PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Cameron Mackintosh; The Impresario Brings Les Miz to the Movies

By Kenneth Jones
29 Dec 2012

Hugh Jackman
Universal Pictures
Did you and Tom, in tandem, say, "It must be sung," or was it Tom's wish?
CM: Tom was passionate about it, but I decided years ago that if we ever got the opportunity, that's how I want it done. Partly, I remember, seeing Alan Parker's "The Commitments" — [Alan Parker] was going to direct this [Les Miz]  film 25 years ago when we had it on Broadway. And, I remember saying to Alan, "Oh, God, it has such excitement!," and he told me, "We actually recorded that live on the bus in various bits." And then with [the Alan Parker film] "Evita," [which starred] Jonathan Pryce, who had done The Engineer [in Miss Saigon] for me, I went, "You're fantastic at this," and I loved that particular scene that he confronted the generals. He sort of leapt out of the screen. He said the reason is, a lot of his stuff he did live [during filming].

So, look, me, personally, I didn't know who Tom Hooper was when he went to see [the show] — without any of us knowing it was his idea [to consider it as a film]. He picked it up from Bill Nicholson that it was going to be done [on screen], and he thought he'd go and see it — something went off in his head — and then he rang Eric Fellner at Working Title. He said, "Look, I'd be really interested to do this." At that point, he'd only made one film because "The King's Speech" hadn't been released, and Eric said to me, "Would I meet up with him?" And, I said, "I'd love to." I could tell that he was really smart, and I loved the way he talked about the film and what he would do, embracing it. Then, of course, he said, "I would really love to record it live," which was music to my ears. He was passionate to do it live.

The naturalistic, conversational quality of the singing in the film seems to have its roots in the recent 25th-anniversary production that you created in the U.K., which is now on tour in the U.S. It's less "pop-opera" and much earthier. It's not casual singing, but you know, it's more conversational singing than in the original production from the '80s. Did the rebooted revival inform this film?
CM: Yes. I know Tom went to see this in Chicago when it was there. I think it was the first time that Tom was exposed to the complete new orchestration that we've done, which is actually the basis of the film. The team of orchestrators that did that, which we then amplified for the O2 version, it's the same lot. Plus, [orchestrator and music producer] Anne Dudley joined our team from the film world — a very terrific musician. So, Tom went, "This is the way to go."

And, of course, visually, because the new version is based on the paintings of Victor Hugo himself, the film has an affinity to that look. There's a number of things which Tom has brilliantly found a cinematic way of doing; there were so many wonderful surprises and revelations to us as we watched a film being made.