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Stars of original Les Miserables get an encore as they join the cast of new big screen remake
By Baz Bamigboye
Last updated at 11:20 PM on 26th January 2012
The original stars of the stage version of musical Les Miserables will join Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe in the big-screen version, which begins rehearsals on Monday.
Colm Wilkinson, who was the first Jean Valjean, and Frances Ruffelle, who created the part of Eponine, have been given feature roles in the movie.
Wilkinson will play the Bishop of Digne. ‘He shows Valjean the road ahead, after Valjean has robbed him of silver candlesticks,’ says Cameron Mackintosh, who produced the musical on stage and who is also involved with Working Title and Universal in making the picture, which Oscar-winner Tom Hooper will direct.
‘“I have bought your soul for God!” the bishop says to Valjean — and it’s a beautiful moment,’ Cameron told me.
Wilkinson, who played Valjean in London and on Broadway, said that as he takes on the role of the bishop, his journey with Les Miserables has ended ‘and I have come full circle’.
Cameron also revealed that Ruffelle will play ‘the most fabulous whore’ in the movie, and while she won’t have a song of her own, she will be part of the group of prostitutes who sing the number Lovely Ladies.
Some 27 years after Les Miserables was first staged at the Barbican, the show is still running — now at the Queens in the West End.
Cameron noted that Alan Parker was going to direct a movie of it 23 years ago but, for various reasons, it didn’t work out.
‘The gods have made the timing right, in that we now have the perfect Jean Valjean in Hugh, and the whole feeling about musicals has changed,’ he told me.
The way they were: Frances Ruffelle (right) and Colm Wilkinson (left) with the show's producer Cameron Mackintosh in the middle
Hooper has already spent three weeks working with Jackman on his characterisation.
The director will be in Los Angeles for this weekend’s Director’s Guild awards before heading back to London to take charge of rehearsals at Pinewood studios next week, where he will work with his cast for seven weeks.
Russell Crowe, playing Inspector Javert, will also be arriving next week, along with Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette) and Aaron Tveit (Enjolras).
Other key roles are still in negotiation.
The stage show had 28 actors playing a variety of roles, but the film, Cameron told me, will have scores of parts for West End performers.
‘It’s the same as when the musical Oliver! was being made and dozens — probably hundreds — of people from London stage shows took part,’ Cameron said.
Filming of the script by William Nicholson, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg will be done at Pinewood, with some scenes shot on location in the UK. There’s also talk of some filming being done in France.