Anne Hathaway reportedly blew everyone away at her audition, leaving them in tears.
Coincidentally, Anne Hathaway sang with Hugh Jackman at the Academy Awards (twice). The second time, Hathaway was hosting and sang 'On My Own' to Jackman because Jackman refused to sing with her. Later, Jackman was cast in this movie and he suggested Hathaway as Fantine. She was later cast.
Colm Wilkinson, playing the Bishop of Digne, originated the role of Jean Valjean in both the London and New York stage productions.
Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen (The Thenardiers) have co-starred before in another musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Anne Hathaway actually cut her hair very short for this movie, in a scene where her character sells her hair.
Hugh Jackman lost considerable weight and grew a real scraggly beard for scenes of Valjean as a prisoner, though mercifully they were shot first in production and he could shave and return to his usual weight for scenes playing Valjean as a wealthy man.
Amanda Seyfried said in an interview that it took over four months of auditioning to get the part of Cosette. She was entirely unaware of the other young women auditioning/ being considered for the role, but she was constantly told that she was "not right" for this musical/film. During the audition process, Seyfried was also singing/reading for the role of Fantine, and forced herself to get into vocal and physical shape for strong consideration for either one of the roles. When Anne Hathaway signed on as Fantine, Seyfried was given the role of Cosette.
Producer Cameron Mackintosh, who also produced the original stage musical in England, has wanted to do a film version of it since the early 90's.
Typically, the soundtrack for a movie musical is recorded several months in advance and the actors mime to playback during filming. However, on this film, every single song was recorded live on set to capture the spontaneity of the performances. Everyone involved, from Hugh Jackman to Russell Crowe to producer Cameron Mackintosh, have praised this approach as it allowed them to concentrate on their acting as opposed to lip-syncing properly. They have also praised director Tom Hooper for attempting this on such a scale; something no director has ever done before.
Recording the actors' singing live as they're acting may not be a first for this film, but the scope, and especially the manner in which it's being done, is: The actors wore ear pieces which fed the sound of a live piano being played off-stage, to keep their singing in key. The main novelty here is, there's no count-in or predetermined tempo and the piano is following the pacing of the actor, not the other way around - a first for a filmed musical. Orchestral music was added post-production.
Anne Hathaway's first exposure to the role of Fantine was in 1987 when her mother, Kate McCauley Hathaway, played the role in the first U.S. tour of the musical.
Several actors went through transformations upon receiving their roles. Anne Hathaway lost 25 pounds in total for her portrayal of Fantine, while Hugh Jackman lost 30 pounds in order to play Valjean as a prisoner.
Hugh Jackman personally lobbied for Anne Hathaway to get the role of Fantine after the two performed together at the Academy Awards.
Anne Hathaway refuses to discuss how she lost 25 pounds to play the dying Fantine, as she admits her methods were life threatening, and doesn't want to glamorize or promote her methods to young women. However, she has confirmed eating oatmeal paste as one of the reasons of her weight loss.
In addition to the actors singing live, which allowed them to improvise their singing patterns, much of the movement was improvised as well. Particularly, Valjean's first solo, the Soliloquy, was filmed using a Steadicam and allowed Hugh Jackman to move as he saw fit in order to convey the heavy emotion of the scene.
Hugh Jackman went 36 hours without water, causing him to lose water weight around his eyes and cheeks, giving him the gaunt appearance of a prisoner.
Helena Bonham Carter is a first cousin five times removed from French politician Achille Fould, a major rival of Victor Hugo due to his support for Louis Napoleon III.
Anne Hathaway lost 11 kilos for her role by eating nothing but two thin slices of oatmeal paste per day.
According to Anne Hathaway in an interview, her big song, "I Dreamed a Dream" was originally going to have her sing in a coffin. But, it was changed from a coffin to a boat because Tom Hooper thought it looked too ridiculous.
Despite reports of having the number to be finished in a one-shot, Anne Hathaway confirmed in an interview that it took 8 hours to film "I Dreamed a Dream" to get the scene more deeper and emotional. The fourth take made it in the final cut.
The film was going to be 4 hours long, with a 15-minute battle. But, it was shortened to 2 and a half hours. 15 minutes of the final film were cut out.
There is a running "gag" in which even though Thénardier claims to love Cosette like his own daughter, he can never quite remember her name correctly. He incorrectly calls her "Colette" several times, and also once calls her "Courgette." "Courgette" is the French word for "zucchini."
Though cut from the theatrical edit, Anne Hathaway insisted that she perform a single stunt that involved Fantine's corpse being thrown from window into an awaiting cart. Both director Tom Hooper and the producers had already hired a stunt woman and were hesitant to allow Anne to make the fall. Anne was able to convince them to perform the stunt when she stated, "Don't make me say it... guys, I'm Catwoman" (in regards to her previous role in The Dark Knight Rises).
Hugh Jackman claimed Jean Valjean's death scene was the most difficult to perform, since it was filmed on a freezing cold set at 1 in the morning, making it hard on his voice.
Enjolras died in a similar position as the character in the stage show, hanging upside down. The main difference is that in the stage show he hangs from the barricade instead of out a window.