'Suddenly' From 'Les Miserables': Story Behind the Oscar Best Song Nominee

This article is from the February 9, 2013, issue of Billboard magazine. You can click here to subscribe, and go here to order back issues

Song: "Suddenly"
Film: "Les Miserables"
Songwriters/Composers: Claude-Michel Schonberg (music), Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil (lyrics)
Performer: Hugh Jackman

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Mike Knobloch, Universal Pictures president of film music and publishing: "[Director] Tom Hooper came onboard with a particular vision for the film: Singing the vocals live would enable the actors to provide intimate access to the material that the theater does not allow. People would hear the lyrics differently and understand thestory in an intimate way they don't necessarily get from the theatrical version. Tom was active in developing the script and he really looked a lot at [Victor Hugo's] book and the libretto.

"One of the things he got from the novel that he wasn't getting from the play is that Jean Valjean [played by Jackman] has this hugely impactful moment where he makes a promise to Fantine to rescue her daughter. He felt there was a beat missing as it was conceived for the show: They never punctuate this incredible moment where he meets this young girl, adopts her and realizes the ultimate purpose in his life.

"He went to Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain and Herbert and said, 'If we were going to do a new song, what if it were there? What if Jean Valjean sang a song that helped the audience understand that this is a big moment for him?' Herbert was the first to suggest the title 'Suddenly,' as in he suddenly realizes his value and purpose. He went to Alain and they brought it to life quickly. There's something magical about it, both in the song and the way Hugh sings it."

Song Sales: 7,000
Soundtrack Sales: 361,000
U.S. Box Office: $137.2 million