"Les MisÚrables" Film Ranks Third in Weekend Box Office Results
By Michael Gioia
"Les Misérables," the star-studded film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer, came in third place in the Dec. 31 domestic weekend box office results.
According to the Associated Press, the movie musical took in $28 million ($38.3 million international) in its first weekend since its Dec. 25 premiere. Since Christmas Day, the film has grossed a total of $67.5 million domestically and $116.2 worldwide.
Besting "Les Miz" at the weekend box office was "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," which grossed $32.9 million ($106.5 million international), and "Django Unchained," which took in $30.7 million.
"Les Misérables," produced by Universal, Working Title and Cameron Mackintosh — a producer of the musical's original London production, 1987 Broadway bow and 2006 revival — is directed by Academy Award winner Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech," "John Adams"), whose vision for the film included live singing throughout the entirety of the piece.
"Tom was passionate about it," producer Mackintosh previously told Playbill.com about why the score is performed live rather than dubbed. "But I'd decided years ago that if we ever got the opportunity [to adapt the musical], that's how I [would] want it."
The cast recorded all of their singing live during filming, listening to piano accompaniment through a hidden earpiece. A 70-piece orchestra later gathered in London to record the full orchestrations that are featured in the film and on the soundtrack.
Tony Award winner Hugh Jackman (The Boy From Oz) stars as Jean Valjean, the musical's protagonist who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread — forever branded as prisoner number 24601 — escapes and creates a new life for himself in 1800s France. Oscar winner Russell Crowe ("Gladiator") plays Inspector Javert, who relentlessly pursues the ex-convict.
Also starring in the film are Oscar nominee Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married") as the ill-fated Fantine; Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter ("The King's Speech") as Madame Thenardier; Sacha Baron Cohen ("Borat") as Thenardier; Amanda Seyfried ("Mamma Mia!") as Cosette; Eddie Redmayne ("My Week With Marilyn") as Marius; West End actress Samantha Barks as Eponine, the role she played in the London production in 2010 and again in the show's 25th anniversary London concert at the O2 Arena; stage actor Aaron Tveit (Catch Me If You Can) as Enjolras; Daniel Huttleston as child-hero Gavroche; and George Blagden ("Wrath of the Titans") as student Grantaire. (Read the Playbill Stage to Screens interview with Aaron Tveit.)
Original stage Valjean, Colm Wilkinson, plays the pivotal role of the Bishop of Digne in the picture. Tony Award winner Frances Ruffelle, the original Eponine in London and on Broadway, also makes an appearance in the film.
In "Les Misérables," there are a few additions, for storytelling, clarity and gap-filling, including the Golden Globe-nominated and Oscar-eligible new number entitled "Suddenly," a song for Valjean as he whisks his new daughter away from the Thenardiers in a coach. The song concerns Valjean's new role as father to the child Cosette. (Here's a video feature about its intent).
Producer Mackintosh previously told Playbill.com that the song "was something that Alain and Claude-Michel came up with, after a passage in the book, which beautifully explains what happens when [Valjean] takes Cosette from the inn and looks after her. Herbie's written a lovely lyric to it, and we're all delighted how it seems to fit into the film version."
The film soundtrack, which was released digitally Dec. 21, includes such iconic tunes as "Look Down," "The Bishop," "Valjean's Soliloquy," "At the End of the Day," "I Dreamed a Dream," "The Confrontation," "Castle On a Cloud," "Master of the House," "Suddenl," "Stars," "ABC Cafe/Red and Black," "In My Life"/"A Heart Full of Love," "On My Own," "One Day More," "Drink With Me," "Bring Him Home," "The Final Battle," "Javert's Suicide," "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" and "Epilogue."
"Les Miz," which has generated significant Oscar buzz, has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy.
Here's how the film, which features a screenplay by William Nicholson ("Gladiator," "Nell," "Shadowlands"), is described: "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. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever."
Production for "Les Miz" began in early March. Click here for photos from filming.
Les Misérables opened on Broadway in March 1987 following productions in Paris and the West End. The musical was nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 1987, taking home eight for Best Book (Boublil and Schonberg), Best Direction (Trevor Nunn and John Caird), Best Featured Actor (Michael Maguire), Best Featured Actress (Frances Ruffelle), Best Lighting Design (David Hersey), Best Score (Schonberg, Kretzmer and Boublil), Best Scenic Design (John Napier) and Best Musical. The musical has had productions all over the world and was performed in a 10th anniversary concert and 25th anniversary concert.
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