“The cast came to us,” musical-theater impresario Cameron Mackintosh is saying, as his Manhattan production office hums with pre-gala electricity. It’s a few hours until the New York premiere of “Les Miserables,” the 2-hour-37-minute movie-spectacle version of the West End and Broadway musical that Mackintosh ushered to global success, cementing his place among the most influential producers of the English-speaking theater.
He’s explaining that he and the rest of movie’s producing team did not have to twist arms to wrangle an impressive roster of stars for the $61 million film, which opens nationwide on Christmas Day. For example, Hugh Jackman, who plays Jean Valjean — the heroic central character in Victor Hugo’s sprawling novel, set in the politically turbulent France of 1815 and beyond — “rang me” about the part, Mackintosh said. (They’d known each other since a London revival of “Oklahoma!,” in which Jackman played Curly.)
Russell Crowe inquired, too — “I’ve been stretching my voice,” the producer quotes him as remarking — and so Mackintosh set him up with tickets to refresh his memory of the stage musical and help him settle on which of the leads Crowe felt he might better be suited. “Javert’s my role,” Mackintosh says Crowe told him, referring to the single-minded gendarme who pursues the saintly, unfairly persecuted Valjean across the years.