Hugh Gets a Song “Tailored Specifically to his Voice”

The Daily Telegraph recently posted an article all about the new and original song, “Suddenly,” to be featured in the upcoming Les Misérables movie-musical. There’s a lot more information on the song, including the subject matter and even a short line from the lyrics. Lyricist Alain Boublil and composer Claude-Michel Schonberg visited Hugh Jackman during his Back on Broadway run to know exactly what kind of voice they’d be writing for. Check it all out below:

Hugh Jackman has received one of the greatest honours in musical theatre. Not another Tony, a Drama Desk, or a Laurence Olivier, but a song. Not just any song, but his own song; written by the creators of the Les Miserables stage show, tailored specifically to his voice, for inclusion in a film that could change big screen musicals forever.

And he is finally ready to reveal its subject.

Jackman drops down into the interview chair at Pinewood Studios, straight from the gym and still in his tracksuit and trainers. Though he is looking better fed now, he had to shed 14kg to sculpt his character Jean Valjean’s tortured convict physique in the initial scenes of the Les Miserables shoot.

He has since regained 11 of those kilos and aged considerably; his hair is tinged with grey.

It is this incarnation of Valjean, by now a prosperous but charitable mayor, who sings the much-anticipated new solo created by Les Mis lyricist Alain Boublil and composer Claude-Michel Schonberg.

They watched Jackman’s one-man show on Broadway before putting pen to paper.

“It’s kind of an amazing honour they came to see the show and I was singing for 2 1/2 hours so they saw every possible colour of my voice and they said ‘right, now we’re going to write it for you,'” Jackman, 44, says. “I’ll do my best not to screw it up.”

He leans forward and tells in excited tones how the song reveals the inner emotions of the kind-hearted Valjean when he first meets Cossette (played by Amanda Seyfried) the orphaned daughter of the prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway).

Valjean fulfils a promise to take her under his wing after rescuing her from an abusive foster family. The Victor Hugo novel on which the musical is based describes how he suddenly finds himself overcome with a new emotion.

“Meeting Cossette is the first time he’s ever experienced love,” Jackman explains. “It’s the most beautiful passage, because he says he never knew the love of a mother, a father, of brothers or sisters and vice versa, never loved anyone. So he meets this little girl who’s in his care, he experiences this flood of emotion that for a 50-year-old man has never occurred. It’s a pretty amazing invention of Victor Hugo and it’s never really been dealt with in the stage musical.”

For Schonberg, the song’s sentiment is best summed-up by the line from the original text that inspired it. “There is a wonderful line by Victor Hugo where he says that two unhappy persons together can create one happy person,” he says.

Lyricist Boublil brought this feeling to life with the lyric, “two hearts can beat as one.”

During a quiet moment on the set, a rain-soaked 19th century Parisian street producer Debra Heyward describes Jackman’s delivery of the heart-wrenching words as “absolutely amazing”.

“He deserves 50 Oscars for what he’s done already,” she says, only half joking.

Director Tom Hooper made the courageous decision to record all vocals live, instead of using the standard safe option of pre-recording and having his actors mime. If the cast pull it off they will be leading a revolution in the musical film world.

Jackman acknowledges that it is not unusual to do 23 takes for one song in this brave new world, but the result is unmatched authenticity.

He recalls the first scenes he shot high in mountains in the south of France: “It was below zero, it was very windy, singing live, you can see the steam, you can hear the cold in my voice. I was literally freezing. To be doing that miming, that is a whole different thing.”

Cameron Mackintosh, the musical theatre producer who brought Les Miserables to London in 1985 and is co-producing the film, initially thought that Jackman would play the part of Inspector Javert, the policeman who tirelessly pursues Valjean after recognising him as a prison escapee.

But it became apparent that the X-Men star, whose philanthropic passions include battling poverty and disease, better embodied the spirit of the story’s hero. The role of bad cop went to Russell Crowe.