Les Miserables," among the greatest novels of the 19th century, became one of the most successful Broadway musicals of the 20th century. And this month Hollywood gambles that this epic story has the power to revive the musical form on the screen. Director Tom Hooper has spent $61 million recreating a Paris rebellion and filling scenes with actors including Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman.
No actor combines the talents of a Broadway song and dance man with the film presence of an action hero the way that Jackman does. He won stardom playing a murderous mutant on film and then, won a Tony playing a gay entertainer on stage. When we met him, in his native Australia, the 44-year-old actor told us that everything he has done in a wide-ranging career has led him to this, one, moment.
In "Les Miserables," Jackman plays one of the most heroic characters in literature, Jean Valjean, imprisoned for stealing bread for his sister's starving family, an angry brute of a man whose sentence extends to 19 years because of his hunger to escape. His nemesis is Inspector Javert played by Russell Crowe.
"Any movie musical is like Mount Everest. I think it's the most difficult form ever to pull off in film. When it works, it's spectacular. When it doesn't, it stinks to high heaven," Jackman says.
Once director Tom Hooper chose Hugh Jackman for the lead role of Jean Valjean in his new movie "Les Miserables," he had the difficult task of casting Valjean's nemesis, Javert. So, Hooper asked himself: "Which actor out there in the world will the audience feel would realistically get the better of Hugh Jackman?" For him, there was only one answer: Russell Crowe.
"I think a lot of people come see the film just to see the conflict play out between these two extraordinary acting personalities," says Hooper.
The great rivalry between Jackman and Crowe is what holds the film together, says Jackman. "Russell has an innate kind of strength and power, and with doing very little, commands so much presence," he told 60 Minutes. To see these two men battle it out-- in both swordfights and musical duels-- click on the video below.