to different characters in different stages of your life. I connect very differently with characters now at 22 than I did at 16. I think every time you go and see it you feel something new for someone different, that’s what I think makes it a classic, timeless piece.
You starred as Éponine in the London production of ‘Les Misérables’ (from June 2010 to June 2011), and the 25th anniversary concert of ‘Les Misérables’ at the O2 arena. What is it about this character that appeals to you?
Samantha Banks: I think everyone knows what that feels like to have that unrequited love, and that’s what she’s going through – big time (laughs). And Éponine, coming from such a hard, tough background, you see that she actually has such a good heart. I think that’s what makes her an appealing character to play, because she’s got this social dilemma going on between doing the right thing, and doing the thing that she wants to do. It’s a character I had a burning desire to play. There’s something about her spirit and her awkwardness – I just love this character (laughs)!
Was there a particular day on set that really sticks out to you?
Samantha Barks: I’ve got so many (laughs). I think “On My Own” is an everlasting memory of mine. There’s just something about that. Being on stage, you look around and you imagine this Parisian street, of how its going to look like. It was a year of my life on stage, I started the theatre audition when I was 18 and now I’m 22, this has been a huge part of my life. Éponine has travelled around with me, and she’s been the most consistent thing in my life. I only have to hear the opening two bars of “On My Own,” and it breaks my heart. I feel so close to Éponine. I’ve traveled so far with her. It makes me so proud to be playing her because she’s such a beautifully written character. So to actually walk onto that set and see this stunning Parisian street, it was just incredibly emotional – the whole day was emotional (laughs). I’ll never forget that feeling of just being so emerged in this character, this character that’s meant so much to me. It was an incredible day. It was the best day of my life actually.
Although you had the experience of appearing in the ‘Les Misérables’ show on stage, how was singing live on the film?
Samantha Barks: It was quite daunting. When I performed “On My Own,” I sang that song from start to finish, take after take after take, probably 15 times. That was a new experience for me. In the theater, I did it once a night, eight shows a week. But during the shoot, we were doing it every day, all day, and it’s a different kind of discipline. You really had to look after yourself stamina-wise, and everyone was in the same boat.
What was it like working with director Tom Hooper on ’Les Misérables’?
Samantha Barks: Tom Hooper is definitely the most intelligent person I’ve ever met. His mind is incredible. His vision for this piece is so brave and courageous. It’s so easy for us to say, “Oh, it’s so nice for us to sing live.” But it was him who had the utter faith that it was going to work. He was faced with a lot of people saying, “Really? Its never been done before.” But through his vision, it allowed us so much freedom to create something that fuses the buzz of live theatre, with the realism and truth of film, to create something so unique.
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