Monday night brought the very lavish, wild premiere for “Les Miserables” to New York’s Ziegfeld Theater. By the time we got a very crowded corner of the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art for the swanky after party, Hugh Jackman’s wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, surveyed the room. We saw Hugh about 20 feet away, swarmed by adoring fans. “Hugh doesn’t even realize how big this is going to be,” Furness said in her lilting Australian accent. “It’s only just dawned on me.”
Indeed, Universal Pictures is pulling out all the stops for “Les Miz,” directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper. There was a London premiere, and there will be one in Hollywood. Today, there’s a massive, elegant lunch for the cast and crew. Tonight, Jackman is honored by the Museum of the Moving Image. Anyone vaguely connected to the film will be there, too.
Last night, I sat with the audience through my second screening. Jon Bon Jovi and wife Dorothea were there–she’s a huge fan of the musical. “Raging Bull” star Cathy Moriarty couldn’t get enough of it. Richard Kind was over the top, as were Zach Brafman and a dozen or more celebs who braved the annoying rain. By the time the night was over I’d had long talks with ecstatic execs like Ron Meyer, Donna Langley, Adam Fogelson, and Eric Fellner. Plus, there was Hugh and Debora, Anne Hathaway, her family and husband Adam Schulman; Sacha Baron Cohen, who nearly steals the movie with Helena Bonham Carter; and the amazing Samantha Barks who’s only 22 and is poised to become a huge Broadway star. Next year, Cameron McKintosh told me, he’d like to bring Barks here in “Oliver!” She’s about to open it under his banner in Dublin.
About three quarters of the way through the movie, I ran out to take a bathroom break. Coming from the opposite end of the theater was Barks, who was wearing a long gown. I’d never met her before. “I’m barefoot,” she cried and pulled up her satin dress. “What a way to meet someone!” She is absolutely a star in waiting. I told her she should play Linda Ronstadt in the famed singer’s story. “Who’s that?” she asked. She’s a Brit, remember, and she’s 22. By now she’s memorizing “Heart Like a Wheel.”
“Les Miz” is the kind of Hollywood production audiences are hungry for–it’s massive, it’s romantic, it’s deep, and it’s never boring. You leave the theatre singing all the songs. Anne Hathaway takes your breath away when she sings “I Dreamed a Dream.” The audience started cheering almost before it was over. For Hugh Jackman, forget Wolverine or the Boy from Oz. This is performance of a lifetime. I asked him how he got the hollow cheeks in the beginning of the film. “It’s a horrible diet,” he admitted. “Don’t try it.” Deborra-Lee added: “It’s a lot of liquids.”
And just in case you wondered: Jackman plays Jean Valjean, who sounds like he already got an Oscar this year. That was Jean Dujardin. Very similar, but not the same. Hugh Jackman is heading to the Oscar finalist list, with Daniel Day Lewis, Bradley Cooper, Denzel Washington and, I think, either Christoph Waltz or Joaquin Phoenix.