Ahead of the premiere of "Les Misérables," the Oscar-nominated film's stars Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman have discussed the magnitude of their roles.
The film is based on Victor Hugo's novel published in 1862, which Upton Sinclair later referred to as "one of the half-dozen greatest novels of the world."
"Les Misérables" later became a hit musical on Broadway, but only now has it reached the silver screen.
While core issues in the 19th-century story revolve around love, faith, and redemption, Hathaway's role as Fantine required drastic changes to the actress' physical appearance. Nearly 25 pounds had to be shed and she chopped off her hair.
Moreover, Fantine is thrust into poverty and forced into prostitution in order to care for her illegitimate daughter Cosette. Hathaway explained her method for tapping into the challenging and gut-wrenching role.
"There's no way I could relate to my character was going through, I lead a successful happy life," started Hathaway, 30, while speaking Christian Post reporters at a press conference.
"So what I did is I tried to get inside the reality of her story as it exists in our world. To do that I read a lot of articles and documentaries and news clips about sexual slavery," Hathaway continued. "For me, this particular story … I came to the realization that Fantine doesn't live in the past- she's living in New York City right now; she's probably less than a block away."
"This injustice exists in our world, so every day that I was her, I thought, this isn't an invention, this isn't me acting- this is me honoring that this pain lives in this world, and I hope that we see an end," the actress added.
Hathaway and the rest of the star-studded cast of "Les Mis" used singing to convey their characters' truest emotions.
The film's director, Tom Hooper took an additional step in the production process by recording the actors singing "live" rather than lip synching to the famed "Les Mis" soundtrack, resulting in an authentic and theater-like experience.
"We would rehearse full out, by the time we got to the set, it was not uncomfortable," explained Hugh Jackman during the press conference.
Hathaway and Jackman are joined in the film by superstars Russell Crowe who plays Javert, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Samantha Barks as Eponine, and Eddie Redmayne, who plays Marius.
From the moment the film begins, an unrecognizable Jackman draws the audience in singing "Look Down" as a prisoner, Jean Valjean, serves a long sentence after being wrongly convicted.
Jackman also shed 30 pounds for his role as Valjean in "Les Mis," drawing a similar experience to Hathaway's extensive physical changes.
"Tom [Hooper] said, 'I want to make you unrecognizable, the people in your life may ask what's going on with you, are you sick, or else you haven't gone far enough," said the actor of his diet for the role.
"I did lose a lot of weight and then had the joy of putting it back on, but I have to say all that pales in comparison to what [Hathaway] did," he added while speaking to reporters. "At least I had time to prepare and do that."
Hooper, who was at the helm of last year's critically acclaimed "The King's Speech," explained that the protagonist, Jean Valjean, experienced two epiphanies in "Les Mis."
First, Valjean recognizes virtue when he meets kindness from a bishop, and second, the character realizes love after taking the young Cosette into his care.
"I see him as one of the great literary characters and a hero, quiet and humble," Jackman explained of his character. "He comes from a place of greatest hardship that I could never imagine, I don't think any of us ever could, and manages to transform himself on the inside."
"Victor Hugo uses the word transfiguration- its even more than a transformation," noted the actor. "[Valjean] becomes more God-like or it's a religious and spiritual change, it happens from within, and for me it's a beautiful journey … it's one of the greatest opportunities I've ever had, and if I'm a tenth of the man Jean Valjean was I'll be a very happy man."
Hathaway added warm praise to Jackman for his stunning portrayal of Jean Valjean, and referenced to the actor's powerful line: "What spirit comes to move my life," which occurs when Valjean accepts God into his life.
"The reason that that line resonates with you is because we witnessed the entire time in his performance," the actress enthused of her co-star and friend during the press conference. "What he does in this film is inspiring and we were all inspired and he was our leader, and he is a profoundly gifted actor."
In addition to classic "Les Mis" songs including "I Dreamed A Dream" and "On My Own," Hooper added a new song into the story about Valjean becoming a loving father to Cosette, titled "Suddenly."
Also starring in "Les Mis," Sacha Baron Cohen delivers a charming, catchy version of "Master of the House" as Thenardier alongside his onscreen wife, portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter.
Highly anticipated and already critically acclaimed, "Les Miserables" hits theaters on Christmas Day.
"Soundtrack to the 2012 Les Miserables Movie" will be released on the same day.