A Night At The Opera - Schumacher and co. premiere Phantom

Category: Phantom of the Opera News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: December 7, 2004 | Publication: Empire Online | Author: editors
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The Christmas market set up in the middle of Leicester Square may have a slight air of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ about it, but last night the edges belonged solely to The Phantom Of The Opera. It was testament to the popularity of the West End’s longest running musical that so many came to see the world premiere of its cinematic counterpart, drawing such attendees from the upper echelons of entertainment as David Frost, Ronnie Wood, and that woman from the Currys commercials.

Naturally, cast and creators were also present, and more than happy to have a few words with Empire when they ran the gauntlet of a very long, fan-lined red carpet. Director Joel Schumacher was looking his usual genial, happy self, and pleased with what he saw. “It’s an audience of fans, which is wonderful, and there’re so many young people out here tonight, that’s really exciting.”

The man behind the mask for this production is Gerard Butler, and he had words for anyone who thinks a musical is an easy gig. “There was just so much technical work to be done for this film. The singing took up a lot of time, and the movement; there was a lot of pressure there. Trying to create a character - that could so easily be melodramatic and campy - trying to give him some pathos and a soul, and to do that while under the mask and through the singing. It was all a big challenge, but it was incredible; it was such a buzz.”

But surely he’d seen the show? “I’d never seen Phantom, and I’m glad, because when I read the script, it was a fresh experience for me, which is why it felt suddenly necessary to do it. I did go and see it after meeting Joel, out of curiosity, but to be honest it just inspired me to go and (do) something different in the movie.”

The famous - nay classic - story tells of a musical genius who, after suffering a deformity, takes to living beneath a Parisian Opera House, wracked in his own madness. He falls for a beautiful young singer and orchestrates her ascent among the players to leading lady but goes completely barking when she falls for another man. It’s then up to this dashing hero to save her from the Phantom’s abducting clutches, while everybody sings a lot of famous songs.

Now obviously you need a special leading lady for this role – a point that Schumacher and creator of this version of the story, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber were in complete agreement over. “Christine had to be sixteen,” said the composer “which you could never do in the theatre – you could never reasonably cast a girl of sixteen in the theatre because she wouldn’t be able to sing in it. The voice is a muscle, so they wouldn’t be able to sustain it.” But film, as we all well know, is a different story.

What you may not have known is that if you want a jaw droppingly, classically beautiful sixteen-year-old opera singer with film experience, you go to Emmy Rossum. Which fortunately for us, is exactly what Messers Schumacher and Lloyd Webber did, and no-one – least of all Empire – regretted it, especially when she was speaking with us about the film. “I think it’s as good as it ever could have been. Its sumptuous, exciting, sexy, teary, but it really has a lot of heart, so I’m proud”. She spoke in similarly high terms of the professionalism between the cast, all the while flitting back and forth between journalists and the photographers clamouring for a smile.

It wasn’t long before the audience were all in, the famous chandelier could rise and the pipe organ start its signature descent of chords from D minor. The stars bid us adieu, and took their places in the cinema. Empire took our place at the bar, and attempted to knock out a feeble pun based on ‘The Music Of The Night’, and resist Michael Crawford jokes. Ooo, Betty!