THE stage production has been seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries and 21 languages since it opened in London in 1985.

The spectacular 25th anniversary production of Les Misérables was a smash hit at The Mayflower in the summer of 2010, 12 years after the long-running musical first graced the stage in Southampton.

Now the long-awaited movie version, much of it filmed in Hampshire, hits screens today – with an Oscar buzz and advance bookings already mounting.

Producer Cameron Mackintosh, who brings another of his huge successes Phantom of the Opera to The Mayflower later this month, had the rights to any film option of Les Misérables and agreed with the assurance the actors would sing live.

He told Lorelei Reddin: “It really consumed me. I was on set virtually every day.

“The opening scenes in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard were some of the most incredible I’ve ever seen in my life.

“Of course it was blazing hot for days for once and we had these rain machines going all day. There were thousands of extras and when the doors opened up into that huge dock, it was just extraordinary.

“Filming in Winchester was lovely because it was for the final scenes of the film. It’s only an hour away from where I live in Somerset and I always think I should spend more time there as it’s beautiful.”

Hugh Jackman showcases his vocal prowess, playing the story’s protagonist, Jean Valjean.

“You follow him for a 20-year span, and throughout that time you see all the ups and downs, the pain and the ecstasy that life brings,” says Jackman, who puts in a tour de force performance as the reformed convict which has already garnered him a Golden Globe nomination.

“Valjean’s like a Hamlet; he’s one of those parts that you hope one day you’re going to get to play apart from in your bathroom.”

“All the things I’ve done leading up to this, whether it be on stage or in film, I feel came together in this role. It’s the role of a lifetime.”

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo and set against the social and political upheavals of 19th century France, Les Misérables is an epic tale about broken dreams, unrequited love and a timeless testament to the endurance of the human spirit.

Russell Crowe stars as prison officer Javert, Anne Hathaway as factory worker turned prostitute Fantine, Eddie Redmayne as politically-minded student Marius and Amanda Seyfried as Valjean’s ward Cosette.