'Les Miserables' Breakout Star Samantha Barks Takes Eponine From Stage to Screen
Having played the role on the West End in London, the 22-year-old British singer-actress is soaking up her first taste of American stardom.
If you're in America and had heard the name Samantha Barks before, it was likely because you are either a massive fan of foreign musicals or followed the gossip magazines closely enough to know that the young British actress was once reportedly dating pop star Nick Jonas.
After Christmas, that word association is going to change quite drastically.
Barks plays the role of Eponine in Tom Hooper's film version of Les Miserables, a role with which she is quite intimate: Between June 2010 and June 2011, she handled the broken-hearted young woman in the London stage version. That experience helped give her a leg up on some formidable audition competition, including, reportedly, Taylor Swift and Broadway/Glee star Lea Michele.
Barks, now 22, was glowing as she walked the red carpet at Les Mis' New York premiere on Monday; it's her first film role, and she's already earning Oscar buzz. Not bad when you're sharing screen time with Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried.
Barks spoke with The Hollywood Reporter at the film's premiere.
THR: Beyond singing in shows every night versus sustained, hours-on-end takes, how else was performing on film different than on stage?
Samantha Barks: There was a huge difference between projecting to the back of the theater, and having to heighten your performance so that everyone could sort of go on that journey with you. But I feel the intimacy of the camera was such a thrill. So there was similarities in playing the role -- they’re the same character -- but Eponine in the novel and Eponine in the musical are two kind of different girls, so to me it was the thrill of merging those two together, to get something that still had that heart and soul that we all connect to in the musical, but also the awkward, self-loathing teenager that we see in the novel, trying to merge those two together.
THR: Were you able to be more subtle in your movements on film?
Barks: Absolutely. The camera being so close, you can be so intimate, and all of the details that you can get from the book, all the little things you want to say in your eyes and the decisions that your character is making, they all show. For instance, when I do "A Little Fall of Rain," Eddie Redmayne is right here, so you want to be intimate, and it plays.
THR: You read the book, you saw stage sets, but it’s a lot different from seeing it fully realized on a movie set.
Barks: Well that’s the thing. Being onstage, there’s a fourth wall where you create that wall, and you have to bring that audience along on that journey with you. But there’s something incredible when you walk on set, and there’s that Parisian street that you dreamed of, you sang of. It actually made me so emotional, it’s almost like a strange deja vu, but it really means something to you. It was incredible to see. The set was stunning. It blew my mind.
THR: It’s also very timely politically.
Barks: I mean, my character isn’t so much linked to those storylines, I’m sort of the heartbroken girl flying the flag, but definitely it seems like the appropriate time to be doing a piece like this. There’s a lot of anger against the machine, and social injustice and anger at that. It seems to be something that people are really connecting to, especially now. Tom always says, "This musical has been around for 27 years; this is the right time to do this film."
THR: How are you handling your first film, being in America, all the press?
Barks: This is a brand-new world for me. It’s exciting. The media side of it is so new for me to get used to, definitely. But I’m just trying to take it every day as it comes, and I’m enjoying it. Trying to remember all these memories. I’m writing a diary actually, trying to jot it all down because a lot happens in every day and I’m trying to just soak it up for the moment.
THR: Did you get any tips from your castmembers on how to deal with it?
Barks: They’re all so humble, so they very rarely would offer a tip. But I watched and learned. I watched someone like Hugh Jackman, who is the most calm, level-headed, wonderful human being I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. And then "action," and this incredible character bursts out from his soul, and I just found him fascinating to learn from, and I feel like that’s the way it should be done.