Eye on the Oscars: The Actor - Supporting Actor Contender

After his Oscar-winning turn in “Gladiator,” Russell Crowe is no stranger to swordplay.

That skill came in handy for his role as Inspector Javert in “Les Miserables,” the nemesis of Jean Valjean. But much more than that, it was his not as-well-recognized vocal chops that earned Crowe the part.

“Javert is a formidable character who drives on in the quest for justice and righteousness and, ultimately, the law,” says producer Eric Fellner, who claims Crowe was the only one considered. “He’s great in the role. He’s fantastic and you’ll be incredibly surprised at how brilliant he is vocally.”

Crowe does have strong musical roots. He was the lead singer in the band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts back in Australia in the 1980s and has sung steadily since.

A taste of his musical prowess was revealed in the international trailer as Crowe squares off with Hugh Jackman as Valjean and other cast members in “One Day More.”

“Russell is masterful,” says Anne Hathaway, who stars as Fantine. “He walked on and it was like watching a racehorse. He knew exactly what he was doing. I’ve never seen anyone work harder and travel so much distance. He sounds beautiful and is perfect for the character.”

Adds Fellner, who previously worked with Crowe in 2009’s “State of Play”: “Russell is incredibly diligent and incisive, and asks 100,000 questions to ensure everything he presents has an honesty and reality to it.”

“The thing that surprised me most is his tenderness and sense of fun,” says Hathaway of their first time working together. “I think I was expecting 24/7 intensity and drama. He had Friday night sing-alongs around the piano at his apartment. He was crucial in the bonding of the cast. It was beyond to watch.”

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