Olivia Colman! Dominic West! Lily Collins! Josh O’Connor! David Oyelowo! The BBC’s new adaptation of Les Misérables is packed full of big-name actors – but they won’t be making a song and dance about it. Quite literally.
This six-part drama will set aside the classic songs from the Les Misérables musical, instead taking things back to Victor Hugo’s original novel and delving deep into this story of love and revolution and survival.
Victor Hugo’s novel centres on French convict Jean Valjean and his struggles to escape his past, while being hunted for years and years by the determined Inspector Javert. It’s also a tale of a young and desperate mother who is forced by circumstances to leave her daughter and become a prostitute to earn money.
The story is set in a period of great civic unrest and exposes the struggles of France’s poor.
Will the BBC’s Les Misérables be a musical?
The adaptation is the work of Andrew Davies, the writer behind BBC adaptations of War and Peace and 1995’s Pride and Prejudice, as well as Netflix’s House of Cards and the 2001 movie Bridget Jones’s Diary.
He has opted to adapt from the novel instead of reworking the musical, ditching the iconic songs.
“Multi award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies will go back to the original novel and delve deep into the many layers of Hugo’s story, revelling in Jean Valjean and Javert’s cat-and-mouse relationship, against the epic backdrop of France at a time of civil unrest,” the BBC said.
“With a striking intensity and relevance to us today, the novel is testimony to the struggles of France’s underclass and how far they must go to survive.
“The six part television adaptation of the renowned book will vividly and faithfully bring to life the vibrant and engaging characters, the spectacular and authentic imagery and, above all, the incredible yet accessible story that was Hugo’s lifework.”
Since its publication in 1862, Les Misérables has been adapted again and again for stage and screen. Since 1980 there has been a long-running musical, and in 2012 the story was adapted as a Hollywood movie starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried. It won three Oscars.
But this new BBC adaptation is taking a different route.
After the casting was announced, Andrew Davies said: “This is such an intense and gut-wrenching story and I am delighted that this esteemed ensemble of actors will be bringing it to life – led by Dominic West and David Oyelowo in the iconic roles of Jean Valjean and his nemesis Javert.
“In Valjean, we see the terrifying anger and resentment against society but also the tenderness that is hidden deep in his complex psyche. And in Javert, the ferocious dedication to duty that takes him from obsession to madness.”
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