George Blagden talks about ‘Les Miserables’ success, Grantaire’s relationship with Enjolras

Fra Fee, Russell Crowe and George Blagden in Les Miserables.

Fra Fee, Russell Crowe and George Blagden in Les Miserables.

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.

George Blagden

George Blagden

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……!

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About Samantha S.

"I found the theatre and I found my home.” ― Audra McDonald
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25 Responses

  1. great job on the interview. i loved how he worked out how to play grantaire like that. i think it was perfect.

  2. This is one of the best interviews ever and is exactly what I would ask George if I met him. He is just the cutest.

  3. Wow, I didn’t pick up on that relationship at all. But I certainly admired Mr. Blagden’s acting in the film, which was filled with depth that made me wonder what his character was all about.

  4. What a lovely young fellow he is! Here’s to hoping for a directors cut of Les Mis!

  5. Follow up question I’m now wondering then, WAS/is Aaron aware of any of it? Or did he think Grantaire was acting a bit odd and was unaware of it being subtle brick subtext? I want someone to ask him now! (I also just want to make sure he didn’t come away thinking it was George who was odd instead of Grantaire!)

    • Aaron is an intelligent person and an experienced actor. He has repeatedly stated that he has read the book, so I’m sure he is completely aware of the (not so subtle) subtext in the book. I highly doubt he missed any of what George was portraying.

  6. Oh my god this made me CRY. George is perfect!

  7. the questions you asked were perfect! thank you and i can’t wait for the second half!

  8. “Love is a strong word. I don’t think he’s in love with Enjolras”
    love is literally the exact word Victor Hugo uses to describe it in the book, so im pretty sure ur wrong there george

    • Loving someone and being IN love with someone are not one in the same.

      • Agreed. While Grantaire undoubtedly loves and admires Enjolras, I don’t see much indication myself that the feeling was of a romantic sort. Insisting on a romantic definition of “love” diminishes the power of other types, such as platonic, patriotic or paternal (all of which are finely displayed in the film). In my opinion, love often comes across stronger and purer when in is not influenced by attraction. I think Mr. Blagden did a lovely job of capturing the subtlety of Grantaire’s feelings towards Enjolras.

        • Love without attraction is purer? This is a pretty puritanical point of view.

        • Yes, I’m rather skeptical of infatuation I’m afraid. :) . It seems to have more to do with lust than love.

    • Did Hugo explicitly state “Grantaire was IN love with Enjolras”? Huge difference between loving someone, and to be IN love with someone. Their relationship is up to us to interpret IMHO. We fans do allow imagination to run wild sometimes, you know. On stage, the only bit where the E/R ‘ship truly comes into focus is ‘Drink With Me’. But even that is more of a bromantic moment, rather than something that might have homosexual undertones to it.

  9. Ohmygosh, thank you so much for this! You asked absolutely all of the right questions.

  10. Its nice to see George giving us some info on this. I liked this interview.

  11. Excellent! It’s good to finally read this, after all the suspense! I look forward to the next part.

  12. Push off from the docks because, boy, my ship is sailing.

  13. Oh this is absolutely brilliant! I just read his approach to the E/R dynamic out loud to my flatmates and we’re in agreement that it’s a fantastic approach to the dynamic. I’m really rather speechless. Cheers!

  14. He is too perfect.

  15. This is great :) thank you!

  16. I really did love this interview quite a lot! I do wish that we could ask him about the Philosophers and his other upcoming roles; though, Vikings IS highly anticipated. His explanation of the E/R dynamic stunned me to silence but also made everything make SO much more sense.

    Cheers, Blagden!