Friday, 6 April 2012

If I could adapt 'Les Miserables'....

A while ago I was just doing some random Google searching when I discovered this article: This was the part that interested me:

Andrew Davies is working on a £10m adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables for drama co-production specialist Lookout Point, which is also planning to revive Lawrence of Arabia.
The veteran screenwriter - who was the creative powerhouse behind BBC adaptations of Bleak House and South Riding - has begun work on the ambitious 5 x 60-minute project that will aim to bring a modern twist on the French book.
It is in development with Lookout Point and BBC Worldwide, who are currently on the hunt for co-production partners to join the project.
Lookout Point’s chief executive Simon Vaughan admitted it is “early days”, but said they are hoping to secure a budget of around £2m for each episode and would ideally like to attach BBC1 to the drama.
The aim is apply a “modern visual pallet” to the original novel, Vaughan added, as well as capitalise on the anticipated popularity of Hollywood’s adaptation of the Les Misérables stage musical, starring Russell Crowe and Helena Bonham Carter.
“I think the film will be beneficial in raising awareness. They are very different propositions - ours is a wholehearted literary adaptation,” Vaughan said.
Hmm, interesting! It's still early days yet so I suppose it might not even happen but I am intrigued. I LOVE the musical of course but I would still be happy to see a non-musical adaptation that was closer to the book. This is what I'd like my own personal adaptation to be like:

- My ideal Les Mis miniseries would be made by the BBC on a big budget and with high production values. It would also be at least 12 hours long and most definitely not five! If Pride and Prejudice deserves a 6 hour adaptation than Les Mis definitely deserves 12!

- My Les Mis miniseries would include almost everything from the book and I would make very few cuts. The only major things that I would leave out entirely would be Valjean's time on the Orion and the Bishop's backstory. I loved reading the Bishop's backstory in the book but having all of his 60 pages worth of backstory in a screen adaptation would just take up too much time. I would also shorten the Waterloo section to just a quick two minute flashback of Thenardier's encounter with Marius's father and I would condense Valjean and Cosette's time at the convent, maybe using a montage. We're gonna need a montage! Montage! Ooh, it takes a montage! (now has the Team America song stuck in my head)Italic

- I would like some scenes to be filmed in Paris.

- I would want more backstory and exposition given to Fantine. We never get to see what her life was like before she moved to Montreuil-sur-Mer! It would be really nice to see her hanging out with her friends and her lover Felix Tholomyes in Paris, and to see her bringing up Cosette. Even if all of this was knocked out in a 10-15 minute flashback it would still be pretty cool.

- I would give Javert the dark, sarcastic sense of humour that he has in the book and it would be mentioned that he's the self-loathing son of a gypsy thief and a prostitute.

- Marius is probably my favourite character in the book and I would make sure that he's cute, adorable, quiet and a dreamer. However, I'd also make sure that he's a bit cooler and more badass than he's usually shown whilst still staying well away from Marjolras territory!

- Montparnasse would be in this version and I'd put in heavy suggestions that there's something going on between him and Eponine. I'd have Eponine and Montparnasse going off together and then have Eponine coming back looking suggestively dishevelled. I would also try not to make Eponine look too attractive and she wouldn't get that many scenes with Marius. I'd also make sure that it's clear to the audience that Marius and Eponine belong to two different social classes. Eponine would act like she knows her way around the streets. She would be gritty, edgy and mentally unstable but still sympathetic.

- Gavroche would be played by a kid aged from 12 to 14. In the musical I think the age range that they ask for for the character is usually 8-11 which I reckon is too young. Gavroche would be the son of the Thenardiers & Eponine and Azelma's brother in my miniseries too.

- Madame Thenardier would die in prison like she does in the book. Thenardier and Azelma would then leave France and go off on a ship to America.

- The characters would look like they're supposed to. Fantine and Enjolras would be blonde, Cosette would be a brunette, and Eponine would be a redhead. In the musical I'm not so fussed about the actors looking like the characters from the book but in a non-musical adaptation I would absolutely insist upon it.

- I would make sure that the different personalities of the students would come across. Enjolras is the only son of wealthy parents and is absolutely gorgeous. He's the leader of the students and is so passionate about justice and saving humanity in the abstract, but he can be rather cold and derisive towards the people that he actually knows and cares about. This makes for an interesting and quite tragic combination. Combeferre is Enjolras' right-hand man. He's the philosopher of the group and the one that Enjolras is closest to. He's widely read, a theatre-goer, attends public lectures, and is very interested in science and technology. Jean Prouvaire (or Jehan) writes poetry, plays the flute, speaks five languages, is widely read, loves flowers and gardens, and is quite shy and soft-hearted. Saying that he does have a steely will when necessary and is very brave. Feuilly is the only member of the ABC Society who isn't actually a student. He's a working-class orphan, he taught himself how to read and write, and he makes fans. He's obsessed with Greece, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Italy. He's passionate and brave. Courfeyrac comes from an aristocratic, royalist family. He's lively, warm-hearted and generous. He's a great friend and is the ladies' man of the group. He's a lot like Felix Tholomyes only he's a decent young man and not an arsehole. He's the one who is closest to Marius. Bahorel is the oldest of the group, a spendthrift, his family are farmers, he hates lawyers, loves cafes, and acts as a link between the ABC Society and other groups. Laigle (or Bossuet) is bald, cheerful, resourceful, notoriously unlucky, and is best friends with Joly. Joly is a medical student and a hypochondriac. He's the most eccentric and cheerful of the group and is a great friend. The students named him after the English word "jolly". Grantaire is a skilled boxer, gymnast and dancer. He's a heavy drinker, is quite ugly, knows all the best places to go out in Paris, is extremely cynical about everything, and practically idol-worships Enjolras. This irritates Enjolras no end. The students are all really cool, unique characters. I completely understand why the musical didn't have the time to develop them all in more depth but I'd really want an adaptation to do this at some point.

- I would end the miniseries properly with Valjean dying! I would not have it end like the 1998 film did. Valjean would not run away from dead Javert with a smile on his face like he hasn't got a care in the world! The final shot of my version would be of Marius and Cosette standing at Valjean's grave.

- I'd like the actors to have British accents. Yes, I know the characters are French but because of the musical I've always imagined them with British accents. I can't really think of many specific actors that I'd like for the parts. You'd think it would be easier to cast a non-musical adaptation of Les Mis since I'm not limited to actors who can sing but it's actu
ally harder! However, the actors that I would like are...

Romola Garai as Fantine. She's an excellent actress, she's been in loads of period dramas, and she's blonde.

Gemma Arterton as Cosette. She's a brunette and was excellent in Tess of the D'Ubervilles. She might be a bit too old to play Cosette now but she has a very young and innocent aura about her, and I reckon she'd be very good and would make Cosette sympathetic and likeable. If I could cast anyone as Cosette I think I'd like to jump in the TARDIS and get a young Audrey Hepburn to play her. But since I can't I'd go with Arterton!

Andrew Garfield as Marius. I wanted Ben Barnes to play Marius in the musical movie adaptation of Les Mis until I heard Eddie Redmayne sing and realised just how good a singer he actually was. I do like Barnes as an actor but I'd want Andrew Garfield to play Marius in a non-musical adaptation. He does look the part. He's dark-haired, and even though he's close to 30 he really doesn't look it. I think he's a great actor too. Barnes could play Montparnasse.

John Hurt as Monsieur Gillenormand. I'd like Hurt to play Marius's grandfather.

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