If you're still keeping track, Phantom movie is on again

Category: Phantom of the Opera News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: August 14, 2003 | Publication: Edmonton Journal (Alberta) | Author: Jamie Portman
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One of the most on-again, off-again projects in Hollywood history is finally heading for the big screen. The film version of the long-running Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Phantom Of The Opera, will begin filming at Britain's Pinewood Studios this fall.

That's the word from Scottish actor Gerard Butler, who is currently checking out the state of his vocal cords as he prepares to take on the role of the masked Phantom for director Joel Schumacher.

Butler is starting to regard Pinewood as a second home. He spent several months there shooting the current Tomb Raider adventure, in which he plays a rogue secret service agent. "By the end of the year, I will have spent a large proportion of my life at Pinewood Studios, and it's not my favourite place on the planet," he says bluntly.

On the other hand, Butler knows that Phantom Of The Opera is one of those dream opportunities that comes all too rarely. A musical will be a new departure for him -- his earlier credits include Trainspotting and Dracula 2000 -- and he knows he's taking on a role of legendary status.

Plans for a film version of one of the most successful stage musicals in history were first announced a decade ago, but they kept being postponed. One reported problem was Lloyd Webber, who has the reputation for being notoriously hands-on with his projects and who was not totally convinced that he should go ahead with a movie at a time when his show was still running both on Broadway and in London. There were also prolonged discussions over the nature of the adaptation: Phantom is a semi-operatic sing-through musical on stage, but would this approach be acceptable to film audiences?

Butler says there have been changes. "There will be more talking in it," he concedes. But he adds that the singing will not be short-changed. "The whole thing is going to be more filmic. You'll be allowed to express more subtle emotions rather than having to belt it out on stage, so that will be one big advantage of the film."

He says there's no simple explanation for the endless delays over bringing Phantom Of The Opera to movie screens.

"I think there's like 25 different stories. There were always things cropping up. Andrew was busy -- Joel was busy -- it wasn't the right time -- they couldn't get studio space. There was always something going on until everybody was in the right place at the right time."

Not everybody will be happy with the signing of Butler for the role -- particularly fans of Michael Crawford, who first portrayed the Phantom on stage. For several years, these fans have been conducting an intensive campaign to ensure that Crawford won the part. Four years ago, an organization calling itself the Michael Crawford Phantom Movie Campaign even bought full-page ads in entertainment trade weeklies in support of their hero.

"The financial success of any work of art depends on the fans who pay to see it," the ad read. "Forty million fans enjoyed Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom Of The Opera on stage. Thirteen million people around the world purchased the original cast recording. Michael Crawford is indelibly impressed upon them as the voice of the Phantom. We will not pay to see any other actor portray the Phantom on film."

As for Butler, he's currently shooting The Game Of Their Lives, the true story of the American soccer team that went to the World Cup in 1950.

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