Hugh Jackman in ‘Les Miserables’

Eye on the Oscars: The Actor - Best Actor Contender

Devotees of “Les Miserables” will experience something never before seen or heard on stage or on film in Hugh Jackman’s performance of Jean Valjean.

Jackman sings a new song called “Suddenly,” written and composed by the original composers of the musical, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, when he meets the young Cosette for the first time.

The Australian-born performer went after the role of Valjean in the vaunted musical with a vengeance. He even met with director Tom Hooper before the helmer officially signed on to the project.

“I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime and I don’t know that I’ve ever been as forward in pursuing a role,” Jackman says. He went in for what turned out to be a three-hour audition with Hooper, who, he says, brings fresh eyes to the musical theater adaptation.

In researching the character, Jackman perused the original source material, Victor Hugo’s 1,500-page novel, which he says provided him every bit of backstory and thought process. He also traveled throughout France for a month with his family, noting that every town seemed to have an Avenue Victor Hugo as its main street.

“Even though the musical emanated from England, we knew it was important not to have an English sensibility,” Jackman says. “It needs to feel French. The Victor Hugo class system is a lot different than the English class system and the French are more in your face, by hugging and embracing.”

Of singing live on film from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. during production, Jackman says the role demanded everything of him.

“I tried to approach it from a place of truth and humanity.”

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