When it comes to the adaptations of Victor Hugo’s famous novel “Les Miserables,” the most famous versions are the Tony Award-winning musical and the Oscar-winning film. But those works largely sidestep much of the extreme ordeals suffered by the main characters in the original work.
In the six-hour adaptation of “Les Miserables” presented by PBS’ “Masterpiece,” the dramatic treatment is much more realistic. While the betrayal of the young seamstress Fantine and her fall into prostitution to earn money to save her child is handled in a few lines in the musical, her fall is explored in chilling and graphic detail in the “Masterpiece” production.
Lily Collins, who plays Fantine, drew on personal experience in one scene when she realizes her lover Felix has abruptly abandoned her.
“It really could be equated to modern-day ghosting that a lot of young women go through,” Collins said on a recent visit to the L.A. Times video studio. “I know I’ve gone through it. I’ve written about the fact that I’ve gone through it multiple times — when you think you know someone so well and at the drop of a hat they’re just gone.”
In another scene, Fantine has her teeth pulled out with pliers and her hair severely cut off by a sadistic pimp. Collins said director Tom Shankland helped focus her performance on conveying Fantine’s desperate plight.
Said Collins, “She wasn’t upset about having to cut her hair or pulling her teeth. It wasn’t for vanity’s sake. Any emotions were felt because it was so utterly painful.”
Collins really wanted to “lean into the pain of what that would feel like. … It’s a bit of a horror moment for her as well.”
To see the entire interview, click on the video below.