Russell Crowe 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, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried and Samantha Barks (more to come).
I know you pick your roles incredibly carefully. What was it about Javert that grabbed your attention and intrigued you?
Russell Crowe: Funnily enough, I had a negative response to the idea of it when it first came to me, when Cameron Mackintosh (producer) wanted to have a meeting in London. I was actually on my way to Europe for a friends wedding, so I popped into London and went to the stage show with him and we talked afterwards. But for me, and this is probably an unpopular attitude to have (laughs), considering what we’re talking about, but I didn’t like the character in the stage show, I didn’t respond to it at all. I just thought it was overly simplistic and I couldn’t follow why he came to the conclusions he came to, you know?
When I had my meeting with Tom Hooper I started outlining all these things that I saw as being negatives and my reasons for saying thanks, but no thanks. And somehow in that meeting with Tom, all of those questions became my responsibility (laughs). And I left the meeting determined to be involved in the project and play Javert. I think it had something to do with Tom’s passion for what he was about to undertake, and he clearly understood the problems and he clearly understood the challenge. I just felt a determination to answer all those questions and find solutions for all those questions and problems. You want to be on film sets with people who are like that, with directors who might not have all the answers, but they’re clear in their determination to achieve them.
In your eyes, who is this man Javert, this man we at least see on the big screen? What sources did you use to find the man we see in the ‘Les Misérables’ film, to enrichen the role?
Russell Crowe: I got very lucky, I went to Paris to do a little bit of research and I went to Victor Hugo’s house – and it was closed that day (laughs). But, there was a woman inside the office, I could see through the window so I tapped on the glass and in very broken, infantile French, I managed to remind her that she might recognise my face (laughs). I used that card (laughs). She’d seen a few of my movies and she decided to give me a one person tour. It was over the course of that tour, walking through the bedrooms and stuff in Victor Hugo’s house that she told me about a man called Eugène-François Vidocq, and Vidocq was Victor Hugo’s influence for both Jean Valjean and Javert.
This is a man who came up in a middle class family, he had an overdeveloped sense of adventure and found himself imprisoned when he was 18 or 19. He spent a number of years as a convict, and then with the change of government found himself in a situation where he became a policeman, and then a police inspector, and then on up the tree until he started the Brigade Sûreté. He’s commonly given the credit for starting undercover police work. And this is the man that Victor Hugo divided in half to make two men. Once you know that, the process becomes far more interesting, because I didn’t look to be interested by any of the stage versions of Javert, or any of the film versions. I looked to Victor Hugo’s source material for the man. For me Javert is so much more complex than what the musical on stage allows him to be, you know?
Javert’s confrontation with Jean Valjean is one of the engines of the story. How was it working with Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean?
Russell Crowe: Hugh Jackman showed an incredible leadership and artistry every single day. He had the biggest responsibilities of anybody, but… and I don’t know what was going on in his heart or his stomach (laughs), but he went through those responsibilities with such ease and grace. It was infectious, so no matter what the anxieties other performers were turning up with, everybody had the same feeling. If he – with all of the things he had to do – could be at ease with it, then they could as well. I was so impressed with Hugh Jackman, man. I mean, I’ve known him and he’s been a friend and everything, but to see who he’s become as an artist and to see what he’s achieved with this individual performance. It was very special thing to watch it unfolding.
I understand the cast was incredibly collaborative, how was that on the ‘Les Misérables’ set….?
Russell Crowe: Oh man, this set was amazing. You had Anne Hathaway singing “Fantine’s Arrest” 40-something times, and touching your heart every single time. Who knew, for example, that Eddie Redmayne could make the walls drip with moister the way he can when he sings (laughs)? I didn’t know anything about Samantha Barks before I met her, but getting to know her and having some social fun with her and Anne and Amanda on Friday nights, we’d have these barbecues – it would always end up in a singalong (laughs). But there was such an excitement from everybody, you know? Given the type of sets that Tom Hooper put us on, and the way he shot it, the inclusive nature of how he set the cast in motion… man, I tell you, seriously, for the rest of my career, every movie that I start, a part of me would wish I was starting ‘Les Misérables’ again. It was such a profound experience. And Tom Hooper, he put every ounce of his being into this. He worked seven days a week and still managed to keep himself balanced. He’s a tough guy; when he wants something, he wants it and he’s going to have it, but that’s the kind of director you want to work with.
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