Eddie Redmayne teared up twice in the 15 minutes I spent talking to him. I was used to seeing him cry, of course, after seeing Les Miserables, in which he plays the fearless student Marius, torn between the revolution he's helped stoke and his newfound love for the beautiful Cosette. Les Miserables is a tear-streaked movie from start to finish, and in Tom Hooper's film version, you see every teardrop in tight closeup; Redmayne is not immune.

It's one thing to see an actor bare his soul on the screen, but quite another to see his eyes well up simply by recalling the experience. Talking about filming the "Little Fall of Rain" duet, which Marius sings with the dying Eponine, Redmayne described the hush of the 150 crew members that surrounded him and Samantha Barks, and how his background in theater (he won a Tony for Red in 2010) allowed him to embrace the emotion of the moment even with so many others in the room. He leaned in to sing a few bars of the song to recapture the moment, and I saw his eyes shining. It was startling and moving and an absolute first for me in an interview. You're lucky to get an interview subject who acts like he wants to be there, much less gets emotional telling stories about a film he made a year ago.

But the Les Miserables crew has always seemed like an unusual bunch, a group of avowed fans of the musical who would get together after shooting ended to unwind by singing at Russell Crowe's house, who spent weeks rehearsing before shooting began, and who bend over backwards to compliment each other in press conferences. Anne Hathaway said she only regrets cutting off her hair for the role "when I get to spend time with Amanda Seyfried, whose hair is so beautiful." Hugh Jackman recalls Hathaway being there on set the day he sang the emotional "Valjean's Soliloquy." Redmayne, for his part, says he was jealous of child actor Daniel Huttlestone, who plays the impish Gavroche: "He was so brilliant, so effortless and wonderful. My inner 7-year-old was so happy and deeply jealous."

Despite his childhood dreams of being Gavroche and years of acting onstage, Redmayne had no professional singing experience at all until a night of singing at Blake Lively's house, of all places, inspired him to seek out a musical role. Redmayne co-starred with Lively in the indie drama Hick, and after a party at her house near the set in North Carolina turned into a Les Mis singalong, he recorded himself singing Marius's big number "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables" on his iPhone and sent the video to his agent. As it happens, Tom Hooper-- who directed Redmayne in the TV film Elizabeth I in 2005-- was casting Les Miserables around the same time. Redmayne swears it was entirely a coincidence.

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