Taking on the iconic role of Monsieur Thenardier in “Les Miserables” may sound daunting to actors and fans alike, but Sacha Baron Cohen (who plays the thieving inn keeper in Tom Hooper’s big screen adaptation) says years of making mockumentary type films like “Borat” and “Bruno” made tackling his new scripted role a piece of cake.
“If I’m doing a movie where I don’t actually have to worry about being arrested, I’m already fairly relaxed,” the comedian told Access Hollywood’s Michelle Beadle, when asked if he was nervous about stepping into such a well-known musical role alongside the likes of Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.
While nerves weren’t a problem for the actor, “Les Mis” isn’t exactly an upbeat story and Sacha was forced to keep a lid on his signature sense of humor while on set.
“It wasn’t really a very fun set because you had to sing live, continually,” he told Michelle. “I’d just finished promoting ‘The Dictator.’ The day before I started I was in Cannes, riding a camel down the [street] and then the next day I flew in and started production on [‘Les Mis’]. So, [it was] quite challenging and singing live was difficult.”
After four weeks of singing live alongside on-screen wife Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha lost his voice and production was shut down for a week while the actor recuperated.
“For a week I was on voice rest, which means you’re not allowed to say a word – not even whispering,” he said, adding that when he did return to filming, he was still not allowed to use his voice to speak between takes as a precautionary measure. “I would have to write down [notes to the director].”
Losing his voice gave Sacha a whole new level respect for co-star Hugh Jackman.
“Someone like Hugh – that guy sang live for almost four months, like 10 hours a day,” he said, excitedly. “Opera singers sing once a day for two hours and they rest the rest of the day.
“He’s a real tour de force, the Wolverine,” he added with a laugh.
-- Erin O’Sullivan