One Song More! Les Miz Film Will Have New Song and Live Singing; Cameron Mackintosh Reveals All

By Kenneth Jones
February 8, 2012

Les Misérables producer Cameron Mackintosh confirmed that the in-production film version of the epic Victor Hugo-inspired musical will feature a new song for Jean Valjean, the hero played by Hugh Jackman.



The actor Tweeted on Feb. 7 that he was honored to be learning the new song with composer Claude-Michel Schönberg. When stage and screen star Jackman uses Twitter, fans listen.

"Well, he did warn us he was going to Tweet," Mackintosh told Playbill.com on Feb. 8. "He didn't hear the song until yesterday when he went through it with Claude-Michel."

Written by the stage hit's original songwriting team of Schönberg, Alain Boublil and lyricist Herbert Kretzmer, the new number is called "Suddenly," the producer revealed.

"It's a really lovely new song," Mackintosh said by telephone from London, where the film, directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper, is in rehearsal before shooting starts in March. "It was something that Alain and Claude-Michel came up with, after a passage in the book, which beautifully explains what happens when [Valjean] takes Cosette from the inn and looks after her. Herbie's written a lovely lyric to it, and we're all delighted how it seems to fit into the film version.

"The whole thing has been written by Alain and Claude-Michel in the same way they've worked with Herbie on the original score — I think rather religiously. They've gone back to their working methods of 30 years ago!"

When asked if there might be an additional original song played over the closing credits, Mackintosh said with a laugh, "No, no. The one thing you don't have to worry about [with] Les Miz is there are enough tunes! I mean, we're going to have great fun compiling reprises — all of the songs — that we want to put over the credits, which I'm sure will be endless."

The producer confirmed the accuracy of reports that the vocals for the film would be sung live rather than dubbed. Most of the 1986 stage musical is sung-through, so dubbing would be a chore.

Mackintosh explained, "We're doing something which has not been done before on this scale. There is a huge amount of music and a huge amount of singing in Les Misérables; you can't get the performances except through the voice. The whole thing that we have to achieve with the movie is that we tell a story through music. It's a film story we're telling. Therefore, we need to take the audience into that world.

"One of the things that impressed me about [director] Tom [Hooper] when he first showed his interest in being the director of the movie is that he both embraced the score and also wanted to create live sound, and get the excitement of the performance and the depth that you only get…by recording it live. Over the last four or five years, technology has moved so far that it is now something that is possible to try. I'm sure we're going to learn a lot on the way, but we're all up for that adventure."

Like the refreshed 25th anniversary U.K. production and current U.S. national tour of Les Miz, the film will be sung with an emphasis on of-the-moment naturalistic acting.

"Tom is going to take that approach in his own way with the movie," Mackintosh said. "The very fact that it is a movie — it has a degree of realism, which the stage doesn't require. We have to make the audience absolutely believe in the way that we're telling the story. Live performance — with live thoughts that happen to be sung — is very much part of what we need to do to [credibly tell the story]. We have a fantastic cast; many of them are drawn either from the musical theatre or can sing in a way that music is second nature to the way that they act. That's why we're all very excited about the adventure that we're entering."

The live singing is also practical. He added, "You don't have any option with a musical like this because if you don't create the performances within the music, and use the music to tell the story through the lyrics, there isn't anything else. It's not great acres of book to establish the drama, so it is through the music and lyrics. And, Herbie Kretzmer's lyrics are marvelous, and they can be spoken in many different ways."

Here's Playbill's most recent story about the casting of the "Les Miz" film.