The Internet Will Never Let Russell Crowe Forget Les Miserables | Features

But then audiences saw the movie and wondered why Russell Crowe’s voice sounded so terrible.

The quality of a person’s singing can be fiercely debated. Is Bob Dylan a terrible singer because he has a “whiny” voice? Is Mariah Carey’s voice bad because it’s “showy”? What we consider “good” singing varies from listener to listener — like a voice itself, our response is unique to us, revealing something ineffable about ourselves. 

But even if such judgments are highly subjective, most critics agreed that Crowe was all wrong for “Les Mis.” The Austin Chronicle’s Kimberley Jones was especially scathing, noting, “When ‘Les Misérables’ is good, it is very, very good, and when it is bad, it’s usually because Russell Crowe has opened his mouth. … Crowe, whose professional singing career topped out with vanity band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, is a sorry (and toady) simulacrum for the raging Javert; he sings standout solo ‘Stars’ like it’s a lullaby, the words ‘I will never rest’ coming off not like the mission statement of an obsessed lawman, but rather the peevish sulk of an insomniac.”

Opening on Christmas Day in 2012, “Les Misérables” divided critics and audiences alike, with some appreciating the intimate, amped-up intensity Hooper lent the story, while others finding it garish, loud and hyperbolic. I thought both arguments were valid, but I ultimately got swept away by its sheer too-much-ness, happily run over by its freight-train lack of dramatic subtlety or emotional nuance. But even I couldn’t defend Crowe, although it wasn’t necessarily his singing — it was his overall one-note glumness, which seemed to suggest he didn’t feel comfortable in the role. 

But despite mixed reviews, the film was a blockbuster — this was back when studios weren’t ashamed to advertise the fact that their musicals were, in fact, musicals — and went on to win three Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for Anne Hathaway. Nonetheless, all through that awards season, a running joke was how horrible Crowe was in “Les Mis.” The public mocking got so bad that journalists asked Hooper about his decision to cast the “Gladiator” star for the iconic role. His response wasn’t entirely persuasive.