How Anne Hathaway's Mother Helped With Her 'Les Mis' Performance

8:16 AM PST 01/09/2013 by Jordan Zakarin

At the National Board of Review Awards, the "Les Mis" star and her director also talk about singing dialogue and awards season.

It's all going according to plan.

A film with the grandeur of Les Miserables is, with its soaring songs and life-or-death drama against a Victor Hugo-penned backdrop of historical oppression, engineered to send its famous participants to cavernous reception halls for prestigious awards dinners, which is precisely where Tom Hooper and members of his cast found themselves Tuesday. The director, already an Oscar-winner, was at the National Board of Review dinner in Manhattan to present several of his stars with the best ensemble award, just days before the Golden Globes show and 36 hours before Oscar nominations were set to be announced.

Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne, the pair in town to accept on behalf of the cast, were all smiles as they posed for the latest flashing mob of photographers screaming their names. And why not? It is a breakout part for Redmayne, and Hathaway, a Globe nominee, is considered a favorite for a nomination in Oscar's best supporting actress category for her role as Fantine. Playing the tragically abused, starved and forsaken young mother and prostitute, hers is a key part, both in the tangled plots and even more so in the film's advertising campaign -- her rendition of the song "I Dreamed a Dream" has become the anthem for this musical -- and one that yes, she won in audition, but also came by through a sort of show business blood right.

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Her mother Kate played understudy for the part in the show's first U.S. traveling tour, and as Hathaway told The Hollywood Reporter, that familial connection was crucial for her.

"We decided a long time ago that she was my mom [and not a manager-type], but on this one, I did go to her," the 30-year-old actress said. "We just talked about the character. She told me a lot about her experience playing Fantine, which gave me even more confidence that it was in my blood, in my DNA, it was a family legacy. I think it allowed me to connect on a deeper level to the character, knowing how much it meant to her."

Yet while the singing voice was genetic, the younger Hathaway had to master on her own the balance of simultaneously crying and powering through a vocal performance.

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"You just have to not judge yourself for not sounding perfect," she told THR. "She had good reason to cry, so I just trusted the truth."

The solo represents a rare stop in the action of the film, a brief dive to the depths of street urchin despair in early 19th century Paris. For the most part, the film pushes its tangled plot forward with song, with nary a word spoken without some sort of lilt, at the very least.

"Rather counterintuitively, I felt that keeping it all singing would make it more believable than constantly alternating between dialogue and singing," Hooper explained to THR, when asked about the decision to keep all dialogue in song. "Because when you alternate between a naturalistic medium and a more heightened medium, you keep reminding people of the stylization of singing. Whereas if you commit to it, it’s easier for the audience to get into it and go with the flow."

The decision to do so has been questioned in some quarters, but nonetheless, nominations and honors have come fast and furious for the Universal musical, from critics' societies and guilds across the country. Just six hours prior, Hooper was named a finalist for the Directors' Guild Award, news to which he "literally yelled with joy." At just 40 years old, he is too young to be jaded by the awards campaigning process, even as he has a 2011 Oscar for The King's Speech sitting on his mantle already. Nonetheless, when he pitches an audience on the emotional impact on his adaptation, he wears his earnestness on his suit sleeves.

"When you watch it, it takes whatever suffering you have in your life, or in a life close to you, and it touches it, and it processes some of that suffering, and it can hopefully leave you feeling a little bit better about it," he offered hopefully. "I have a very good friend who lost his father in October, and he saw the film and it made him feel better about his dad and feel closer to his dad. That’s an extraordinary thing, that film can do that for anyone, I’m touched. And in some ways, we live in a world of films that don’t necessarily take themes like death very seriously, but this one does, and gives us a way of navigating through it, and that’s through love."

Email: Jordan.Zakarin@THR.com; Twitter: @JordanZakarin

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