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Tom Hooper will soon begin work on his adaptation of the prestigious stage musical Les Misérables, which is set for an Oscar-friendly December release, and while many of the actors–including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway–have been set for some time, one role wasn't so secure.
Not too long ago, country-pop singer Taylor Swift emerged as the frontrunner to play the street urchin Éponine over Scarlett Johansson, Lea Michele, and Evan Rachel Wood. However, as we’ve just recently learned, her hit song “You Belong with Me” doesn’t appropriately describe her relationship with Hooper’s Les Misérables.
Last night, Broadway World broke the news that Samantha Barks, who played Éponine in the 25th Anniversary special of Les Misérables, would reprise the role for Hooper’s adaptation. Producer Cameron Mackintosh made the announcement last night after a West End performance of Oliver!, in which Barks stars. Many were surprised, and it seems that Barks was shocked herself.
The stage actress came to prominence in 2008 with the BBC’s I’d Do Anything, an American Idol-esque program where the top prize was a leading role in the Oliver! West End revival. She didn’t win, but she went on to prominent roles in several musicals, ironically including the one she originally vied for on reality television.
Given Barks’ cluelessness about the casting, one might speculate that Mackintosh made an executive decision. Helping that hypothesis is that Barks was never even mentioned in previous casting updates. Perhaps Mackintosh isn’t a big Taylor Swift fan—or really wanted Barks in the movie.
Either way, Barks’ experience with the role and tremendous vocal power will make for a great Éponine, but Swift made for a far more adventurous choice. Risky, yes, but she’s a vocalist who has vastly improved since becoming internationally famous. She could have worked wonders with the role, but complaining about a talent like Barks belting “On My Own” would be nonsensical.