Lavish adaptation of Les Miserables to begin on BBC

A star-studded adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel Les Miserables is to begin on the BBC today.

The series stars The Affair actor Dominic West as prisoner Jean Valjean while David Oyelowo plays police inspector Javert, who is pursuing him.

The musical version of the story has been a triumph in the West End and on Broadway and was turned into a film version starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway 2012, but West has said he hopes the TV production will bring viewers back to the series’ source material.

BBC adaptation of Les Miserables
Jean Valjean, played by Dominic West, in the new BBC adaptation of Les Miserables (Robert Viglasky/BBC)

He said: “It’s been a real inspiration and total joy to bring this masterpiece to dramatic life, and if our portrayal brings people back to the book then that is a great thing.

“What is the most interesting thing about Valjean is his moral core and his battle with his own demons to be a good man.

“He is a true hero in that way. He is constantly persecuted but he strives to save others’ lives and do the right thing.”

The series, which stars Lily Collins as Fantine, has been penned by veteran scriptwriter Andrew Davies, who recently adapted Leo Tolstoy’s War And Peace for the BBC, and is best known for his adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Lily Collins
Lily Collins as Fantine in the new BBC adaptation of Les Miserables (Robert Viglasky/BBC/PA)

West added: “Andrew Davies is a master of condensing and distillation. He has distilled a massive book into six hours of television. He’s been at it a long time.

“He’s so experienced. Whenever I’ve opened a book and thought, ‘oh this is a bit I particularly like’, it’s in his script. In that way, it’s very exciting because I don’t remember the last time when a book was dealt with in such detail.”

The 49-year-old also added that viewers should expect grand ambition from the series, which avoids the songs of the musical theatre production and 2012 film.

He said: “We have created massive epic scenes for the battle of Waterloo, the barricades and street fighting in 19th-century Paris. It’s a real visual feast.”

The show also stars Olivia Colman, Ellie Bamber, Josh O’Connor ad Adeel Akhtar.

The first episode of the series will air on December 30 at 9pm on BBC One and will continue for six weeks.