Eddie Redmayne on Auditioning for ‘Les Mis’: “I never felt so terrified in my life”
With the long-awaited film adaptation Les Misérables a big hit at the box office, the stars of the film have been opening up about how difficult the process of shooting the film was. One of those stars is Eddie Redmayne, who plays Marius in the film, who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the daunting audition process and the challenge of singing live on set.
Redmayne reveals that he more-or-less auditioned for the film adaptation of the much-loved musical on a whim. He explains, “I was making Hick with Chloe Moretz and Blake Lively in North Carolina. One night, we went over to Blake’s and they turned on some music, and everyone was singing along. At the time, Les Mis was being played, and they said, “You should audition for that.” Two nights later, I was in the middle of a field in North Carolina in my trailer and thought, ‘Why not give it a shot?’ [He ended up filming a video audition 'dressed as a cowboy,' singing 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.'] I sent it to my agent, [CAA’s] Josh Lieberman, who sent it to [producer] Eric Fellner. The last audition was X Factor style, in a room above the Queen’s Theatre in the West End, where Les Mis is playing. And behind a panel were the Working Title producers, [Les Mis producer] Cameron Mackintosh, [Les Mis composer] Claude-Michel Schonberg, [Les Mis lyricist] Alain Boublil, [director] Tom Hooper and Nina Gold, the music director. I never felt so terrified in my life.”
He explains that the audition was even more daunting because the composer, Schonberg, challenged his abilities. He says, “I sang ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,’ and Claude-Michel sort of jumped up and said, ‘I need to hear you sing this other note in ‘One Day More.’ … I want to check that you can sing this, I want to see that you can sing this – can you sing this?!’ And I was like, I don’t know whether I can sing this … come on Eddie, this is your moment to see whether you’ve got it or not. So it was rigorous.”
However, Redmayne understands that the extra push was required by director Tom Hooper in order to ensure that the cast would be able to sing all the takes live on set. He explains, “He had to check that we could deliver. If he wanted to do 20 takes of a song, he needed to know that we could do that. But I felt that it meant that the stakes were higher in some ways because we had to learn to retrain your musculature, literally, in the back of your throat and your tongue to be able to change the shape of your mouth in order to be able to sing continuously. And also… it felt like a workout, it was like training to be a marathon runner, almost, with this vocal coach. … He would put me in front of a mirror and make me sing in front of a mirror so you learn to belt the high notes, the loud ones, without contorting your face, because it still has to hold a close-up. … By the time you’re on set, it was kind of second nature. And that’s what I wanted it to be because then you’re just playing a character. You don’t even think about the fact that you’re doing a song.”