Interview: Eddie Redmayne of 'Les Miserables'
'I sang a song into my iPhone. I did NOT know my agent would simply send it along ...'
Despite excellent work in rough stuff (and roughly-received stuff), perhaps no role has ever befit Eddie Redmayne like that of Marius in "Les Miserables." As the revolutionary whose love becomes the prize for two women in the movie version of the Broadway musical, Redmayne combines modernist naturalism with retro-style charisma, in a way unlike any role he's had before. We spoke with the actor in New York about auditioning via iPhone, the filth of France and the power of song.
MSN Movies: You auditioned for this by singing your big ballad into an iPhone while you were on location.
Eddie Redmayne: This is true, yeah. (Laughs)
Did it not occur to you that maybe modern Hollywood has a better way of doing this?
I'll tell you what. Given that the technology nowadays is so wondrous, it means that particularly if you're in weird and random places I think it's quite helpful to be able to put yourself on tape via the iPhone. I was in North Carolina playing a Texan cowboy and basically I wanted to show my agent my audition in singing, so that’s why. I didn't actually expect it to be sent to the producer like it was, which (is why) at the time I wanted to throttle him. But now that I have the job, I'm okay with it.
If it had gone badly, he would've been fired.
Since it went well, he gets a fruit basket.
Seriously, yeah. (Laughs)
I was talking to Miss Seyfried about this though; the mechanics of singing as an art are a lot about stillness and breath. And then in this you're recording on stage. You're doing the physicality of acting and running around. How does that change how you sing? Does it make it more immediate and more emotional?
It does. I mean what was interesting was that we had that question mark of because we were recording it live, if you're shooting a gun or you're crying and all these things have effects on your voice. And there was a fear from all of us going "Should we not be finding a cleaner way of doing it?" And Tom said "No, we didn't embrace this way of working, the rawness of this way of working in order to then try and sanitize it." And so of course it makes sense that if you're doing a normal film and you're crying your voice gets affected in the same way that you do in this. But it was an interesting one to battle with.
You have to make the France of this film dirty but not filthy. It has to look worthy of revolution but not so horrible it scares people.
Absolutely, yeah. (Laughs)
The glamour of musicals, that kind of emotion you get out of them, is that fun to portray the heightened feelings of big do-or-die love songs?
I think what was interesting was there were so many moments in this, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil's piece has this sort of visceral quality to it that's very gritty. But there are also moments, you know, the love at first sight moment or run down the street, singing, "In my life she has burst like the music of angels the light of the sun." I mean it's so sort of poetic. I remember when we were shooting that scene I was struggling to make it work, and Tom was all, "I think here you just have to commit to the old school movie musical. You have to run down the streets, swinging from the lampposts..."
…singing fully committedly. And it was interesting. That was what kind of worked in that moment, but you had a fear that that would contrast with the more gritty reality in a bad way, but I think you have room for both.
And the contrast is nice, too -- the beautiful songs and the bloody events.
Do you feel like it's a bit of a shame that the movie musical has kind of gone out of vogue and that we only get maybe one or two a year?
I mean, what I think is interesting is I suppose it is a bit of a shame. There are great movie musicals in the past but I think provided we can keep finding new takes on stuff. I don't know a huge amount about musicals, but the musicals I do love are those ones that can be reinterpreted. "Cabaret" or "West Side Story" can have different contemporary takes on it. And I feel that with "Les Miserables" what was interesting, having always been one production on stage, Trevor Nunn's production, seeing how it would transfer to a new medium and seeing how it would hold up was intriguing, and the way that, as we mined the piece, the more substantial and brilliant it felt was a great testament to the creativeness of it.
For more about "Les Miserables," see our video interview with the cast and crew: