STAGE TO SCREENS: Aaron Tveit, Atop the Barricades in the Les Miz Movie

By Harry Haun
25 Dec 2012

Tveit in Catch Me If You Can.
Photo by Joan Marcus
Whether on stage or on screen, Aaron Tveit is a good-luck co-star to have around. People tend to win prizes in close proximity to him. In the two Broadway shows he originated and was their driving force, a Tony nomination eluded him personally, but the actual award did go to Alice Ripley, his radically unraveling mom in Next to Normal, and to Norbert Leo Butz, an FBI version of Javert who evolves into a father figure in Catch Me If You Can. Tveit's consolation prize, however, was pretty neat: the Clarence Derwent Award from the Actors' Equity Association for Normal.

Happily, "awards are not something that I measure my work by. I've been so fortunate and I've gotten to do such terrific things that it seems petty to look back and say, 'Oh, I should have gotten that prize.' I don't look at it that way. In the moment, of course, there is, I think, some disappointment just because of all the stuff that swirls around the shows during that time of year. Really, I've been so blessed it's hard to look back and think anything but that, so I have no disappointments."

Plus, he can content himself with the ensemble awards "Les Miz" picked up from the National Board of Review and from the critics of San Diego and Washington, DC, but the loudest Oscar buzz has been generated by his co-stars: Hugh Jackman (Valjean), Russell Crowe (Javert), Anne Hathaway (Fantine) and Eddie Redmayne (Marius).

Tveit and Eddie Redmayne in "Les Misérables."
Universal Pictures

Truth to tell, the movie Enjolras is a tad diminished from his stage facsimile, who had the whole barricade to himself to chew on. Here, as in the novel, he must share it with Marius, his best bud who helps him organize the students into revolt but then abruptly short-circuits into an amorous relationship with Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), leaving Enjolras pretty much holding the revolution all by himself.

"This is something [director] Tom Hooper, Eddie Redmayne and I worked really hard on, trying to flesh out these real characters and tell the story in a more honest way. On stage, you get to suspend a little more disbelief, but, on film, you have to tell it in a very realistic fashion. Marius and Enjolras have been friends for a very, very long time — this, again, is using Hugo's novel as our bible — and, in the novel, Marius and Enjolras are very much together leading this group of guys until Marius goes off on a tangent with Cosette. It's the first time I've seen that in Marius. Usually, he's right there standing with me, fire in his heart, ready to fight — but, instead, he's going off at what just happens to be the most critical moment we ever faced, his head in the clouds, falling in love, and that creates a much more interesting conflict, I think."

Like the dutiful actor, Tveit returned to the roots of the story — the unabridged Victor Hugo, if you please. "It was tremendously long, but what was great was you not only got this amazing fictional story he's telling, but also after a few chapters he digresses into what was really happening in Paris and around France at the time of the story so it gives you all this historical context to his story. It's a fully fleshed-out world."