Behind the Music

Category: Phantom of the Opera News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: November 5, 2004 | Publication: Entertainment Weekly | Author: Missy Schwartz
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A sneak peek at ''Phantom of the Opera'' -- Here's how filmmakers brought Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage classic to the big screen by Missy Schwartz

''We tried to make it all a bit theatrical,'' says production designer Anthony Pratt of the screen version of The Phantom of the Opera. ''Nothing is meant to be terribly real.'' Real? No. Over-the-top lavish? Absolutely. Set in a haunted Paris opera house, the movie is a vision of romantic splendor. To create this scene, where songbird Christine (Emmy Rossum) visits the grave of her father, Pratt drew from two of the world's most ornate cemeteries: Paris' PÓre Lachaise and Montparnasse. He filled a London soundstage with nearly 30 fiberglass statues, some towering as high as 16 feet. ''The proportions were so that Christine would be a tiny, innocent figure [among] these cold stones,'' says director Joel Schumacher. ''It's so elegant Ś like out of a Sargent painting.'' The solemn scene is one of the few to take place outside the theater walls, and, Schumacher adds, ''the only time Christine wears black.'' Costume designer Alexandra Byrne chose the heroine's silk-velvet dress and taffeta cape because she ''wanted something soft and fluid that worked with the snow.'' The clean silhouette sure made her blood-red bouquet pop. ''It's all shameless,'' laughs Schumacher. ''The whole thing.''

From his leather mask to his elaborate hideaway beneath the opera house, Gerard Butler's Phantom is theatrical to the core. ''He lived in the opera all his life, so everything in his lair would be stolen sets,'' Schumacher says. Including, of course, his Dracula-collared wool cloak. The mask, however, would have been the villain's own creation. ''He's a genius, he's an artist,'' jokes Schumacher. ''He can do anything!''

''Joel wanted the theater to be sexy,'' Pratt recalls. So, inspired by French architect Charles Garnier, who designed the original Paris opera, Pratt incorporated curvy female figures throughout. For more opulence, real gaslights were used on the stage. ''Candle- and gaslight are very flattering,'' Schumacher notes. The firelight reflected brilliantly in the Swarovski crystals that were hand-embroidered into the ivory-silk-taffeta gown Rossum wears for her character's first solo performance at the opera. ''Joel wanted a spectacular dress,'' says Byrne. Mission accomplished.