Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne up to demands of ‘Les Mis’
BY HEDY WEISS Theater Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org December 26, 2012 3:58PM
Actors Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks attend the premiere for "Les Miserables" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Updated: December 26, 2012 3:58PM
How do you find your place alongside such established stars as Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway?
As it happens, two of the younger actors in the cast of “Les Miserables” — Eddie Redmayne, who plays Marius, the young revolutionary from a wealthy family, and Samantha Barks who is Eponine, the street-wise daughter of the low-life Thenardiers who is madly in (unrequited) love with Marius — hold their own very well. Both are experienced stage actors, and both are talkative.
The wiry Redmayne is a boyish 30 with a gaunt face, unusually full lips and olive-green eyes. Before being cast in the film he had won both an Olivier Award and Tony Award for his portrayal of a studio assistant to painter Mark Rothko (played by Alfred Molina) in the London and Broadway editions of John Logan’s play, “Red.”
The tall, effusive, raven-haired, 22-year-old Barks (who came to an early morning interview looking sleek in black leather pants and towering heels), grew up on the Isle of Man and headed to London on her own at age 16. In 2008, after competing (and coming in third) on “I’d Do Anything,” the televised search for a new, unknown lead to play Nancy in a West End revival of “Oliver!,” Barks was championed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. She would go on to play Sally Bowles in the U.K. tour of “Cabaret,”and then star as Eponine in the London production of “Les Miserables.” She was later handpicked by producer Cameron Mackintosh to sing the role in the 25th Anniversary Concert of “Les Mis.” Nevertheless, she had to endure 15 weeks of “going in and out of auditions” to nail the film job.
“This movie was a real test,” said Redmayne. “In the theater you do a maximum of two performances a day, while shooting a film you have to be ready to sing from 5 a.m. until late into the night. And for poor Samantha it was even worse. SHE had to do multiple takes singing her big number in freezing cold rain.”
“Everyone on the set was neurotic about staying healthy, devouring huge amounts of lemon and honey, Vitamin C and Chinese medicines,” said Barks. “The real challenge was making the shift from projecting my voice and emotions in a 2000-seat theater to working at a distance of two inches. But I just adored playing this lovable, awkward, self-loathing girl who has been raised with such a twisted morality, yet who, despite a broken heart, acts on what she knows is for the greater good.”
While “Les Mis” marks Barks’ film debut, it is Redmayne’s first “musical on film.”
“My only stage experience in musicals dated back 20 years to when I played the ‘27th urchin on the left’ in Sam Mendes’ production of ‘Oliver!’ — unless you count a high school production of ‘Cabaret’,” saidRedmayne, who spent many months prior to the start of shooting working with a vocal coach. “I think all of the actors in this film fought to get their roles, and were passionate about them,. The result was a great ensemble that really helped each other out at every turn.”