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Interview: Anne Hathaway of 'Les Miserables'

'I would still be singing "I Dreamed a Dream" if we didn't have to move on and release the film ...'

By James Rocchi Jan 2, 2013 12:07PM

With her gamine short hair slightly grown out from the demands of "Les Miserables" and other parts, Anne Hathaway's normal luminous air is even more delicate; speaking with us in New York about playing Fantine in the film, Hathaway spoke with us about how her mother once played the same part, the challenges of the filming technique and her own perfectionist ways ...


MSN Movies: You're playing Fantine in this, and your mother played Fantine on stage as well. I mean, at a young age did you just know every song inside and out just from exposure to "Les Miserables"?


Anne Hathaway: Well, yeah, yeah. My first experience with the music for this was my mom learning it in our living room with my mom practicing for her audition. She got the role, and of course worked very hard on what she had to do to learn the music so quickly. And it was so the soundtrack of my childhood.


Were you able to draw on that not just in terms of knowing the music and knowing the lyrics but also emotionally, for lack of a better word, in the performance?


I didn't ... there's really not much of my own experience or rather I didn't use a lot of my own experience in the creation of Fantine, but I think that my level of expectation for the authenticity of the performance was definitely set from the time I was a child because it's a very dramatic role. Seeing your mother go through those things, seeing your mother be cast out of society and forced into prostitution and then die, it was a hugely emotional experience for me as a child seeing that. And I think it made me believe in Fantine, and so I think that believe made its way into my performance. She's not a character for me; she's real.

BING: Anne Hathaway l 'Les Miserables' 


This is a very different kind of musical in that it's not "Singing in the Rain" and very happy.


It's dramatic ...


It's got emotional depth; it's got drama to it. Is that different? Is that exciting in terms of doing a musical with some sinew and bone under the surface?


I think it's nice when you have something kind of work. I think we all felt with this film you couldn't prepare hard enough for it; you couldn't think enough about it. Every time that you would follow a path and it would take you deeper and deeper and deeper. And I think that's just great source material.  We all refer back to the book for our preparation, and it was invaluable and never ever let you down. So I think that's great, but I think there's room for everything. I think you appreciate a movie like "Les Miserables" because there's a movie like "Singing in the Rain," and vice-versa.


The great single take version you do of "I've Dreamed a Dream" -- people are going to be talking about that for months and years, but what I'm curious about is, how many takes of it did you wind up doing  -- or did you have to? Did you nail it in one?


Well, throughout the film we did everything in one take. So like every performance and every scene is pretty much one take that you're seeing, but a lot of the other scenes are edited, so you can't really tell. But what we did was Tom (Hopper, director) shot with multiple cameras, so there was never any pressure to have to recreate a performance. So every performance we gave was allowed to be the unique performance of that take. We did it dozens of times. We both knew at the end of the day that it was take four. We actually both knew after take four that it was take four, but I wasn't courageous  enough to say, "Let's go home. I can't give you better." 'Cause that concept is foreign to me to ever be happy with anything. I'm just like, "No, no, no. We're going again. We're doing it again, and again, and again, and again, and again." But eight hours after that (fourth) take that we did, we both looked at each other and knew it was that one.


It just took that long to be sure.


I would still be doing it if we didn't have to move on and release the film. (Laughs)


For more about "Les Miserables," see our video interview with the cast and crew:


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