Hugh Jackman introduced the world's first-ever screening of Les Miserables to an audience in Sydney on Saturday, describing his lead role as "truly a labour of love".
Jackman, who plays Jean ValJean in the epic film musical, was on hand to tell an inviation-only Sydney audience they were the first audience to ever see the completed movie, during a mid-morning screening.
The actor admitted he had first had a swim at Bondi Beach before attending the event at the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park, where he spoke passionately about his "once in a lifetime" role in the film.
"I don't think I've ever worked harder or been prouder," Jackman said. After taking over the microphone to introduce the film, he said "I've done this many times in my life but I've never felt prouder as an actor to do it."
He said the film was a tribute to the success of the hit musical and the literary genius of Victor Hugo.
Mike Baard, the managing director of Universal Pictures Australia, told the audience director Tom Hooper had finished the final print of the film on Sunday night in London, before it was hand delivered to Sydney for the screening.
He added the Sydney showing was being held ahead of exclusive private preview screenings in New York and London, with strict security and full embargos in place about the content of the film, ahead of its worldwide release on Boxing Day.
No-one present at the film is legally allowed to talk about its content and had to sign a legal waiver before entering the cinema.
It's clear though the director and his star actor were keen to judge the audience's reaction.
Jackman admitted he had been trying to phone Hooper, who directed the King's Speech, just moments before stepping in front of the Sydney audience. Hooper had also asked him to call afterwards, to let him know the audience reaction.
Even before Les Miserable is seen by the rest of the world, the film has an Oscar buzz because of the epic scale undertaken by Hooper in recreating the Victor Hugo novel, which in turn became a smash-hit musical for 27 years.
While millions of people around the world have already fallen in love with the stories and characters in Les Miserables, the determination to keep the film's content secret until its release date was patently clear.
David Collins from Universal told the cinema audience of a few hundred people that security staff would be patrolling during the screening. "We're scouring the auditorium," he said. "Security will be here with night vision goggles."
Jackman has the starring role in the musical, alongside fellow antipodean Russell Crowe and actors Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried.
The story Hugh secret: security abounds for Les Mis sneak peek first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.