Hugh Jackman as Valjean

In the latest casting news, Hugh Jackman is saying to the press that he will be playing Jean Valjean in the movie version of the musical Les Misérables.   I have not yet found an official confirmation of this from the movie’s producers, so I sure hope those contracts are signed and the deal is sealed.   I’m not saying this because I’m desperate to see Jackman do the role.  It’s just that he’s a really nice guy, and if he says he’s playing the role, I want to believe him.

People who only know Jackman as a movie actor might not realize that he got his start doing musicals in Melbourne and London.  He played Gaston in Beauty & The Beast and Curly in Oklahoma.   His Oklahoma was filmed onstage, and I have the DVD.  He’s really good, although the curly perm is pretty unconvincing!   I have witnessed Jackman’s musical talents firsthand, having seen him in Carousel at Carnegie Hall and in his Tony Award winning role in The Boy from Oz.  My feelings about him playing Valjean are cautiously optimistic.  He has the acting ability and the physical stature to play a man who’s unusually strong.  He’s the right age for the beginning of the story, and movie makeup techniques (not to mention digital effects) will age him gradually to an old man.  Heck, the way they aged Brad Pitt backwards in Benjamin Button, Valjean will be a breeze.  Jackman can sing, although I don’t know if his range will take him all the way through Valjean’s big solo, Bring Him Home.  I think it would be smart for Jackman to record this song in advance and release it on iTunes, because this will create buzz for the movie and reassure the skeptics.  These include the many fans of Colm Wilkinson, Alfie Boe, and all the other brilliant actors who have played the role onstage.  I’d really like to hear Jackman sing any Les Mis song, because I think I hear his Australian accent in the vowel sounds when he sings.  Now, I’m no expert in either singing or Aussie accents, so this may not be what I’m hearing.   I’m hoping folks will offer their opinions in the comment section.

After my friend said she only knew Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (X-Men), I got to thinking about the two characters.  Wolverine and Valjean are actually similar in a lot of ways.  They are both bitter men, angry at society’s injustices.  They both have shameful secrets; Valjean is a convict who broke parole, and Wolverine is a mutant.  They are both very strong physically.  Granted, Valjean has no adamantium claws that retract between his knuckles, but he does lift a cart off a man trapped beneath.   Both characters are softened and changed by helping a young girl; Valjean rescues Cosette, Wolverine rescues Rogue.  I suppose it’s kind of silly to compare a comic book superhero to one of the great characters of literature.  I’m just trying to point out that playing Valjean might not be that much of a stretch for an actor who’s used to playing Wolverine.

Paul Bettany

Paul Bettany

The press is also reporting that Paul Bettany has auditioned for Javert, the police inspector who doggedly hunts Valjean through the years.  I love Paul Bettany, and he’s an actor with a fantastic range.  He played the naked Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale, Dakota Fanning’s brutal father in The Secret Life of Bees, and Opus Dei monk Silas in The Da Vinci Code.  I have never heard him sing.  I don’t know if he can, or what his vocal range might be.  If Les Mis were being filmed in India, it wouldn’t matter.  In the Bollywood musical tradition, the actors aren’t expected to sing their own songs, and the “playback” singers are as famous as the actors.   The actors have to do their own dancing, of course, but Les Mis is not a musical that requires that particular talent. Anyway, if Paul Bettany ends up playing Javert, I guess we will all find out if he can sing.

It’s also being reported that Tom Hooper may direct the Les Mis movie.  He just won the Oscar for directing The King’s Speech.  Looking over his various credits, he definitely has experience with period costume dramas, having done the movie Elizabeth I and miniseries like John Adams and Daniel Deronda.  Has he directed a movie musical?  Well, how many people actually have?

It’s pretty amazing that Les Mis is finally being made into a movie, after 25 years of waiting.  I hope it doesn’t turn out to be like The Hobbit, with years of even more delays, and with actors and directors finally moving on to other projects.   How much longer can we wait?  (Don’t say One Day More.  Please.)


Filed under Actors, Movies, Theatre

11 responses to “Hugh Jackman as Valjean

  1. you are just asking for this…………….one day more

  2. Angie Scholey

    After finding some videos of Hugh singing on YouTube, I am now convinced! I agree, however, that his range may not cope with “Bring Him Home”, he feels like a baritone to me and this song is definitely for a tenor- however, they can always transpose it down for him I guess without it losing too much impact. Exciting times ahead!

  3. Little Miss Opinion

    Sorry but I cannot see Jackman as Valjean, it is a travesty. I have no doubt he can sing but he IS a baritone and the part so obviously calls for a tenor, should they really have to rearrange the music to have some Hollywood sweetheart in the movie, does Les Mis really need a “big” name in it? Or should Alfie Boe have been offered this role, a tenor, who can act? Les Mis has sold millions of tickets, all over the world for the past 25 years without “big” names. I doubt it needs one now. I am so scared that it is going to turn into some namby pamby version for Hollywood, very very scared 😦

  4. Katie

    Hello! Good blog, it’s quite an enjoyable read so far.
    As your comment in regards to The Hobbit, they have been planning to make a movie, and putting out false announcements since 2005, but they are a decent way through the casting now, so I hope they actually pull through.
    In regards to the first comment, Jackman may be a baritone, which the role actually calls for. Colm Wilkinson got the roll because he was amazing at auditions, and they had to re-work the music. Bring Him Home was written for Colm Wilkonson about a month before they opened, but they could probably bring it down slightly, easily, and it would be just as impressive.
    Now, this could be considered advertisement, but have you thought about joining The Abaisse? You seem to know quite a bit about the show, so you might get along well there.
    Either way, good posts, and a very entertaining blog.

    • Hey, thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment!

      I understand The Hobbit is actually quite far along in terms of filming, and the first trailer has already hit the internet.

      I suppose I would consider joining The Abaisse, if I knew what it was! Don’t worry, I know how to google…

      • Katie

        Whoops, I apologize for not making myself clear. I meant a Les Miserables movie when I was talking about the notices from 2005. 😛
        I know the Hobbit is a decent way along, and should come out in December. (My three favourite actors are Ramin Karimloo, Hadley Fraser, and Elijah Wood so if any of them are involved in anything, I try and find out. ;D)

        • Actually, I should have just re-read what I wrote in my post, to remind myself of what you meant by referencing The Hobbit.

          You have good taste in actors! I’ve been a fan of Elijah Wood since Huck Finn. I don’t know if you read my Huckleberry Finn piece, but his version is one of my favorites. He was the first person I got excited about when they started casting The Fellowship of the Ring. Wow, that seems like such a long time ago!

          So what do you think about Taylor Swift being offered Eponine?

          • Katie

            I’m not sure, I mean, I like her voice, but can she actually sing On My Own? I went to one of her concerts in the summer and she was good. I’m just not sure if she can play a starving romantic and pull off a broadway belt. What do you think.
            And thank you for the complement on my taste in actors, most people I say that to just go “Aren’t they a little old for you” or “How can you find that attractive” or “I don’t think they’re good at all” etc.

            • I don’t honestly know if she’s got any acting talent. She has a very distinctive look, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to see her and not think “Taylor Swift.”

              I really don’t get the whole age thing. When I was 12, some of my favorite actors were long dead. Now that I’m much older, most of my favorite actors are much younger. The way I see it, when an actor’s work is preserved on film (or on an audio track!) he becomes ageless. It’s a little different with stage performances, but that’s one of the things that make a live performance so special.

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