Director Tom Hooper Answers His Critics
By Jay Hernandez
Excerpted ~ (Editor’s comments in parenthesis):
JH: How did the (Australian) premiere go last night?
TH: I’m a little worse for wear. It was amazing. Again, the consistency of this extraordinary audience response happened again. They clapped 15-16 times during the film. And at the end the people are just destroyed by it. You turn around and see these faces are completely ravaged by tears and people are saying they can’t speak, “just let me sit here for a few minutes quiet for a bit.” It’s pretty overwhelming. And the Aussies kept saying, “You know, mate, we don’t clap in films.” [laughs] The men aren’t famous for showing their emotions very much. So to get the Australian male to cry is a big deal.
JH: You’re part Aussie, right?
TH: I’m half Australian, my mom’s Australian. She comes from Adelaide. It was nice. We had Russell and Hugh there, so it was like two-and-a-half Australians.
JH: Did that premiere have any special resonance for you or Hugh or Russ?
TH: Yeah, the Sydney crowd went wild when Russ and Hugh went onstage to introduce it. It was very sweet, we had it at the State Theater, which is the oldest cinema here. It’s amazing Art Deco. Across the top where they put the film title they had: “Welcome Home ‘Les Miserables.’” And it was the longest red carpet I think I’ve ever walked down. They closed the entire street.
TH: when Russell is committing suicide, when we started shooting we shot the close-ups first and the master camera was on a crane, and what that allowed Russell to do is every time he got to the end of the song he was flinging himself off the set we built for the bridge. So 20 feet down to foam at the bottom, so he could do the entire song, even the jump, each time, which he wanted to do.
JH: Did you make him do it a few extra times, just to screw around with him? (WTF??)
TH: I think he probably sang and jumped off it 20 times. Maybe it wasn’t 20 feet. It was enough to clear the set so it was dramatic. And Russell had this very interesting idea that in the show Javert just sings and jumps on the note of the music. Russell thought it was interesting to finish singing and actually have a moment of human connection and silence before he jumps, which I think is very effective because it makes it much less melodramatic than to jump and sing, which is a musical theater device.
(Answering criticism regarding frequent close-up shots)
TH: And actually, if you look at the construction of songs, in Russell’s songs, both “Stars” and “Suicide,” there are quite a few cuts where we put him in the context of his environment, where we go wide. And the reason for that is that there is this whole theme that he’s subconsciously crossed the edge of the building and he’s flirting with the edge. And we could only get that by putting him in context. And, obviously, in the suicide there’s the whole pull of the drop and the water, which wouldn’t translate in close-up all the time.