"Les Mis" Director 'Astonished' By Film's Effect On Audiences

DGA Award nominee Tom Hooper revels in personal reactions to the blockbuster musical

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried star in the umpteenth adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel about a cop's relentless pursuit of a bread thief. (Published Monday, Dec 16, 2013)

    Director Tom Hooper certainly has nothing to be miserable about.

    The filmmaker’s innovative interpretation of “Les Miserables,” the enduring musical derived from the classic Victor Hugo novel, has been nothing short of a triumph, both commercially – grossing over $314,000,00 worldwide to date – and critically – nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, along with the performances of its already-Golden-Globe-winning stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.

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    Hooper himself is nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures by the Directors Guild of America and as he readies for the Feb. 2 ceremony, he took time during a stop at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to reveal what he’s learned of the effect his film has had on audiences and ponder when he’ll be back behind the camera.

    What's been your take-away so far, from both the reaction from your industry from critics and from the moviegoing audience at large to this film that you labored so hard on now that ?

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    Well, I just continue to be astonished by how it affects people. How it makes grown men cry. How it makes hardened movie executives cry. It just has this ability to connect with people far younger than I thought it would. I mean, I've had amazing responses from six year olds, eight year olds. The fact is, it's such a huge hit around the world. Now 1 in 10 of every single man, woman, and child, baby, in Korea have now seen the film in just four weeks. In Japan, it's a huge hit. In the UK, we're at the third weekend we're the number one film. I'm just humbled by how it makes people feel. That's really down to Victor Hugo in this extraordinary story that he wrote 50 years ago, which just keeps enduring.

    Waht are some of the personal anecdotes that you’ve heard from people who’ve seen the film.

    I have a friend the other day who told me he went to see it. He was quite down and quite depressed. His kids were like going, ‘Can we see 'Les Mis'?’ And he was going, ‘Nah, I don't want to see anything.’ He was having a hard time at work, and then he went to see it with his kids. And he said, ‘It lifted me up out of my downer.’ And I have another friend who lost his father in October, and he went to see it, and I was like, ‘I'm so sorry you had to go see it. It must have been really tough.’ And he said, ‘No, Tom – It made me feel better about my dad. It made me feel closer to my dad.’ I think what it is, it holds a mirror to suffering in our own life and or to those very close to us and somehow processes some of the suffering, and leaves us a bit more open and feeling a little bit better about it.

    And in that sense, it offers that old-fashioned catharsis that stories can sometimes offer. I never saw my role as director as being a social worker, but there is something clearly very special about the story. And maybe, at the end of the novel, I remember this line Victor Hugo wrote where he said, ‘To love or have loved, that is enough. That is the only pearl that can be found in the dark folds of life.’ That message of love is the thing that can navigate you through the dark times, and love is the thing you need to protect in your life. It's a very special thing about the story.

    Are you already circling the next project, or do you have to take a considerable amount of time off before you can start considering things?

    Yeah, I have no idea what I want to do next! I ended up having to work such crazy hours to make this film – literally, every waking hour was spent on this film – so I haven't been reading material. So I need to start, but it's quite fun in a way to start from scratch and work out what to do. And I'm going to take some time off. It was just two of the most intense years of my life, and I think it would be good to take a little holiday.

    Do you think you'll genre switch again? Do you think it will be as far afield from "Les Mis" as that film was from “The King’s Speech?”

    I'd be quite tempted to and warranted to do something very different, but in the end, it's got to be what’s the best story that I can find. And it's always the story that leads me.