Ahlan! chats to Lily Collins about her new TV show (because we’re fancy like that).
As a retelling of Les Misérables hits our screens, we catch up with star Lily Collins to find out why the show was a true labour of love
Back in 2012, the world was swept up in a Les Misérables frenzy, when Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe’s Academy Award winning version hit cinemas. Now, seven years on – and at the height of the golden age of television – the story is being retold.
Do you hear the people sing?
Well, no. This isn’t a musical, so don’t expect to be singing along to I Dreamed a Dream, One Day More and the like. Starring a Hollywood heavyweight cast of Dominic West (The Wire), David Oyelowo (Selma), Olivia Colman (The Crown) and Lily Collins, the Tom Shankland-directed six-part BBC drama returns to the roots of the Victor Hugo 1862 novel.
Here, we catch up with EnglishAmerican actress, Lily Collins, known for her roles in Love, Rosie, Mirror Mirror and The Blind Side, as well as for being the daughter of musician Phil Collins.
The 29-year-old has stepped into Fantine’s shoes – which, arguably, became a household name with Anne Hathaway’s now iconic movie version – and told us why now, more than ever, is the right time for a retelling of Les Mis...
Ahlan!: Where are we catching you from today?
Lily Collins: I am in London, doing press for Les Mis…
A!: You must be excited about the show coming out?
LC: I know! It’s nally coming out and I am so excited. Although, we only nished shooting in July, so it does seem quite quick, but I still feel like I have been living this for a long time.
A!: What drew you to the role of Fantine?
LC: The whole package, the idea that I could be a part of this amazing novel that I was well aware of for years, as well as it being a BBC production. So, it was all really interesting to me. Plus, the amazing cast that was surrounding it. Fantine is this character that, throughout the years, has represented such hope, determination and passion, even in the darkest of times. She is a character, I think, that we all admire and need in our lives in some way. So, to be able to portray her has been a real dream.
A!: Les Mis is such an iconic production and novel. Did you feel pressure to live up to the stage performance or movies?
LC: I didn’t. You know, Tom [Shankland, director] made such a big deal at the very beginning, when we were rst discussing the character, he really wanted to step away from any renditions that had been done before, and just focus on the novel and Andrew Davies’ writing. We wanted
to make it new and not have that pressure, because it has been told in a di erent way. There was also a freedom to just do it our own way. Of course, there will be expectations but at the end of the day, it will always be a di erent rendition to the one people have in their heads. It’s almost lucky that it had been done before, so it isn’t the rst time people are going to see it.
A!: What makes this production stand out?
LC: It is di erent, it’s not a musical, so that will bring in an entirely new audience. An audience that maybe doesn’t love musicals and will be seeing it this way for the rst time. In that respect, it felt like an opportunity to be part of the rst wave, as well.
A!: Why is now the right time for this version of the story to be told?
LC: I think it’s always the right time for a story like this. I mean in today’s world, where there is a lot of political, social, economic, environmental unrest, it’s interesting to see a story that transcends time, and deals with people, in di erent social situations and economic standings, to see how their environments can a ect their lives.
Everyone can get something out of a story like this, because everyone will nd a character that they will relate to.
Like I mentioned before, the fact that there is a character like Fantine, who can – even in the darkest of times for her – still maintain a sense of hope. And the fact that even when she is physically gone, her memory and what she stood for is a drive for the rest of story, if puts faith and hope in the viewer, that even when things are at the worst, there can still be a glimmer of hope.
A!: When you first tweeted about the trailer in December, you described it as a “labour of love”, what did you mean by that?
LC: I guess what I mean is that everyone in the cast and crew put their hearts and souls into this project. The elements and environments that we were in, weren’t always the easiest to shoot in: there were freezing temperatures and a lot of mud. We were put through the wringer in the shooting of it, but we all love the material and each other so much, that we fought through every day, because we knew that the overall story would be better because of it. At the end of the day, I think that if you can go to sleep feeling extremely exhausted but very proud of what you’ve done, [it’s the right track]. Especially for a character like Fantine, whose story is so tragic, her whole life is a labour of love. She works hard to get where she is, and puts her heart and soul into everything she does. So, I meant it with all positivity.
A!: The cast is incredible, what did each of them bring to the project that surprised you?
LC: I think I was mainly surprised by how opposite most of them were to their characters. There is a lot of intensity in this story, and there is a quite a lot of evil that goes on but, you know, Dominic West’s character [Jean Valjean] is a saving grace for my character in some respects. He is so funny, and such a fun time to have on set. And then there’s David Oyelowo [Javert], playing this evil character for Fantine, but in real life he is just so wonderful and funny, we had such a great time together. As did I and Olivia Colman [Madame Thénardier], she is so motherly, witty and goofy, but she’s playing this evil madame. So, it was amazing to witness them being themselves when we’re not lming, but switch on this intensity when we are. I respect them all so much for their craft and who they are as human beings.
A!: Would you ever be tempted to star in a stage version of Les Mis?
LC: I feel very attached to this version of Les Mis, so it would be hard to consider doing another version. I de nitely want to do musical theatre though, at some point in my life. I love theatre, that is a world that I would love to live in at some point.
A!: What have you got coming up in 2019?
LC: I also have done a lm called Extremely Wicked, Shockingly
Evil and Vile, which is about Ted Bundy and it is going to Sundance Film Festival. And then I did a lm about a year ago, before either that or Les Mis, about JRR Tolkien, called Tolkien, which I am very excited about. Nicholas Hoult plays Tolkien, it’s another period drama but is so beautiful in its own right. Both of those will be coming out this year, it feels like it’s going to be a good year!
‘Les Mis proves that even when things are at the worst, there can still be a glimmer of hope’
LILY IN CHARACTER
GOLDEN GLOBES WINNER OLIVIA COLMAN PLAYS THE EVIL MADAME THÉNARDIER DOMINIC WEST AND DAVID OYELOWO Watch Les Misérables on BBC First (OSN) from January 13 at 9pm