Sacha Baron Cohen

Hugh Jackman calls 'Les Miserables' role 'a brutal experience'

Dec. 10, 2012 at 10:50 AM ET

"Les Miserables" won't open until Christmas -- but on Monday, many of the stars of the big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical were on hand to talk about the groundbreaking film -- and joke about just who happened to be the best singer of the bunch.

"I think that would have to be me," spoke up Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays a thieving innkeeper in the movie but is best known for such comic roles as Borat. He stood alongside director Tom Hooper and fellow stars Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks and child actors Isabelle Allen and Daniel Huttlestone.

The singing in the film is actually live -- not recorded later on -- with the orchestration added in afterward. That was scary for many in the cast, but not necessarily Jackman, who joked: "Just to be clear, my live singing is actually Sacha behind a curtain. But it is live."

"It's me singing most of Anne's stuff as well," said Baron Cohen.

"I've never been on a film like it before," said Jackman later, speaking to Matt Lauer in the studio. "We rehearsed for nine weeks, we all knew each other, spent time together, (co-star) Russell Crowe would have very famous parties in his house Friday nights, great sing-alongs, and everybody was there for everybody else."

He revealed that not only was the singing a challenge, but so was having to yo-yo his weight: He lost 20 pounds before filming began. "I do remember my wife looked at (me) and she gripping my hand, she was sort of worried for me," he said of his emaciated state, which can be seen in the film's first scenes. The good news: He put on 30 pounds from the first day of shooting to the end. 

Jackman noted that his wife's input is very important; Deborra-Lee Furness is also an actress. "We had a rule, and it was my wife's rule," he said. "She said, 'Hugh, we're not going to spend more than two weeks apart.' And the wisdom of that really shone through in the following years."

That may have been the hardest part of making "Les Miserables" for Jackman: "This was the first time I'd been away from my family, and it was, I've got to say, it was a brutal experience. And I'm not sure if I would do it again. But Deb is the best thing that ever happened to me."

"Les Miserables" will be in theaters on Dec. 25.

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