EAGLE-eyed theatregoers may spot Sheffield Theatres artistic director Daniel Evans in the movie, Les Miserables.
“Blink and you’ll miss me,” laughs the actor-director who appears disguised in a stovepipe hat, fulsome wig and clay pipe clamped to his lips as the pimp who fatefully foists predatory men on the tragic Fantine, played by Anne Hathaway.
“I just had a phone call earlier in the year asking if I would like to take part and I took some holiday and went down to Pinewood Studios for what was supposed to be three days but it was over-running and turned out to be six,” he explains.
He thinks the invitation may have something to do with knowing Les Miserables director Tom Hooper since working together on a couple of BBC period dramas (Daniel Deronda and Love in a Cold Climate).
Evans is among several experienced actors in musical theatre who appear in cameos in the production. Another is Nicola Sloane, who is playing the housekeper, Mrs Pearce, in Evans’ current hit production at the Crucible, May Fair Lady.
“She’s the woman who cuts Fantine’s hair - and it’s Anne Hathaway’s own hair,” says Evans.
Fantine is forced to sell some teeth and her hair and go into prostitution in order to pay for food for her daughter Cosette and the American actress insisted the haircutting should be done for real in front of the cameras so clumps of hair were lopped off with large blunt scissors. In the close-ups it’s actually a male hairdresser in a dress.
For the performers one of the interesting aspects was the recording process adopted by Hooper for all the songs.
“It’s a new techniique where we sang live all the time rather than being dubbed. So we all had earpieces where we could hear the music for the songs played by a plonkety plonk piano. We sang to that and then the orchestration was added later, says Evans. “Normally you record the singing before you film but this time it was happening there and then and it makes it much more real.”
The ear-pieces, incidentally, have all been edited out with the wonders of CGI.
Critics are singling out Anne Hathaway’s tearful and anguished rendition of I Dreamed a Dream as the movie’s big moment and Evans was on set to witness it.
“I was only in that scene but the whole thing was a great experience,” he concludes.
“It was a massive set at Pinewood and to be part of such a huge production was new to me and I found it absolutely fascinating.”