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Samantha Barks, EponineIn 'Les Miserables,' On Winning One Of Hollywood's Most Coveted Roles

Before Samantha Barks was cast as Eponine in Tom Hooper's film adaptation of "Les Miserables," she was reportedly competing with Lea Michele, Scarlett Johansson and Taylor Swift for the role. Not that the 22-year-old actress, who makes her screen debut in "Les Miserables," was at a disadvantage against those A-listers: Barks starred as Eponine for a year in a West End production of "Les Miserables" and also played the character in the 25th anniversary production acclaimed musical. That show was produced by Cameron Mackintosh, one of the people who eventually hired her to play the lovestruck-but-duplicitous second-act scene-stealer in Hooper's new film.

Barks, who is among the possible contenders for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards, spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about belting out Eponine's signature song, "On My Own," why she was sweating so much after meeting Hugh Jackman, and how starring in "Les Mis" was the best experience of her life.

Some big names were up for the role of Eponine. What was the audition process like?

It was a long one. I spent months and months going in and was really put through my paces. It was a big gamble to cast me because I've never done a film role before and I wasn't an A-list star like the other stars being cast. So I really had to prove, through my audition process, that I could adapt this role on the screen. Tom said this was the hardest film he ever had to cast. He had to find the perfect cross-section between screen actors who could really play these roles and also sing every take live; to do these songs every day, have that stamina and perform these songs to a degree that honors the way they are written. For some people, they had never done musicals. Like Eddie [Redmayne], who has a huge film career, and so much experience, had never done a musical. He had to prove he could take on the musical side. Whereas I was coming from the musical side and proving that I could do it from a film sense. We fought so hard to get these roles and they mean so much to us on a personal level. On day one, we felt like holding each other and saying, "Yay! We're all here!" When I was a 7-year-old girl, in my bedroom, on my karaoke machine, I would sing "On My Own" or do a one-woman version of "Les Miserables." To be doing this role is not just a dream come true, it's bigger than my mind ever dared to dream.

How difficult was it to adapt the role from stage to screen?

There are different challenges and different perks about both. There's nothing like the buzz of live theater. You put it out there and receive an instant reaction: laughing, crying, yelling, applauding. In the film world, you finish it and you're like, "Oh, no. I hope it's going to come across well. I hope it read." The thrill comes from sitting in the theater months later and hearing a cinema actually applauding a musical number. That's a thrill like I have never experienced before. In a musical theater show, you're performing to like 2,000 people. This, you're performing for nobody. You're living in the moment. Every individual flicker of the eye reads. Every detail reads. It allowed us to have that freedom to add more intricate details.

That's why it was so phenomenal to have the novel by Victor Hugo at your finger tips -- to pull stuff from that an add depth to your character. The exciting part were the differences between Eponine in the novel and Eponine in the stage show. I played Eponine in the stage show, so I knew that girl. To me, it was learning about the girl in the novel. You see more of the darker character [in the novel]. She's a criminal. Her parents are so dark, and they're hilarious with it, but she's a product of her environment. She's got this twisted morality which comes from observing her father, who is very cruel but very clever and manipulative. Marrying the two characters together and allowing myself to look into her background more to see Eponine come from a darker place [was great]. The challenge is trying to build that relationship with the audience in a short space of time. The central storyline is Jean Valjean, and there are storylines that weave in and out of that story. So, it's about creating a very real character. You want these storylines to not detract from the main story, you want them to add strength to the central storyline of redemption, hope and love.


You mentioned how often you sang "On My Own" growing up. How did it feel to do it in the film?

It felt incredible. I used to sing it all night. My family despised me for it. My brother is a pilot and I remember him knocking on my door at 3 a.m. saying, "Seriously? Seriously?" At least now they can say it was worth it! [Laughs] No matter how many times I sing that song -- I sang it eight times a week for a year -- just to hear the opening bars of it invokes a reaction in me. On that set, I felt like I was performing it for the first time. Singing live allowed us to do something unique with it. You could be even softer than you ever dared you could be in a theatrical performance. It was thrilling to get to do something like that with these iconic songs.

You're a newcomer in this cast of major stars. Who were you most excited to meet?

I never have celebrity crushes. But! I always used to say Hugh Jackman because he's the most beautiful man and his Wolverine is the coolest guy onscreen. When I first met Hugh Jackman, I was really nervous. I was sweating and running on a treadmill. I got a tap on the shoulder and it was Hugh Jackman. I was like, "Ohhhhhhhhh man, this isn't the way it was supposed to happen!" [Laughs] He's just an amazing, all-around guy. This world is very new to me and I'm at the beginning of my career. To see someone like that, with his level of success, maintain such a balanced lifestyle and mind is inspiring. You never hear anyone say a bad word about Hugh Jackman and if they do it's a lie!

Have you given any thought to the possibility of being nominated for an Academy Award?

I think because it is a huge big change in my lifestyle, the way I kind of get through that is by trying to not freak myself out. Trying to not over-think too far and take every day that comes with gusto. The fact that there is a buzz around the film makes me burst with pride. I am honored to be involved in a project like this. To be involved in a moment of history for theater -- and for theater to be translated onto film in this way, with a cast like this and a director like this -- is the proudest moment of my life.

Hanan Shamout

Hugh Jackman gets Hollywood Walk of Fame star

It was a lucky day for the actor. A beaming Hugh Jackman was celebrated Thursday with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But the day turned out to be a lucky 13th for the actor in more ways than one.

The unveiling of the 2,487th star on the famous Walk came hours after he landed a Golden Globe Awards nomination for his work in Les Miserables.

"It's kind of a surreal day," Jackman told E! News. "I'll probably always remember Thursday, Dec. 13 and I think I'm either going straight from here to buy a lottery ticket or to a casino because it just feels like someone is looking down on me in a very nice way at this moment."

Jackman, who snagged a SAG nomination earlier in the week, was joined by Les Miz co-stars Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried. But Hugh seemed to only have eyes for his family — son Oscar, 12, wife Deborra-Lee Furness and daughter Ava, 7.

"Hugh doesn't even realize how big this is going to be," Furness told Showbiz 411 at Monday's premiere afterparty. "It's only just dawned on me."


12/12/12: Twelve must-know facts about last once-in-a-lifetime date this century

 People pray for peace during 12:12:12, at an event called "Light Meeting" in Tama, west of Tokyo December 12, 2012, marking the last day in this century where the numeral date appear with the same numbers. (Reuters / Yuriko Nakao)

It’s the century’s last sequential date. For some, it represents luck. For others, it’s a day of romance. For most of us, it’s just another Wednesday. Regardless of your beliefs, 12/12/12 comes along with some rather amusing facts and superstitions.
Ballons fly in air as newlywed couples celebrate their mass wedding in conjunction with the date 12.12.12 outside a Chinese temple in Kuala Lumpur on December 12, 2012. Some 200 couples gathered at the temple to attend a grand colourful wedding ceremony on December 12, 2012, which many in Asia marks an auspicious date on the calendar. (AFP Photo / Saeed Khan)

1. Wedding bells will be ringing in Hong Kong and Singapore, where couples are keen to tie the knot on a day which they say symbolizes love. But it’s not just Asia which will see an increase in love birds heading to the altar. A survey conducted by US-based David’s Bridal estimates that around 7,500 brides will be getting hitched in America – a 1,446 per cent increase from the less significant 12/12/11. The surge comes as no surprise, considering the sharp increases in marriages which took place on 11/11/11 and 10/10/10.
2. For some, the day will be anything but joyful. Many doomsdayers believe 12/12/12 will be the end of the world, thanks to an interpretation of the Mayan calendar. But, most of the end-of-the-world believers are convinced that the actual doomsday is on 12/21/12, when the Mayan calendar is set to end.

3. In response to “end of the world” preparations taking place across the globe, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific has declared 12/12/12 “Anti-Doomsday Day,” in celebration of rational thinking and reasoned discourse.

4. Palindrome lovers will rejoice in the fact that at 1:21:02 am, they can celebrate the second which marks a date-time combination which will be read the same both backwards and forwards. 2012-12-12 1:21:02 = 201212-1-212102.

5. Those who wish to take part in yet another time-based phenomenon but find themselves snoring away at 1:21:02 will be given a second chance. At 12:12:12 pm, the number 12 will be given a “sixer” – 12/12/12 12:12:12.

6. Number crunchers have a profound respect for the number 12, mainly because of its divisibility capabilities. After all, it can divided into halves, thirds, fourths, sixths, and twelfths. So it can only be assumed that mathematicians will find 12/12/12 to be three times more exciting than a normal “12” day.  

7. According to Chinese numerology, the number one is a yang number which is ruled by the sun and represents independence and individualism. Two is a yin number which is ruled by the moon and represents symmetry and balance. When placed together, the number 12 brings harmony to the yin and yang, balancing the feminine energy of the moon with the masculine energy of the sun. So, what we can gather is that 12/12/12 equals lots of harmony. 

8. Three is generally considered a heavenly number and often represents the soul or godhead. Four is the number of earth and mankind – for example, there are four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west). Because of this, the product of the two numbers, 12, has been said to encompass both the secular and the sacred. So 12/12/12 should mean that both sides will be represented more than usual.

9. December 12, 2012 is exactly 6 years, 6 months, 6 days from June 6, 2006, or 06/06/06.

10. From culinary cuisine to calendars, 12 has been a significant number since its creation. Just think about it – 12 months in the year, 12 hours of night and day, 12 astrological signs, 12 Olympic gods and goddesses, 12 days of Christmas, and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Oh, and let’s not forget about eggs – which are cheaper by the dozen! With so much significance on its side, 12/12/12 was seemingly destined to be a meaningful day. 

11. Kiam Moriya of Birmingham, Alabama will turn 12 at 12:12pm on 12/12/12. Since approximately 267 babies are born every minute, many other people will share the same moment – in their respective timezones, of course!

12. Students at Moscow State University have been given motivation to study after their professor posted a sign on his door stating, “The last chance to retake your History of Foreign Literature exam will be 12/12/12. If you choose not to take it, it will not only be the end of the world…but also the end of you.”




Mars to be colonized by millionaires

Elon Musk, an American billionaire and co-founder of SpaceX, announced development of a rocket motor designed for flight to Mars. According to his calculations, the price of "delivery" of a single colonist to the Red Planet would be half a million dollars. The future "Martians" are expected to pay the entire cost of the trip.

"The ticket price should be low enough so that most people in developed countries by the age of 45 or so could save money for a flight," Musk proclaimed at a conference at the Royal Society of Astronautics (UK). He added that $500,000 would buy a house in California.

Meanwhile, statistics show that most Americans are not able to save this amount by the age of 45. Moreover, the average real income of American households has not increased since 1975. It is unlikely that even in developed countries there will be a large number of people willing to colonize Mars. The average age is not the best for becoming a "cosmonaut." At the age of 45 it is not easy to travel to space and then adapt to far from comfortable conditions of another planet.

However, Musk has his own ideas in this regard. Let's say at the beginning of the colonization only one in 100,000 humans will be ready to pay for a ticket to Mars. Most likely, by the time the world's population will grow to about 8 billion people. Therefore, we would have as many as 80 thousand potential colonists who would purchase tickets for a total of $40 billion. This is enough to create the first colony on Mars the size of a small city on Earth. Primary infrastructure will have to be prepared, but it would require less money than the transfer of humans to Mars.

It is the delivery of colonists to Mars that is by far the most challenging task. Even a heavy rocket carrier Falcon-9 with a built-in first stage will not be able to complete such an operation. Now SpaceX is developing a space vehicle called MCT (according to various sources, it stands for Mass Cargo Transport, or Mars Colony Transport). This ship is assumed to run on closed cycle methane engine.

Unlike in Falcon-9, in the engines used in the new vehicle gas will not be released into the environment, but will get into the combustion chamber, thereby increasing traction and engine efficiency. Moreover, methane is much cheaper, for example, than hydrogen, which is important for frequent flights. It can be safely stored at high temperatures, whereas under these conditions liquid hydrogen makes the tanks material more brittle.

But most importantly, methane does not have to be delivered from Earth. It can be obtained directly on Mars using terrestrial anaerobic bacteria and local substrates. Theoretically, hydrogen can be produced on Mars as well, but since this is only possible by electrolysis of water that is found on Mars under the sand in the form of ice, the process would be much more complex and energy-intensive.

Incidentally, according to Elon Musk, using a "reusable" ship for flights that would return to Earth in the early stages of colonization is not feasible, since the distance between the Earth and Mars is constantly changing. The first ship will not transfer many people. Mostly its compartments will be occupied by construction material for the pressurized dome under which the colonists would live, as well as plants and fertilizer. It is also expected to send to Mars supplies of oxygen and water. Water will also provide protection from radiation, which is higher on the Red Planet than on Earth.

Generally, the idea is feasible. It would be possible to find 80,000 people who would agree to be pioneers on an alien planet. Some will look for exotic and romantic adventures, others would look for a chance to leave the overcrowded earth or escape from their terrestrial problems. Another question is whether these people will be fit for Mars exploration? There will be a need not only in people who know how to make money, but also a variety of scientific and technical experts, teachers, doctors, psychologists, and even laborers.

To meet the need in various professionals, a cheap way of transporting them will be required, and then a "ticket" to Mars cannot cost half a million. As for a handful of millionaires, it is unlikely that they can make substantial contributions. So far, none of wealthy people are in a hurry to invest in this expensive project.

Irina Shlionskaya


Royal baby: What are the odds of twins?

 Since the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to hospital with acute morning sickness - hyperemesis gravidarum - there has been a great deal of speculation about the possibility of her having twins. But what are the chances?

There has been a flurry of bets on the possibility of not one royal baby, but two at once.

The bookies have all already slashed their odds. Ladbrokes had odds of 50-1 last week and they are now 10-1.

"We have had to slash the odds on the bet because of the sheer volume of money coming in," says spokeswoman Jessica Bridge.

The betting has been intense because there is an association between the duchess's medical condition and the chance of having a multiple birth.

Evolutionary biologist Dr Yan Wong has analysed the data available. If you look at births in the UK, about 1.5% are twins.

Another factor is IVF treatment, which increases the numbers of twins, but there is no suggestion that the duchess has had this.

In Norway, Denmark and Sweden, they are good at collecting data about births, as well as women who suffer acute morning sickness. There is a Norwegian data set of almost a million births between 1967 and 2005.

There is also extensive data from Denmark and Sweden. It is these figures that Wong has looked at.

There is somewhere between a 50% and 100% increase in the probability of having twins suggested by the acute morning sickness, he says.

"That actually means that the chance of having twins goes from 1.34% if you don't have acute morning sickness, to 2.5% if you do have the condition. It's still pretty low," he concludes.

But the figures do suggest an outcome that is far more probable - that is the suggestion that the duchess will give birth to a girl. Birth statistics in the UK show slightly more boys are born than girls.

According to the Scandinavian data, the standard chance of giving birth to a girl is 49%. But mothers with severe morning sickness have a 55% probability of giving birth to a daughter.

"Despite its poorly understood causes, morning sickness does have a loose association with heightened levels of a hormone called chorionic gonadotrophin. This hormone is also increased when the child is female," says Wong.

On the point of twins, a look at the family tree might help.

Royal historian Robert Lacey has looked at the prevalence of twins in both William and Catherine's families.

"William's uncle Charles Spencer has identical twin daughters and his grandfather Lord Fermoy was an identical twin," he says. "On Kate's side, her paternal grandmother had a twin sister and Kate's father Michael had twin Middleton great-aunts.

"I can't think of any senior members of the royal family or heirs to the throne who have had twins."

And it is only a predisposition towards having non-identical twins that is passed down through families.

Noble-born twins don't always live happily ever after in legend and literature:

  • Roman myth says city's founder Romulus and his twin Remus were suckled by a wolf - but Romulus later murdered RemusIn John Webster's play The Duchess of Malfi, the title character is persecuted and killed by her jealous twin brother

    Alexandre Dumas's novel Vicomte de Bragelonne creates fictional brother for French king Louis XIV, who is locked up in an iron mask

    "There is some indication that non-identical twins run in families. The studies have concentrated on cases where there are very close relatives who have non-identical twins, a woman's mother or a woman's sister having non-identical twins," says Wong.

    Lacey doesn't know if the duchess's distant relatives are non-identical or not. And St James' Palace won't comment.

"But having identical twins, there does not seem to be a genetic predisposition. It's just a fluke," says Wong. So the identical twins in William's family won't have any impact on whether he and his wife will have twins themselves.

There is plenty of misleading information on the internet about a single gene that produces twins, says Wong.

"There isn't one gene that increases the probability of having non-identical twins. People have done studies, genome-wide association studies, and it seems like there is a number of different factors on all sorts of different chromosomes that are inherited equally through the male and female lines. But it's very difficult to pin down."

So the statistical chance of William and Catherine having twins is slightly raised because she has suffered from acute morning sickness, but only very slightly. You might say it isn't worth betting the house on.