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April 2013

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director's chair Tom Hooper — Les Miserables H By IAIN BLAIR Singing live, and shooting on film. OLLYWOOD — British director Tom Hooper and The King's Speech, his film about the true-life story of the stuttering King George VI and his Aussie speech therapist, swept the Oscars in 2011, with the film winning him Best Director, along with Best Picture and an Oscar for Colin Firth as Best Actor. This year, his latest film Les Miserables, adapted from the beloved Tony-winning Broadway play and based on Victor Hugo's novel, was also a contender for Best Picture, along with Hugh Jackman for Best Actor and Anne Hathaway, who won for Best Suppor ting Actress. Inexplicably though, Hooper (along with Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow) failed to make the cut for Best Director, despite all three having received DGA nominations. The Oxford-educated Hooper got his start shooting commercials and such hit TV shows as Prime Suspect, East Enders, Elizabeth I and John Adams, and who made his feature film debut with the 2004 drama Red Dust. Here, in an exclusive Post interview, he talks about making the film, his love of post and editing, and why the horses had to wear rubber hooves. POST: How would you describe this film and what sort of film did you set out to make? HOOPER: "I wanted to make an intimate epic and tell this extraordinary story that's been around for 150 years and is one of the most adapted stories ever, but tell it through the musical form in a way that caught the essence of the story as best as I could. For me, it's about a man who undergoes two 10 unexpected transformations: first, from being a convict who has hit rock bottom in his life, who's brutalized and criminalized for 19 years, and through an extraordinary act of forgiveness by the bishop has an epiphany, and discovers faith and virtue. So it's about a man given a second chance, who completely trans- also involved a wonderful group of singing teachers and musical directors to help guide the cast through the show. Then on the camera side, it involved shooting multi-camera. It was pretty complex." POST: You certainly didn't make it easy on yourself. So why did you want to do it all live? Tom Hooper (standing) on why he had the actors sing live: "I remember hearing stories about Alan Parker editing Evita and all the problems with trying to keep it in sync." forms and reinvents himself. "The second epiphany has to do with love, and I suppose I wanted to make a film that captured all of that, in a very emotional way, and in a way that felt both period but also contemporary in dealing with all those ideas and themes." POST: What were the biggest challenges of making such an ambitious film? HOOPER: "From the very start I wanted to do it live, with all the singing done live on-set, which posed huge challenges. It was an amazing collaborative effort between all the departments to make it possible. It involved very innovative sound recording from production sound mixer Simon Hayes and his team, and building some exterior sets inside soundstages to protect the quality of the sound. "We built sets with special floorboards that didn't creak, and used rubber paving stones and rubber hooves for the horses to muffle sound, and even carpeting on rooftops to muffle the sound of rain. Then the costume department couldn't use any fabrics like silk that would create too much noise for all the radio mics. And of course it HOOPER: "I felt that actually getting actors to lipsync singing — and very accurately — is just so hard. I remember hearing stories about Alan Parker editing Evita and all the problems with trying to keep it in sync. You can spend your life worrying if it's perfect, so this way I avoided all that completely." POST: Once again you worked with DP Danny Cohen, who shot The King's Speech for you. What did he bring to the mix? HOOPER: "He's a maverick, a bit of a rebel, and he doesn't mind breaking the rules and he doesn't get attached to a certain formula and way of doing things. That approach was essential for this, because when you're shooting multi-camera, which we had to do as we were shooting live scenes with live accompaniment, and the tempo might change a bit from take to take, you need to get all the shots you needed with each take, so you could use one take of singing and get all the shots from that one take. There were big constraints on the way we lit for multi-camera, which he absolutely embraced with enthusiasm, as he always saw the bigger picture of what we were trying to do. So I loved that positivity he brought on set." Post • April 2013 Post0413_010,12-directors chairRAV4FINALREAD.indd 10 3/26/13 7:35 PM

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