There were three new major movie musicals released last year, two of which are still in theaters (Annie, Into the Woods), and there are at least two due out in 2015, The Last Five Years in February and Song One later this month at the Sundance Film Festival. We mostly have the ginormous box office success of Les Miserables to thank for this. In fact, a couple of Les Mis’ cast members are showing up in these new musicals, such as Daniel Huttlestone going from playing the street urchin Gavroche to Jack in Into the Woods and Anne Hathaway going from playing the dying prostitute Fantine to a young archaeologist befriending a local musician in Song One.
However, nobody has enjoyed as big of a post-Les Mis push as Eddie Redmayne. He sang the hell out of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” in Les Mis, and now he’s a shoe-in for a Best Actor nomination for his performance in The Theory of Everything. On top of that, he’s finally reached the stage where most British actors know they’ve truly made it in Hollywood: He’s playing the villain in a big-budget sci-fi movie, specifically the Wachowskis’ long-delayed Jupiter Ascending, due out next month. He’s pretty much just doing the victory tour right now, appearing on talk show after talk show to promote his movies and earning serious social media buzz this weekend when an adorable clip of him reliving his Hobbit audition on The Graham Norton Show went viral.
Yet, when I walked out of Les Miserables two years ago Redmayne was not the obvious break-out candidate. For one thing, he was actually already a known entity considering the fact that he’s the “My” in My Week with Marilyn, playing the young assistant who falls in love with Marilyn while escorting her about during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl. For another thing, Redmayne plays freakin’ Marius in Les Mis, delivering a perfectly fine performance in a perfectly fine role in a show which people historically walk away from raving about the actors playing Jean Valjean, Javert, Fantine, the Thenardiers, and Eponine (and maybe young Cosette if you really love “Castles on a Cloud”). As a result, the true break-out candidate of the film was Samantha Barks, making her film debut as Eponine and providing a brilliant rendition of “On My Own,” the anthem for all preternaturally pretty French peasants who can’t get the boy they like to stop crushing on the boring posh girl in the big house around the corner (wow, I made that really specific):
She even had an adorable “underdog” back story. She was discovered on a UK singing contest show that she didn’t actually win. Appearing on the third season of I’D Do Anything, she made it to the finals in a contest which awarded the winner the role of Nancy in a West End revival of Oliver!, but she ultimately finished third, with the top spot going to a woman whose name we’ve already forgotten. Just a couple of years later Barks would land the role of Nancy in the UK’s touring production of Oliver!, but in the interim she appeared in multiple West End productions before appearing as Eponine in a London production of Les Miserables, which she reprised in the big 25th Anniversary Les Mis concert at the O2 Arena. It was through this experience that she emerged as a candidate for the Les Mis film, ultimately beating out Hayden Panettiere, Scarlet Johansson, Lea Michele, Emily Browning, Lucy Hale, and Evan Rachel Wood. In fact, because the internet had run with a rumor that Taylor Swift had already been offered the role of Eponine when Barks was cast it sparked some serious backlash among Swift supporters. But then everyone saw her in the film, and presumably all was forgiven because she was amazing.
Now, here we are two full years later, and these are the only further credits on Bark’s film resume:
The Christmas Candle, a British/American Christmas movie about a minister arriving in a small, turn-of-the-century town and challenging long-held beliefs about an angel visiting the town every 25 years to touch a single candle and thus deliver a Christmas miracle to whomever ultimately lights said candle. Barks received second billing as the love interest of the story, but she was overshadowed, as was the rest of the cast, by the fact that Christmas Candle marked Susan Boyle’s film debut. It came out in theaters in the UK in time for Christmas 2013, but it did middling business and critics despised it, regarding it as a glorified Hallmark movie which didn’t warrant a theatrical release.
Dracula Untold, last year’s big Dracula re-boot from Universal Pictures. If you saw the film, but don’t remember who Barks was that’s probably because all of her scenes were ultimately cut from the film. She was cast to play, via Wikipedia, “a character from Eastern European folk tales known as Baba Yaga, a beautiful young woman who transforms into a savage witch.”
The Devil’s Harvest, a historical romance-drama in which Barks plays the love interest of “Yuri (Max Irons), an artistic soul born into a family of Cossacks‘ warriors, who struggles to win the approval of his grandfather Ivan (Terence Stamp) and father Yaroslav (Barry Pepper). He finds his life changed forever with the invasion of the Red Army, and the subsequent persecution of his family and fellow countrymen as Stalin’s regime of terror extends across Eastern Europe.” It is currently in post-production with no indication as to when we might see it.
That’s not nothing, but it’s definitely less notable than what Eddie Redmayne has pulled off over the same period. However, Barks came from the stage, and it appears as if she has mostly returned to the stage, fulfilling her commitment to the touring production of Oliver!, appearing in the Hollywood Bowl production of Chicago (you know, the one with True Blood’s Vampire Bill as Billy Flynn), and committing to a West End revival of the cult classic musical City of Angels, scheduled to run through February 2015. Maybe that’s all she wants to do. She is, after all, a heck of a singer. Maybe it’s also all the film industry sees her as. I don’t even know if she can act in anything that’s not completely sung-through ala Les Mis, but I’d kind of like to find out.