Les Misérables is set to be an amazing film – but it certainly isn’t a simple one. If you have struggled to make sense of the complicated cast of characters, catch up with our easy guide before the film is released. Minor spoilers ahead.
If you have never seen the musical, it can be difficult to keep track of the huge list of characters – particularly in such a star-studded cast. As beautiful and atmospheric as the trailers have been, a non-fan could easily be lost in the distinct lack of plot, and confused as to which Hollywood star is the star of the film.
Never fear, you’ll soon be overanalysing with the rest of us – just read through our handy guide to the cast and characters, and you’ll be on your way to a true Les Misérables obsession (it’s a good thing, trust us).
Check out our visual character guide, and then scroll down for more in-depth analysis of the characters and actors.
Meet the protagonist of our story and all-round good guy – this is the man to keep your eye on. Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who has finally been released after serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. After realizing that in the eyes of the public, he will always be a criminal, he decides to break parole and start afresh, with a new name and a new look (and some help from a friendly Bishop). And then he has a fairly eventful life, some things happen to him as he tries to flee from his past, but we won’t spoil it for you.
Honestly, if you haven’t seen this man sing in a film or on stage we suggest you climb out from that rock you’ve been nesting under. A genuine triple threat (singer, dancer, actor, eye-candy…make that a quadruple threat), he won a Tony Award for his performance in The Boy from Oz, as well as having hosted the Tonys three times and the Oscars once. That said, despite his fancy footwork Jackman will still have to pull out all the stops to play this musically and emotionally challenging role. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do.
Inspector Javert is the big bad of Les Misérables. He is the policeman who first released Valjean, and when JVJ breaks his parole Javert becomes obsessed with finding him. Really obsessed. You’d be surprised, thinking maybe he has other things to do, but nope. He has a firm belief that people are unable to change, and that Valjean will always be a criminal and therefore deserves to be brought to justice. Basically, he’s kind of like a crazy stalker, the kind that makes the object of their attention go into a witness protection program.
Russell Crowe began his career as a musician, and has performed both as a solo artist and in various bands, beginning in the 1980s. He has released several albums through these many projects, as well as appearing in productions of Blood Brothers, Grease and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Crowe’s distinct vocal style and lack of conventional musical theatre training indicate that this will be a slightly different interpretation of Javert, who is usually sung in a more classical style. Then again, with the live-singing approach they are taking, this may work perfectly.
Fantine is a worker employed in a factory owned by the new-and-improved-artist-formerly-known-as-Valjean. She is also single mother to daughter Cosette, and when she is fired from her job she turns to prostitution to continue to pay the Thénardiers, who she pays to house and raise Cosette. As you may have been able to tell from Anne Hathaway’s general facial expressions in the trailer, and tell-tale V for Vendetta shaved head, she is the tragic figure of the story,
and prime Oscar bait.
Hathaway may not have popped up on Glee yet, but if you look closely enough she can be found on the soundtracks for Ella Enchanted, Hoodwinked and Rio. Still, these being not the most popular of films, she has slipped under the radar, and so many were surprised when she jumped up on stage to sing with co-star Hugh Jackman in the opening of the 2009 Oscars. But the girl really can sing, and based off the trailers and scenes released it looks like we will be getting a very emotional performance from her.
Like we said, Oscar bait.
Cosette is the daughter of Fantine, and was raised by the Thénardiers along with their daughter Éponine, who is her age. Instead of raising her according to her mother’s wishes, they gave her the ‘Cupboard under the stairs’ treatment, forcing her to work for them and generally being nasty and abusive. She is eventually adopted by Valjean, and blossoms under his care and protection. As these things tend to go, she grows up to be absolutely stunning, and falls in love with Marius, and sings about her love. Often.
Seyfried has taken the more obviously musical route through her star role in Mamma Mia!, so most of us have already heard her sing, and she isn’t bad at all. Further proving her musical cred, she sang on TV show Big Love, wrote and recorded songs for Dear John, and performed a cover song on the Little Red Riding soundtrack. In addition, Seyfried went all Anne Hathaway on us and performed at the Oscars. Her sweet and clear soprano voice should suit this role wonderfully.
Marius is a member of ‘Friends of ABC’, a group of students who are agitating for a revolution. He is close friends with Enjolras, the leader of the group, but is not as passionate about the cause as some of his peers. Despite his obvious wealth, he is also friends with Éponine, a girl who lives on the streets. He is blind to Éponine love for him, and instead falls in love with Cosette. As is fairly predictable, relationship drama and long-triangles ensue.
Eddie Redmayne is primarily a stage actor, and so sadly we haven’t been treated to much of his singing as yet. His theatre credentials are decidedly impressive, having won both an Olivier and a Tony for his performance in the West End and Broadway productions of Red. On the musical side, while studying at Eton College he was a soloist in the Eton College Choir. Based off those performances (you can find them on youtube), and what we have seen of his performance, we have no idea how he managed to avoid musicals so long, but he certainly won’t be able to after this.
Éponine is daughter of the Thénardiers, she grew up with Cosette, who she treated poorly as her parents did (a bit of ‘Dudley syndrome’ here). Her family ends up on the streets, where Éponine has to fend for herself and befriends and falls in love with Marius. Éponine comprises the last point of the Les Misérables love triangle, although as both Cosette and Marius are completely ignorant to her feelings, it’s not so much a triangle and a depressed emo ‘walking around in the rain and singing ballads’ mess.
Samantha Barks was a contestant on talent show I’d Do Anything, a search for a new West End leading lady, in which she came third. Since then Barks has appeared in numerous productions in the United Kingdom, including Cabaret and Oliver! Most importantly, Barks played Éponine in the West End production of Les Mis for a year, and was honoured by being asked to perform the highly coveted role in the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables. Having seen her in the West End production, this writer can attest that she is brilliant and the perfect choice.
Thénardier and his wife Madame Thénardier are the reprehensible and unscrupulous villains of the musical – as well as acting as the comedic relief. The Thénardiers are out to get whatever they can, and look out for themselves and themselves alone (and we mean just the two of them, they certainly don’t look out for Éponine). For a while, Thénardier runs a small inn with his wife, where they raise their daughter Éponine and mistreat their ward Cossette. The family ends up on the streets, where they survive through thievery.
Sacha Baron Cohen has never shied away from singing when in character, see his performances as Ali G, Borat, Bruno and Admiral General Aladeen. However his portrayal of Pirelli in the Sweeney Todd film was the first time he proved that he had a real vocal ability. Helena Bonham Carter also proved her singing skills in Sweeney Todd as Mrs Lovett. Neither role in Les Mis requires a huge vocal range, so both actors have the skills to cover it. Expect a heavily comedic performance from this duo.
Enjolras is a student and the leader of the student protest group ‘Friends of the ABC’. He is dedicated solely and entirely to the cause of the revolution, he believes it is his duty to fight on behalf of those living who cannot, and who live in poverty and fear. He convinces his friends to fight in the revolution, and is also a close friend to Marius, who he attempts to persuade to commit himself to the cause.
Aaron Tveit is musical theatre stalwart, having starred in numerous shows including Hairspray, Rent and Wicked. Theatre fans will know him best from his starring role in Next to Normal. He is highly regarded and has often been recognized critically – for his performance in Catch Me If You Can he was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Drama League Award and the Fred Astaire Award for Best Male Dancer on Broadway. Needless to say, we all have nothing to worry about when it comes to Tveit’s performance.
With not long to go now, if you need a Les Misérables fix, make sure to re-watch the first trailer and the international trailer. If you love the inside scoop, you can also check out these behind-the-scenes interviews with Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman.
Did you hear that an original song has been composed for the film, specifically for Hugh Jackman? And if you’re wondering why we checked that all these people could actually sing, remember that this film is taking the bold and unprecedented step of recording all vocals live on set. If you don’t mind spoilers, see the entire cast singing the ensemble number “One Day More”, have a peak at Jackman and Crowe singing their duet, “The Confrontation”, and watch these 5 clips recently released.
Les Misérables will be released in America on 25 December 2012, in Australia on 26 December 2012 and in the United Kingdom on 11 January 2013.