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They Dreamed a Dream

Les Misrables is a whole new kind of movie musical

James Fisher/Universal Pictures

Behind the scenes of Les MisÚrables, the new movie.

In June 1832, a group of students, immigrants and insurrectionists took to the streets of Paris, demanding change. The fervor of the French Revolution had withered amid vast economic inequality, food shortages and a cholera outbreak. The rebels occupied half the city using makeshift barricades: trembling stacks of stolen saplings and planks. While the insurgency ended overnight, it lasted long enough for novelist Victor Hugo to be caught in its crosshairs, pinned to a wall as bullets flew.

The events would inspire Hugo's masterpiece, Les Misrables--which, 118 years later, inspired Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schnberg's musical. Since its Paris premiere in...

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