FRIGHT AT THE OPERA: MASK HYSTERIA

Category: Misc./General Career News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: October 17, 2004 | Publication: Sunday Mail | Author: Toby Mcdonald
Publication/Article Link:

GB.NET NOTE: The majority of the contents of this article are from numerous other sources, including the video interview on the official Beowulf & Grendel website.

Star Gerard suffers panic attacks behind Phantom's make-up

SCREEN hero Gerard Butler told yesterday how he suffered terrifying panic attacks behind the mask he wore while filming Phantom of the Opera.

Scots star Butler, 35, earned more than 2million for the big-screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical.

The Glasgow-born actor admitted it was hard dealing with the stifling mask and make-up.

He said: 'The Phantom was really tough. It was the most difficult job I have ever done.

'It was nine hours of prosthetics and all the singing training and the pressure of that - it was craziness.

'There was the timeline we were working to and it was 110 degrees in Montreal.

'We were all wearing wetsuits and thick costumes. I was having panic attacks I was so hot, I couldn't cool myself down.'

Butler - who starred opposite Angelina Jolie in the action-packed Tomb Raider - has been tipped by American critics for an Oscar for his lead role in Phantom, which will be premiered in London in December.

The film, set in the Paris Opera House at the turn of the 20th century, also stars Miranda Richardson and Minnie Driver with 18-year-old Day After Tomorrow star Emmy Rossum as Christine.

Butler, now filming the saga of Beowulf and Grendel, revealed that after being cast as the Phantom, it was his singing voice that provoked panic.

He said: 'When I phoned to tell my mum I was auditioning she said, 'But Gerard, can you sing?' My friends all asked if it was a non-musical version.'

Butler also recalls that even his driver at the time, ferrying him around London for the Tomb Raider sequel shoot, was sceptical.

He said: 'I was singing between takes and in my car on the way to and from the set.

'When my driver would phone to confirm the time for my next pick-up, he'd leave singing messages on my machine telling me I'd never be the Phantom, I couldn't sing.

'When he learned I got the part he was leaving messages asking if he could be my driver - I told him where he could go for having so little faith in me.'

Rumours of heated rows on the Phantom set were played down by director Joel Schumacher last week.

He said: 'Gerry and I were friends before we worked together on Phantom. He is one of the least pretentious, most talented, passionate, hardworking actors, with a great sense of humour.'

Butler's pain behind the Phantom mask has paid off with the New York Times already tipping him as an Oscar contender. Their film critic said: 'He is swashbuckling and dangerous. Mr Butler inhabits his role with such sulphurous intensity that his Phantom commands the screen.'

And it's not just Phantom that has earned him plaudits.

Gerard's starring role alongside Emily Mortimer in the drama Dear Frankie was a huge hit at the Cannes Film Festival, winning a 10-minute standing ovation.

He said: 'Around 70 per cent of the audience were crying, but they were happy.

'That's what the movie does. There's something so warm and human about it.'

The film - shot in Glasgow and Greenock - follows the struggle of a mother to conceal from her son the fact that they are on the run from his violent father.

Butler played Billy Connolly's brother in the film Mrs Brown. He said: 'On my first day of filming I had to run naked into the sea - it was November. I had already been on a clifftop with the wind blowing for four hours being doused in cold water before every take.

'I already had the start of hypothermia and then had to run naked into the sea with Billy, who loves to get naked.

'And then to turn round and have the whole crew sitting on the shoreline watching you wade back in. I felt very small, exposed and cold.'

Butler has swapped his Phantom's mask for chain mail armour in his latest role in the Norse saga Beowulf and Grendel.

The epic tale, which inspired JRR Tolkein's Lord Of The Rings, has been shot in Iceland.

In the original poem, Beowulf is the wandering Viking who promises to slay Grendel, a troll who terrorises the Danish king Hrothgar. The 12million film is set amid real glaciers, a fake sixth-century village and a replica of a Viking ship.

Butler, who spent up to eight hours a day in chain mail, said: 'It's been a tough job but it's going to look great. Taking one step in armour is a battle, and when you walk out on the mud it's impossible.

'I got out about 70 yards and had to stop. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I couldn't do any more.'

Producer Paul Stephens said: 'Every English language hero story is based on Beowulf.

'It's about a hero riding in a Viking ship and slaughtering a monster but our film has a twist - it is not really a monster and the hero is a little more complicated.

'Gerard is going to be a major star. He's already very, very well known but Phantom of the Opera is going to push him right to the top.

'As a result I think he is going to bring Beowulf and Grendel right into the forefront of people's imagination.'