In a cast as star-studded as that of “Les Miserables”, Eddie Redmayne, who plays Marius, is one of the film’s least known actors (second only to big screen newbie, Samantha Barks) and has been vastly overshadowed in the press by his A-list co-stars. This is to be expected, of course, when a relatively obscure actor such as Redmayne is set against the likes of Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Sacha Baron Cohen. Yet there might be hope for the 30-year old, London-born actor as many are speculating that “Les Miserables” may prove to be his big break into Hollywood. Now, as a Tony award winner and BAFTA nominee, Redmayne’s hardly labored through an unsuccessful career thus far. Nonetheless, he has yet achieve the level of mainstream recognition that a man of his talent deserves. I, personally, have my fingers crossed for such an outcome as I consider Redmayne to be one of the most interesting, if not one of the most talented, actors of his generation.
Redmayne has talent and range, but then again, so do a lot of actors. What really sets him apart from his peers is that he plays a wide range of characters in equal measure. Plenty of actors have earned critical recognition for venturing away from their standard character type, but the curious thing about Redmayne is that he doesn’t seem to have a character type. He’s played noble protagonists (“Pillars of the Earth”; “My Week With Marilyn”), socially inept side characters (“Powder Blue;” “The Yellow Handkerchief”) and characters who start out either sane or seemingly so and by the end of the film have either gone mad or revealed their true natures (“Black Death;” “Like Minds;” “Savage Grace” and “Hick”). While he has a particular affinity for the last category, he covers the character spectrum so evenly that there is a genuine unpredictability to his characters.
I came to this opinion after watching “Hick.” Having heard Redmayne describe his character as a “child in a man’s body” in several interviews, I was expecting his character to be a slightly darker version of lovable, awkward Gordy in, “The Yellow Handkerchief.” For the first 45 minutes or so I felt my assumption had been correct. To say that I was shaken in the third act when Redmayne’s character is revealed to be a child rapist would be an understatement but, even in my disgust, I had to admit that only a damn good actor could pull that twist off.
So here’s to hoping that “Les Miserables,” in all it’s grim, gritty, musical glory, proves to be Redmayne’s big break and gets him the recognition that he deserves.