Screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Little Dorrit, War and Peace) is adapting Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables for BBC and PBS Masterpiece.

David Oyelowo in Les Miserables, coming to BBC and PBS


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In six episodes, the new non-musical miniseries version of Les Misérables will have plenty of space to tell Hugo’s epic story of civil unrest, rebellion and redemption in France.

Set beginning in 1815 and ending at the June Rebellion in Paris in 1832, Les Mis follows Jean Valjean, a man imprisoned for years for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving sister, in the years after his release.





In Hugo’s own words, the book is “a progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from corruption to life; from bestiality to duty, from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God. The starting point: matter, destination: the soul. The hydra at the beginning, the angel at the end.”

Dominic West, Les Miserables, courtesy BBC

Davies said he is delighted by the cast of the historical costume drama: Dominic West (The Wire, Testament of Youth, The Devil’s Whore) leads as the soulful ex-convict Jean Valjean, and David Oyelowo (Selma, A United Kingdom) is the policeman Javert, who is in relentless pursuit of Jean. Davies added “I am thrilled to have the opportunity of doing real justice to Victor Hugo at last.”

Lily Collins (The Last Tycoon) plays the orphan Fantine.

Lily Collins in Les Miserables, courtesy BBC

The distinguished British cast also includes Adeel Akhtar (Victoria & Abdul) and Olivia Colman (Murder On The Orient Express, the next Queen Elizabeth in The Crown) as Monsieur and Madame Thénardier.

“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.” – Les Mis

Ellie Bamber (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and Josh O’Connor (The Durrells in Corfu, Ripper Street) are the troubled lovers as Cosette and Marius. Erin Kellyman will play Éponine.

Davies “will go back to the original novel and delve deep into the many layers of Hugo’s story, revelling in Jean Valjean and Javert’s cat-and-mouse relationship” and will “vividly and faithfully bring to life the vibrant and engaging characters, the spectacular and authentic imagery and, above all, the incredible yet accessible story that was Hugo’s lifework.”

The upcoming period series began filming in February in Belgium and Northern France. First published in 1862, Hugo’s historical novel is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century.

Hugo’s message in the literary masterpiece is as welcome today as it ever was: “Wherever men go in ignorance or despair, wherever women sell themselves for bread, wherever children lack a book to learn from or a warm hearth, Les Miserables knocks at the door and says: “open up, I am here for you”.”

When will Les Miserables air on PBS Masterpiece? It’s too soon to say, but you can sign up for our newsletter for announcements about when the new period drama will air in the US. The new period series is expected to premiere on BBC One in 2019.

Les Misérables has been adapted for stage and screen numerous times: the 2012 musical adaptation of Les Mis, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried, received eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor for Jackman, and won three, including Best Supporting Actress for Hathaway. Watch the TRAILER.

A 2000 TV miniseries version stars Gérard Depardieu and John Malkovich. Earlier adaptations include a 1998 film, starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush, a 1995 movie by Claude Lelouch, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, and a 1980 musical, by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. For many, the 1978 Les Mis with Richard Jordan, Anthony Perkins and Cyril Cusack is the preferred telling of the story. 

The 1935 adaptation starring Fredric March and Charles Laughton, was nominated for three was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Do you have a favorite adaptation of Les Misérables to date?

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If you enjoyed this post, you’ll want to wander over to The Period Films List: the best costume dramas, heritage films, documentaries, period dramas, romances, historical reality series and period inspired movies, sorted by era and theme.  Here’s what’s coming to PBS Masterpiece in the Spring 2018, and be sure to see the Best Period Dramas: Victorian Era List.

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