There have been plenty of other notable renditions of “I Dreamed a Dream” over the years, including the Susan Boyle performance on Britain’s Got Talent that made the song — and Boyle — a global pop phenomenon. But Hathaway’s version in the film is something different. Singing for a camera rather than the balcony lets her go smaller, emphasizing intimacy over power.
Hathaway spent months working out the performance, but when it finally came time to shoot the scene, she didn’t know what would happen. Her “Dream” sequence was shot over the course of an eight-hour day, which came soon after she had filmed the similarly intense scenes where Fantine gets her hair hacked off and molars yanked out. “I got really emotional during the haircutting and then I went into this kind of dark place for the teeth pulling,” says Hathaway. “I remember at the end of that just going, oh, s—, I haven’t even sung ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ yet and I’ve already hit the emotional apex where I was planning on going. So I walked into ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ after all that preparation and research going, I have no idea what’s about to happen.”
Here’s what did happen when Hathaway reimagined “I Dream a Dream.”