Les Miserables Q&A With Cossette: Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seigfried Les Miserables

Set against the backdrop of violent political unrest in 19th century France, Les Misérables, based on Victor Hugo’s classic 1862 novel, is an epic story of broken dreams and unrequited love. And although there have been more than 30 film and television productions based on Hugo’s novel, there has never been a film of Les Misérables, the musical until now.

Les Miserables Q&A With Cossette: Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seyfried plays the grown up Cosette who, as a child, was adopted by Jean Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman, a former prisoner who has re-built his life with a different identity.

Q and A follows:

You’ve made a musical before, Mamma Mia!. How does it compare to working on Les Mis?

I have to say Mamma Mia! was a piece of cake compared to this. It was hard, but we pre-recorded all the music and I didn’t have to sound perfect, and it wasn’t classical in the way that Les Mis is classical. And classical is so much harder. I was singing pop music in Mamma Mia! and pop music is a dream compared to this. However, when you get it right, that classical sound, it feels different and it feels wonderful. I loved singing opera when I was young and this reminds me of that.

Did you work with a voice coach to prepare for Les Mis?

Yes, Claire Underwood. And she is one of the reasons that I got this movie. She has been so supportive and just a dream to work with. I’ve also been working with Liz Caplan who is based in New York. She listened to me sing all of the time and I’m sure it was frustrating for her at times but she never lets on, she was always so encouraging, saying things like, ‘you are amazing!’ She has this scientific knowledge and is so in tune with the body and how it works, she’s like a scientist. Actually, she’s more like a magician and I don’t know where I would have been without her. She really helped me so much.

How many times have you seen Les Mis?

Twice. The second time was when we were rehearsing and I went to see the London show. But I could see it over and over again because it’s one of those shows that you become addicted to. You get something different from it each time – there are different nuances, different feelings. And that’s why we had to sing this live because it’s not like an Abba song, something that could be pre-recorded, with this it’s all about being in the moment and giving it a different feel with each take. Les Mis is such a great musical for actors.

What was your reaction when you heard that you would be singing every take live?

I thought, ‘God, this is going to be so hard..’ But I knew why Tom wanted to do it that way because the performance on the day comes through, the vulnerability of your voice comes through and that’s all part of it. Obviously you don’t want the vocals to be flat or sharp but we have so much freedom with it and it’s all about acting, too, rather than just miming to a pre-record.

You loved the role of Eponine when you were a child. But you’re playing Cosette…

Yes, I auditioned for Cosette. I can’t sing Eponine, I wish I could but I can’t. And for my audition I worked on Rue Plumet and A Heart Full of Love and I won’t lie because I felt that first tape was weak. I think they said that I was having trouble in that register and I was. And I respected the way that they cast this film – they are very serious about it and so they should be. They saw everybody and that’s the fairest way to do it. And I was like, ‘OK, I’ll try harder..’ And I kept working. And I love a fight (laughs). I really do. And being in this is my absolute dream and I can’t imagine anything else that I want to do more than this. And I think all of us feel the same way – all of us are Les Mis nerds! (laughs). So I kept doing my lessons and working really hard. And later I met Tom in Los Angeles and Tom explained to me that it was about the acting, the soul and the flavour of the piece and he saw something in me that he believed in, thankfully.

Les Miserables Q&A With Cossette: Amanda Seyfried

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How did you find out that you had the role?

I was at home and I missed a call from Tom. It was near Christmas and I was like, ‘why is Tom Hooper calling me? What’s going on?’ And I called him back and he said, ‘my Christmas present to you is that you’ve got the job..’ I was absolutely thrilled, as you can imagine. It really was the best Christmas present ever. And I don’t take it lightly. It’s an honour to be in this film.

Tell me about Cosette…

Cosette is the adopted daughter of Jean Valjean, played by the lovely Hugh Jackman, our hero. He plucked her from this terrible, terrible situation. Cosette is an orphan and her mother, Fantine died when she was tiny. Valjean knew Fantine and he finds her in this awful situation and he adopts her and brings her up as his own child. I play Cosette when she is older and Valjean is still very protective of her. She doesn’t really have any friends but they have an amazing relationship and it’s quite a complicated dynamic because she’s a bit like his mother, his sister, his wife and his child but it works, they love each other. But she’s had this kind of secluded life and then she’s out one day coming back from church and that’s when her journey really starts because she meets Marius, played by Eddie Redmayne, and she falls in love. It’s the beginnings of romantic love and it’s confusing because she’s never felt like that before. In our story, Cosette really represents hope and innocence and she’s the source of light in Les Misérables. It’s wonderful to play that but it also feels like a huge responsibility.

You mentioned Hugh as Jean Valjean. What’s it been like to work with him?

I think, with his wonderful outlook and attitude, he is the most gracious person I’ve ever met. And he’s funny and he’s normal and he knows his stuff. He really is the nicest person I have ever met. He’s a great Aussie bloke and a lovely human being. I’d like Hugh Jackman for president, please (laughs). Oh, and did I say he’s the most talented actor? Because I should have. He is so right for this role and he has the most incredible voice.

You have a lot of scenes with Eddie Redmayne…

I’d always known Eddie was good because I’ve seen his films but what I didn’t know is what an incredible voice he has. He is just great. He’s got the chops. And he is so right as Marius because there’s an innocence about him. And it’s a lot of fun doing scenes with Eddie and singing together. And I must say, Sam (Barks) has got the most incredible voice. She had to really fight to get the role of Eponine, which she played in the London stage show. And they were so right to give her the part in the film. She has the most amazing voice. As does Annie. Oh my God, her voice just makes me melt. It’s like butter.

And Anne does play your mother of course. That’s a little odd…

(laughs) It’s weird because Anne is only two or three years older than me. But of course, we are in different parts of the film. I’m Fantine’s grown up daughter. But it’s definitely interesting that Anne Hathaway is playing my mother! (laughs).

Tom Hooper hasn’t directed a musical before. Were you surprised when you heard that he was directing Les Misérables?

Yes I was. But when I had my first audition with him I was like, ‘I get what he’s doing..’ He’s so aware of the music but the acting is the key element and he doesn’t lose sight of that. This is an epic film and he absolutely knows what he wants and he is in control of it for every second. He’s the most amazing director.

“Les Miserables” Now Showing Nationwide released and distributed by United International Pictures through Solar Entertainment Corp.

Rollicking Action-Horror Adventure: Hansel and Gretel – Witch Hunters

Hansel and Gretel Poster

The story picks up 15 years after siblings Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) hatched their escape from a child-snatching witch, who changed their lives forever . . . and gave them a taste for blood. Now they have come of age as fierce, formidably skilled bounty hunters 100% dedicated to tracking and terminating witches in every dark forest — hell-bent on retribution. But as the notorious Blood Moon approaches and a familiar wooded town faces a nightmare for its innocent children, Hansel & Gretel encounter an evil beyond any witch they’ve ever hunted – an evil that could hold the secret to their frightening past.

Rollicking Action-Horror Adventure: Hansel and Gretel – Witch Hunters

The Mayor of Augsburg, Germany recruits them to rid the town and nearby forests of an evil sorceress Muriel (Famke Janssen) who is planning to sacrifice many local children at the witches’ gathering during the upcoming ‘Blood Moon’ night in two days time. To make things worse, the duo also has to deal with the brutal Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare) who has taken power in Augsburg and conducts a very indiscriminate witch-hunt of his own.

Children around the world have long had their bones chilled by the classic fairy tale of Hansel & Gretel, the brother and sister lost in the woods, then ensnared by an icy-hearted witch who cooks and eats children. At the story’s end, the duo foil the witch’s cannibalistic clutches . . . but what happened to them next? That’s what writer/director Tommy Wirkola’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters dares to imagine, tackling the question in all its scary, funny and suspenseful potential. Joining their story as the adult siblings emerge as the most lethal witch hunters ever to stalk the woods, the film turns an ancient fable into a no-holds-barred epic of modern action and adventure.

Immediately, Wirkola saw the makings of a visually ferocious, humor-laced and action-packed experience for 21st Century audiences raised on the tale. As he began writing, he determined he would stay true to the spirit of the original German folk legend — first published back in 1812 by the famed unearthly tale-collectors, The Brothers Grimm — but put no limits on his imagination from there. “I wanted the vibe of the original fairy tale but I also wanted to spice it with all the things I love most in movies – comedy, horror and graphic action.” he summarizes. “A gruesome aura was always there in the original tale, but I brought it to the forefront, while injecting humor. And the story is still about this really strong bond between brother and sister – the way Hansel & Gretel are driven to stick together, no matter what it takes, as they confront evil.”

To take Hansel & Gretel out of the annals of legend and into visceral, contemporary action, Tommy Wirkola knew he would need to find two strong personalities who could morph these characters from legend to real life. The search for a contemporary ideal of how Hansel & Gretel might have turned out – after being raised on dreams of vengeance against the foul wickedness of witches – led to the pairing of Jeremy Renner, Oscar®-nominated for his searing action role as an Iraq War bomb expert in The Hurt Locker and rising British actress Gemma Arterton, whose allure came to the fore when she joined the iconic circle of Bond Girls in Quantum of Solace.

He also found himself wrapped up in what becomes Hansel’s guiding philosophy. “He and Gretel have gone through an amazing tragedy,” Renner observes. “They don’t have parents, witches have tried to eat them and what Hansel has taken away is that you’ve got to take your personal anger and pain and do something good with it.” That philosophy has left Hansel with a dry wit and a devastating way with the weapons needed to go after hard-to-kill witches. For Renner, that meant preparing for some of the most intensive action he’s done yet, and he especially enjoyed Wirkola’s take on how hard-fought and harrowing each of Hansel & Gretel’s battle is against such magically empowered enemies.

“There’s a lot of really arduous action in the film,” Renner notes. “One of the big difference in this movie is that while usually heroes win all their battles, Hansel & Gretel get their butts kicked numerous times. So in a way we had to face getting beat up every day! But we also had a great time. Tommy brought an incredible tone to the whole thing, a mix of serious and funny that I think gives the film the quality of a real adventure.” Arterton, too, was drawn to the twists of the story. “I love the original fairy tale and this starts there, then makes a real departure,” she says. “The film joins up with Hansel & Gretel in the midst of their fame as witch hunters. But it’s also a time when they’re starting to wonder who they are and why these terrible things happened to them – which leads them into a very tense situation.”

Amid all the snowballing tension, Arterton loved the brother-sister dynamic that always stays at the heart of the action, no matter how extreme things get. “The sibling relationship is such a great one to explore,” ayes Arterton. “Hansel & Gretel have this unstoppable bond but they’re also so different from each other. She’s the brains of the operation. He’s the brawn. He’s the joker and the show-off. She’s more the watcher, the researcher, the one who tries to really understand witchcraft. They have to each play to their strengths.”

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, written and directed by Tommy Wirkola, is a Paramount Pictures and Metro Goldwyn Mayer presentation by Gary Sanchez production starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen and Peter Stormare, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. The film is distributed by United International Pictures thru Solar Entertainment Corporation. Showing on January 23 at your favorite theaters and cinemas.