Why She’s On Our Radar: There’s no big screen newcomer more buzzed about this holiday season than Samantha Barks, the 22-year-old UK newcomer who beat out Taylor Swift to nab the part of Eponine in Tom Hooper’s big-screen adaptation of the hit musical “Les Miserables” starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried.
Although this marks Barks film debut, she’s no singing/acting novice having played Eponine on London’s West End from 2010 to 2011, and Nancy in the UK touring production of “Oliver!.” In Britain, she’s best known for placing third on the televised singing competition “I’d Do Anything.” It just takes a watch of Barks singing “On My Own” during the 25th anniversary performance of “Les Miserables” below, to see why she won the part.
The hype for the film’s been mounting for well over a year now. How does it feel to finally share it with critics and Academy voters?
It’s been amazing! It’s my first film. I had no idea how a film was put together. You film each scene multiple times and it’s up to your director and your editors to put it together. I didn’t even know how it was going turn out. I was so excited to see how the product was going to be, and I’m so proud of it. The fact that people have been responding so positively to it has been fantastic.
The audience I saw it with treated it as if it were a Broadway show with folks applauding at the end of each number. And there are a lot of numbers…
Well that’s the thing, people clapping in the cinema is just so thrilling to me. Having such a background in music theater, to see people clapping in a cinema is so cool.
So about your big number…
We did it in one continuous take about 15 times.
Yeah, it was quite technical because in between takes they had to snip out my mike. Because my costume was so wet they couldn’t stick it to me — they had to sow to me, take out the mic, replace the mike so it didn’t get damaged between, sow it back in. Also it was raining so heavily with the rain machine, that they had to put mattresses on the rooftops to deaden the sound of rain.
So which take did they use?
I don’t know! Because I’m not really aware of the film world, I didn’t know about takes, single shots and closeups…I didn’t know that sort of lingo. So I’d just say, “Can we do it again, can we do it again!” The thing is, once you’ve done it, that’s it! It’s forever, which is a really scary concept.
Coming from a theater background, were you totally game for Tom’s singing live approach?
I was petrified and excited at the same time. I was used to live vocals, but to bring them onto a film set: it’s kinda of like melding something I’m familiar with something I’m so unfamiliar with. Also working with a cast like this — they’re people I’ve watched for years and always respected. To be on set sharing scenes with them was petrifying, but they couldn’t have been nicer.
What kind of a film career do you envision for yourself?
I would love to do more film if given the opportunity. Obviously stage is a big passion of mine. Really my aim would be to combine the two and have a varied, balanced career. Obvsiouly I look at someone like Hugh Jackman who’s done it the correct way. He’s got beautiful balance to his career, so he’s inspiring to me in that way.
It’s been confirmed that you beat out Taylor Swift for the role. That must have felt pretty sweet.
I didn’t know at the time! This is such a huge deal for me, this being my first film and being the role of my life. It was so scary for me. I put so much effort and concentration into my auditions that I didn’t really know what was going out outside of that audition room. My main aim was get yourself into that room and work your ass off — do everything you can. Because it meant so much to me.
What was the auction process like?
I did have to fight hard. It was 15 weeks going in and out! That’s why in the final auditions I was a mess. I had to prove that I could translate this role from the theater to the screen. It was so grueling. But so worth it now.