The Easy Way? Or the Right Way? Les Miserables

By Shlomo   Maital    

Hugh Jackman 

 Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables   

   Innovators search for new options, new ways to do things. In this choice, there is often the tough dilemma between the old acceptable way to do things, and the right way, which is risky, difficult, challenging ..and superb.   Take for instance, Les Miserables.  The Victor Hugo five-volume novel, with the gripping tale of Jean Valjean, was a surprisingly successful musical, starting in 1987 and enjoying global success, despite the critics.  After a very long time, it has finally become a movie, to be released at Christmas.  The star is Hugh Jackman.  The director is Tom Hooper.

  One of the innovations of this risky undertaking (the age of the musical film was thought to have ended in the 1950’s) is that the singers actually sing the songs, in real time, rather than have them dubbed in later, after mouthing the words on film.  This is done by having a tiny radio earpiece in, for instance, Jackman’s ear, with a piano accompaniment.  It is the orchestra that is later dubbed behind the voice, rather than having the voice dubbed. 

    Jackman told the CBS program Sixty Minutes that singing in real time was crucial.  It greatly improved the acting, he felt. 

     Other filmed musicals have taken the easy route of dubbing.  The director of Les Miserables, Tom Hooper (who also directed The King’s Speech)  insisted on having the singers sing their songs in real time, while filming.  Watching Jackman, in short segments shown on Sixty Minutes, I was convinced that the innovation of singing the songs in real time was important, giving the actors real conviction and emotion.

     Often, innovative choices involve the old way, the easy way, and the hard, risky, right way.  Pick the latter, no matter what.  Even if you fail, you know you’ve tried your best.