Eddie Redmayne on taking on the coveted role of Marius in Les Miserables

Dec 24, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. ET

Eddie Redmayne received film acclaim last year co-starring alongside Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn. Now he reveals to SheKnows what it was like to fall in love at first sight with Amanda Seyfried's Cosette and be carried through the mud on the back of Hugh Jackman.

Eddie Redmayne

Eddie Redmayne may be new to film musicals and you may not have known he was a singer, but he is definitely not new to the stage or to the big screen. Starring in various productions in London, Eddie got his biggest recognition last year when he starred opposite Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn.

Now just a year later, he is sharing the big screen with more powerhouse actors like Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried in Les Miserables.

SheKnows sat down with the talented Brit to find out what it was like to bring the famed role of Marius to the big screen, what role in the story he always wanted and what it was really like to be carried on the back of Hugh's Jean Valjean.

SheKnows: Were you a fan of the musical before this film?

Eddie Redmayne: I saw it when I was seven. I wanted to be Gavroche when I was a kid, the idea of being a part of it was beyond imagination. So when we saw the film for the first time and I saw it with Samantha [Barks, Eponine] and Amanda [Seyfried, Cosette], we are as big fans as anyone.

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SK: Did you ever think you would play Marius?

ER: Tom [Hooper, the director] wanted a young 17-year-old, so I started auditioning for Enjolras and did a bit of Marius. I never thought I would get Marius. Then I had to put my actor hat on and find how I am going to play this. On stage, the problem with Marius is that all these people are dying for him. He is just wandering through it, you just need something to grab onto. So we put more moments in the film to make him more complicated. He is not just a hero, he is a damaged human being.

SK: What did you think when all the big names were cast?

ER: Exciting. When I was auditioning for it, I knew that Hugh was doing it and I knew Annie [Fantine] was doing it. I was cast early on and then I auditioned Samantha and Amanda for chemistry tests. Of course, it was an intimidating group. When we arrived on day one, we had all been through this hard-core auditioning process. None of us knew what we were doing. We knew what the process was going to be of singing live, but what was the best way at making that work was new to all of us. Everyone was so supportive of each other, and I would go up to Hugh and Russell [Javert] and ask for advice and we would find ways to help each other.

SK: The whole cast seems like they got so close while making the movie?

ER: A lot of films, people come for a week here or there, and the director has to adhere to how an actor works because they are only there for a little bit. It was more like in theater, you have a big rehearsal process, so it’s more ensemble-based. We had nine weeks on this and also this idea of all of us helping with each other. It was great.

SK: After My Week With Marilyn, you got Les Miserables, two great movies for you. Are you shocked to have such great films on top of each other?

ER: I feel very lucky. There are some films that you think are wonderful, but don’t hit an audience or don’t find a place in the world. Les Miserables has something that appeals to you and your mom and me as a 7-year-old. It deals with this idea of redemption and starting to change the world by loving the person next to you. It deals with the emotion of humanity and watching it with an audience, there is that cathartic thing that comes with seeing it with people. If we just take it one day at a time, we can do something.

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SK: Do you think there is a strong message for women with this story with all the struggles with Fantine and Eponine?

ER: I never thought about whether it is stronger for women or men. I think it deals with motherhood, fatherhood. It certainly does have a strong female message. I certainly learned a lot with Marius’ character.

SK: Do you believe in love at first sight like with Marius and Cosette?

ER: I believe in the notion of love. That is what excited about doing this on film. In the book, he sees her and he pursues her for seven months. I never believed in love at first sight with Romeo and Juliet on stage until I saw the film where they look at each other through a fish tank. So I got excited that it could work better on film. It is a strong conceit, his world changes in a look.

SK: It was such a big cast, unlike with Marilyn. Was it more difficult to work on?

ER: It came with a load of challenges and a lot of those were technical and emotional. The stakes are so high. I thought with Marilyn, it was so different, because Michelle was playing someone so different from herself. I went to Eaton, I was playing this young English guy. I find the more close it is to yourself, the more difficult it is. I found Marilyn really challenging. Compared to what she and Kenneth [Branagh] were doing, I didn’t have a leg to stand on. This one as far as muscle-acting wise, I think it was the most challenging.

SK: Hugh carries you through a dirty sewer in the film. What was that gross stuff and was he really carrying you?

ER: It was horrid. You have a wetsuit on under your costume. It’s freezing cold water with clay and mud in it. It was rank. It got to a point after 15 hours of shooting, where you get so cold. There was a bit where I am lying dead and Sacha [Baron Cohen, Thernardier] comes and steals my ring and we’ve been in there for eight hours, and Tom was like, "Eddie, you have to stop shaking." I’m like, "I can’t control my body." That being said, I just had to lie there dead, Hugh had to carry me. Anything I can complain about, it feels like nothing compared to what Hugh had to do.

SK: So I bet you bonded after that scene?

ER: Yes, that was our last scene, the last scene we shot. I think Hugh’s great. My girlfriend was like, "You got carried by Hugh Jackman!" He was wonderful to work with.

Les Miserables hits theaters on Christmas Day. What are you most looking forward to about the movie?

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