I can only assume that the executives at Universal Pictures are regular readers of Film Misery and that they caught yesterday’s piece on the 10 Musicals That Should Be Movies and acted right away.
Tonight Deadline has reported that Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper is in talks to direct a full-scale film adaptation of the musical Les Miserables. If the talks result in an official deal, this may be the first film that Hooper directs after winning Best Director at this year’s Oscars and becoming an instant commodity in Hollywood. British theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh has produced the stage version since its premiere in 1985 and he will be carrying over a production credit to the film along with Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner of Working Title films. The script has already been written by William Nicholson who co-wrote the Gladiator screenplay.
There have been 20 previous film adaptations of Victor Hugo’s well-loved novel notably in 1998 with Geoffrey Rush, Liam Neeson, and Uma Thurman and in 1935 with Fredric March and Charles Laughton. However, since the musical premiered over 25 years ago it has never been put to film. The original London production featured iconic performances from Colm Wilkinson and Patti Lupone. Currently it is the third longest running show in history with over ten thousand performances at the Queen’s Theatre in London’s West End.
The music and lyrics from the French team of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boubil are well-established parts of Broadway and pop-culture. They include such memorable numbers as “I Dreamed a Dream,” “One Day More,” and “Do You Hear the People Sing?” They have been reprised in numerous Anniversary Concert Specials and are recognizable to showtune fans and non-showtune fans alike.
The story in the musical loosely follows Victor Hugo’s novel. Jean Valjean is an escaped prisoner who begins life anew in a small town becoming its mayor. He sympathizes with a worker named Fantine who is outcast when it is revealed she has an illegitimate child. Fantine passes away and on her death bed Jean Valjean promises to look after her daughter Cosette. Years pass and the story converges with events surrounding the 1832 Paris Uprising. A grown Cosette is infatuated with a young rebel named Marius and their love is challenged by the conflict. Meanwhile Jean Valjean struggles to flee the law, escape his past, and avoid his destiny.
I had the pleasure to see the musical several years ago when a national touring company came to Minneapolis and I was quite moved. The most memorable songs were “Do You Hear the People Sing?” which was brilliantly choreographed on a rotating stage and “Bring Him Home” which was powerful enough with one actor on a blank stage to sustain the entire audience’s undivided attention. The story has never been more relevant (especially with the current events in Libya and other Mid-East nations) and if done right it could be an affecting and successful film.
Tom Hooper is a great choice to give this story and these songs a new life on celluloid. Who do you think would be good members of the cast for this developing project?