Les Miserables continues to be one of the most buzzed about topics on the internet and the students of the revolution in the film, also known as the Les Amis, are at the center of the fan admiration.
As a breakout star in the film, George Blagden quickly became a favorite to many for his portrayal of Grantaire.
As the cynical drunkard, many found depth in Blagden’s performance despite limited screen time. And for many fans, Grantaire’s appeal lies within his ambiguous and subtextual relationship with Enjolras, the student leader played in the film by Aaron Tveit.
On the heels of the success of Les Miserables, Blagden will soon be seen playing Athelstan, a monk taken captive by Vikings, in the History Channel’s new series Vikings airing on Sunday at 10 p.m.
While preparing for my interview with George, I decided to ask the questions fans have been debating for months including getting to the bottom of how he viewed Grantaire’s relationship with Enjolras and will we ever hear his solo in “Drink With Me”?
While this is only part one, and part two will include lots of new information about Blagden’s role in Vikings, inquiring minds can rest easy with this new insight about Les Miserables.
SDD: Did you ever expect that Les Miserables would garner the type of worldwide attention that it has? How has your life changed since working on the film?
GB: Well, I don’t think I had really realised the huge worldwide support that Les Miserables has. I have personally been a fan since I was a boy – it was actually one of my first shows at school, I played a beggar in the chorus! So I knew of the fan-base in the UK for the show. But when we started working on it, it really did feel like you were becoming part of this family, and it is such a privilege for an actor who is just starting out like myself to be involved in something which has such a history of being so well-loved.
SDD: Did you read the book prior to auditioning? What was the audition process like?
GB: I confess, I only read the “brick” once I knew that I was quite far along in the audition process. But there were quite a few rounds of auditions, even for Mr. Jackman or Mr. Crowe! Everyone had to sing their socks off for Tom and Cameron because they wanted everyone who was going to be a part of the film to be of a singing standard where we wouldn’t have to think about doing another take for errors on the musical side of things. So it was like “X-Factor”, only much more intense!
SDD: Grantaire is a fan-favorite character (and admittedly, he is my favorite) and the extent of his relationship with Enjolras has always been ambiguous. Do you think there was more than friendship between the two of them? How did you approach their relationship during filming?
GB: Well, having read the book, there is obviously a lot of subtextual content about the dynamic between Enjolras and Grantaire. I agree, I think it is one of the more interesting character dynamics of the piece, but unfortunately we didn’t get to talk about it all that much. I think Aaron and Eddie wanted to have a lot of “bromance” between Marius and Enjolras, so I think they both put a lot of focus into each other’s characters. I remember thinking of talking to Aaron about the subject as we started filming, and as I was about to talk to him he was interrupted by someone else, and then suddenly I understood. That was the perfect example of what the dynamic between us should be. And I realised that actually NOT talking to Aaron about it at all was the perfect way to create that subtextual thing between Grantaire and Enjolras. And actually, I didn’t talk to anyone about it. Not even Tom. I just kept it a secret and thought that if people can read into it, great, and if people don’t notice it, that’s also fine because it’s not the main focus of the student plot. I still don’t know to this day if Aaron even knows about the whole E/R relationship, but it doesn’t matter, because I don’t think Enjolras should.
SDD: What was the biggest challenge of playing Grantaire?
GB: I think finding his level of drunkenness. I knew from seeing various versions of the stage show that sometimes he had been played in a constant state of intoxication, which really works for the stage, but trying to bring that into a film where the director wants to shoot everything in close-up, well, it becomes too much! So finding the right level of enjoying himself was a nice challenge.
SDD: What is your fondest memory of working on Les Miserables?
GB: God there are so many. Musket training, fight rehearsals, silly singing warm-ups. I think the most cherished memory I have is when we were still rehearsing. We were looking at the scene when Valjean releases Javert from the barricade and tells him to “clear out of here.” Eddie, Aaron, Fra and I were there to provide lines running into their duologue and I just remember sitting between Hugh and Russell watching them working out this scene together and could not believe how incredibly lucky I was to be watching these two actors rehearsing together. Incredible moment.
SDD: Did you ever hold Aaron’s hand during the filming of the death scene?
GB: I think I may have put my arm around him briefly…. Is that ok??
SDD: Did you expect fans to be so consumed by Grantaire’s relationship with Enjolras? Do you think Grantaire was in any way in love with Enjolras?
GB: Love is a strong word. I don’t think he’s in love with Enjolras. But I don’t think anyone really knows what their relationship is, it’s hard to define, which is why maybe people are drawn to it in the book because there is potential to blow it up into something a lot more if people want to.
SDD: Would you sing a complete version of “Drink With Me” on YouTube if fans asked nicely?
GB: I don’t think I would I’m afraid. I’m sorry! But it’s only because I’m hoping that Tom decides to do an extended version of the film which hopefully includes it, which would be a lot better than a version on YouTube of me in my living room, right??
SDD: The friendships between you and the other member of the Les Amis was genuine. Could you speak to that and are you happy with your new nickname of “Blagdog” that I see fans using pretty regularly these days, given to you by Fra?
GB: I cannot tell you enough how much fun all the “barricade boys” had on this film. Just amazing that we get to do a job where we all have such a laugh as well. And yes, I was actually thinking of changing my surname to Blagdog because of Mr. Fee……!