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Anne Hathaway describes filming ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ in one take for ‘Les Misérables’

Meriah Doty
Yahoo! Movies Golden Globes Blog
December 14, 2012
Anne Hathaway in 'Les Misérables'
Anne Hathaway in 'Les Misérables'

She says she had to muster up major courage to perform her character's most iconic song in the movie musical version of the endlessly popular stage show "Les Misérables." And, it was all done in one take -- as were a lot of the songs performed in the film.

As Anne Hathaway has been doing oodles of press to promote the film adaptation of "Les Miz," in which she plays the tragic Fantine, she has revealed that getting the famed song "I Dreamed a Dream" right was both difficult and, in a way, easy.

"We did it upwards of 20 times, but it was the fourth take that Tom [Hooper, the director] came up to me and said, 'You know, I have it. That was the one. I don't imagine we're going to do better than that,'" the 30-year-old actress recalled during a recent interview with Yahoo! Movies (video below). "And I, of course, am like, 'No no no no, we gotta go, we gotta go,' and 'I can do it again...' And I never broke through in the same way again," Hathaway said, adding with a giggle, "So, at the end of eight hours of singing the song we realized we could have finished after the first 20 minutes."

Watch Yahoo! Movies' Jonathan Crow Interview the Cast of 'Les Misérables':

Unlike other movie musicals -- and music videos for that matter -- the vocal tracks in "Les Miz" are not overdubbed studio recordings but are the live vocal performances that were captured during shooting. In fact, most songs in the film represent one take -- as musical accompaniment, piano, was piped in by ear piece. That all adds up to more pressure on the performers.

Hathaway, who was also recently interviewed by the Associated Press, discussed her fear leading up to the "I Dreamed a Dream" scene and how Tom Hooper, who won an Oscar last year for directing "The King's Speech," talked her through it. (Incidentally, Hathaway's own mother played the part of Fantine years earlier on Broadway.):

It came right after I cut off my hair so it was a little bit of an intense one-two punch. It wasn't my favorite scene to shoot just because there was so much pressure of expectation. I had gone to Tom and said I was starting to feel nervous about a week before. He said: "Listen. It's not an iconic song. You mustn't think about it like that. It's this woman's howl. It's her processing what's just happened to her." So I felt very protected; I knew what I wanted to do. But all of a sudden the stakes were raised because there was a camera there and it was going to be forever. I couldn't stop thinking about how if I messed it up how exposed I would feel. So I did the first take and I was so angry with myself because it wasn't good enough. I had really wanted to come out of the gate and just nail it. I dug in a little deeper and we did the second take and it wasn't there and I just thought, "Oh, God." I started the third take and I just said, "No, no. Stop. I'm sorry. The balance, it's off." And that's when I took the earpieces and stuck them in my ears. I closed my eyes and I remember thinking, "Hathaway, if you do not do this in this moment, you have no right to call yourself an actor. Put aside all that bulls--- and just do your job." I opened my eyes and I'm like (snaps figures): "Let's go." And I did it. That was the one that I let rip and that was the one that was in the piece.

"Les Misérables," in theaters on Christmas Day, earned four Golden Globe nominations and three Screen Actors Guild nominations this week. Hathaway earned supporting actress nominations for both major awards, likely increasing her chances for an Oscar nod. And when asked, Hathaway told the AP she wasn't going to let the Oscar race distract her from "all of the joy of the 'Les Miz' press because I was expecting to get nominated."

[Related: Find advance showtimes for 'Les Misérables']

Watch 'Les Misérables' Theatrical Trailer

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