Almost any critic who has seen Tom Hooper’s big-screen adaptation of “Les Miserables” will tell you that Anne Hathaway has it in the bag — an Oscar, that is. Having already scored a Golden Globe nod for her portrayal of Fantine — a young factory worker who is forced into prostitution in order to support her daughter — Hathaway is poised to win big during awards season.
And the recognition is well-earned. Hathaway spent months practicing crying while singing. Because each of the actors’ singing performances were recorded live on set, it was a particular trick to hold a note while sobbing. But learning the realities of the kind of sexual slavery that her character endures gave Hathaway the weight and depth she needed to pull it off.
“In my case, there’s no way that I could relate to what my character was going through. I have a very successful, happy life,” she says. “What I did was I tried to get inside the reality of her story as it exists in our world. … So every day that I was her I just thought, this isn’t an invention, this isn’t me acting, this is me honoring that this pain lives in this world.”
To take it a step further, Hathaway also volunteered to have her hair shorn off with a blade, live on-camera, for the scene in which her character sells her locks for money.
“I thought doing it for real might raise the stakes a bit for the character,” she says. “I guess in the back of my mind I thought if it was a painful experience watching your hair cut, then watching your teeth get pulled — it’d be really painful. And then of course when she becomes a prostitute, I just thought [the audience] is going to be alongside her. And as an actor, it was great to be able to authentically communicate a physical transformation.”
Co-star Hugh Jackman has another recollection of the hair-cutting scene: “I remember Annie saying, ‘Now, by the way, if you end up cutting my scalp and there’s blood, fantastic, let’s go for it!’ ... And I put up my hand and I said, “For the record, I would like make-up — thanks guys.”