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Commentary: Taylor Swift’s casting in ‘Les Miserables’ is miserable

Courtesy of MCT

Director Tom Hooper must have been dropped on his head.

When multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that Taylor Swift had beaten out Broadway veteran and “Glee” star Lea Michele for the role of Eponine in Hooper’s film version of the classic musical “Les Miserables,” many fans of the show met the news with outrage.

While it’s hard to argue with Swift’s star power, she by no means has the Broadway-caliber voice necessary for the role. Michele, on the other hand, undoubtedly has the acting and vocal chops to take the role to a new level on the big screen.

Swift, who also reportedly beat out Scarlett Johansson and Evan Rachel Wood for the part, will certainly bring with her many fans who would not have seen the movie otherwise. But Michele is a big enough star in her own right to have starred in a movie whose cast list already includes several other A-list actors. Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway will also star in the film.

A role in “Valentine’s Day” and a slew of music videos hardly give Swift the acting experience needed for the role, while Michele has experience both onstage and onscreen. In fact, Michele began her acting career in the role of “Young Cosette” in the Broadway version of “Les Mis.”

Wood, likewise, has proven herself, both vocally and acting-wise. Her movie credits include “Across the Universe,” in which she sang beautifully, and critic darling “Thirteen.”

What was Hooper thinking?

Perhaps it was Swift’s likability or her large fan base which had Hooper hooked. Perhaps it was the probability that attaching Swift’s name to the film will help rake in big bucks. But whatever led Hooper to this casting decision might very well lead to an uprising by musical theater fans, and as a result, perhaps the loss of a large group of the film’s targeted audience. Hooper undoubtedly was counting on long-time fans of the play to see the film, but his casting decision may turn off more fans that he was expecting.

Even some of Swift’s fans are ripping the decision.

One Taylor Swift and “Les Mis” fan, Katie Kendrick, told MTV that while she loves Swift’s music, she’s not sure Swift has the experience or the talent necessary for the role.

“I love Taylor Swift – I bought her CDs, I have everything. But I’m not sure she’ll be able to hit those notes that Eponine hits in her songs,” Kendrick said. “… I wish her luck, but I’m not sure she’ll be able to live up to the expectations that have been set previously.”

To be sure, millions of Swift’s most loyal followers will more than likely flock to the theater and the film will probably do well at the box office. But that doesn’t mean the film will do “Les Mis” justice or that Swift’s performance will be on par with the ones Michele or Wood would have put forth.

The English translation of “Les Miserables” is “the miserable ones.” While the title was not intended to refer to audience members, musical theater fans who see Swift’s performance in the well-loved role may soon have to count themselves among that group.

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