The town in which Jean Valjean becomes mayor is named Montreuil-sur-Mer in the book. This is a real port town in the region of Calais, across the waters from England. English readers of the book often missed this fact, as most past translations transcribed the town's name "blanked out" as "M____-sur-M__". In the movie the town is called Vigau, a name made up of the first and last syllables of Victor Hugo, the author of Les Misérables.
This version concentrates on the story of Valjean and Javert, with less emphasis on the romance between Cosette and Marius. Thénardier, a key character in the novel, appears in just one scene; his daughter, Eponine, is only seen in the background. Many fans of the musical version bemoaned the loss of Eponine and her love triangle with Marius and Cosette.
Bille August rejected the original score composed by Gabriel Yared. Yared said he could see it coming because there was 'no harmony' between the two of them. Yared was replaced by Basil Poledouris, who had a limited time to compose a full score. When the film was released, many movie posters listed Yared as composer, not Poledouris.