The Phantom of the Opera - Gerard Butler Q&A
Category: Phantom of the Opera News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 26, 2005 | Publication: indieLondon | Author: Lizzie Guilfoyle
Q. Given that you have no musical training prior to this whatsoever, it must have felt extraordinary for you, that you were singing the role that so many leading men wanted to play, in the movie that has been talked about for two decades?
A. I think you've been mis-informed. I was classical trained. [much laughter]
Since I was six-months-old. These journalists who never get the facts right!
Actually, like Patrick, people here aren't quite aware of my gift to perform musicals, but for different reasons. I never did one. I have to say, I was kind of taken aback when Joel first.. [Joel interrupts]
Schumacher: It started because a couple of years ago, when I first met Gerry, I knew I wanted to work..... I knew he was a very interesting young actor and we talked about the possibility of working together and I never had a role for him.
He had mentioned once, in passing, that he'd been in a band. OK. We all know what that means. So, it was either Gerry was playing the tambourine and trying to pick up girls, was rapping and trying to pick up girls, was trying to play the guitar and trying to pick up girls. Right. And possibly succeeding at the latter.
But I thought he'd be a great Phantom. The deal I had with Andrew is that, definitely, the three of them would sing for him. Whoever was going to play those roles would ultimately, at the end of the process, sing for Andrew and that would be the determining fact. Because the deal was he wouldn't force me to put anyone in the movie I didn't want. But I wouldn't force him to use anyone whose voice he didn't feel was right for this movie. And Gerry was very passionate about the character.
And I said, the good news is you'd be a great Phantom; the bad news here is, you're going to have to sing for Andrew Lloyd Webber. And Gerry did. He came in and I tell you something, he was amazing.
I saw Andrew, I was sitting behind Andrew in his music room here in London, and I saw Andrew jump up - Gerry sang Music of the Night - and I saw Andrew jump up and sort of race across the room and shake his hand vigorously.
And I knew Andrew would be polite if he didn't like him, but I could tell by the enthusiasm, and then Gerry got the role.
We also have to say, Nigel Wright, our musical producer and finally our musical director, really worked very closely with everyone here and did a magnificent job.
I have to say that Simon [music director) and Nigel did a lot to assure Andrew that, even though Gerry had not had any formal training, that with some coaching, he could really pull it off. And that was part of the deal.
Q. What was scarier, singing for Andrew Lloyd Webber or a short-trousered school boy singing Mull of Kintyre to a class of young people?
A. I was singing Mull of Kintyre once in my school and the teacher overheard me and sent me to the class above. And I was terrified they would kick the shit out of me.
I had to just walk in and the teacher in that class thought, why has he been sent up here. She was spoken to and then said, 'OK class. Stop your work'. Oh NO. Next thing, I'm singing Mull of Kintyre for this class.
I have to say the singing for Andrew Lloyd Webber turned out to be, well, and Joel, for you hadn't heard me sing either, and neither had Austin Shaw, the producer, and the three of them were in this room at the same time and all the nerves I should have experienced just like a month before I knew this was going to happen, and I hadn't felt any nerves at all, I remember being amazed at how calm I was about this whole thing, and then suddenly the first notes of Music of the Night came on, and the prospect of what I was about to do, and what I didn't actually think I was capable of, hit me in that moment and the legs started shaking and Simon Lee was playing the piano and we started doing it.
I think it was like [demonstrates song], and from there, suddenly I thought, 'this is the man who composed this song, one of the most famous songs of all time, and I'm singing a song made famous by somebody who's not me and I'm not a singer'. I spent the rest of the day annoying Joel, though, because I was convinced I had been terrible.
JS: He was so obnoxious. Katie had invited us to see her boyfriend in a play and so Gerry and I went and Gerry did not look at the stage the entire play. He sat like this and went, 'oh Joel, I was terrible, I was terrible, I want to do it again, I want to do it again'. And I said 'he loved it. You know if you had to do it again I would tell you, but you don't. You passed the test'.
'No, no, I've got to do it again; I've got to do it again!' And he didn't do it again. That was my whole evening with Gerry.
Q. Can you tell us when you first saw the stage version and if, in an ideal world, you could play any other musical role in any other musical, what would it be?
A: I saw it, I think first, before or after meeting Joel. I just went along to see what it was that I was getting interested in, and I saw it again when I was singing with the conductor over there.
As for playing another role, it would be the Sheila Gish role in the Donmar Warehouse production of Cabaret. Being a female would be a whole new side of me.
Q. You wanted to try and humanise the Phantom - not making him a creature but more a wounded, pained human being?
A: I think that was the case for everybody. It was much more that we were trying to tell the romantic triangle between myself, Raoul and Christine. We had to tell a much more human story and therefore to bring it down. And for me, from the second I arrived, I met with Joel many times, I came in saying 'I need to find a way of movement for the Phantom which is powerful and focused and yet subtle'. I didn't want to be theatrical because I thought on camera it would be grotesque. And a voice for the Phantom, especially for me because I had the mask, and my best way of expression was through the eyes, and from what I was feeling and what I could say in the voice. I always wanted every note that he sang to be an expression of his life, of his pain and his love, and his frustrations. But the question you ask, 'how did you deal with the music?', to me the learning cost was huge and we all had a little system.
Schumacher: At the very end of the film, when Emmy and Patrick are sailing away from him, his last line to her is 'you alone can make my song take flight', and the way it's done on the stage, you hit the balcony; it's sung full out, and it makes no sense that way at all. So what he does is whisper it to himself so that it becomes subtle.
Q. The make-up must have been pretty tricky to put on, but I also gather you got a very strange reaction from some of the people on the set who passed you by?
A: The prosthetics were a difficult thing to deal with. It was a bastard! The first three times I did it was nine hours in the doing and then about an hour and a half to get it off. It's difficult to watch movies when somebody's super-gluing the bottom of your eye and then pouring alcohol to get it off the eye-lash and you're screaming with the pain, and then attaching a piece of silk with a bit of string to this part of your eye, here, the lower eyelid, pulling the string, underneath the prosthetic, round your back, down to a piece of metal and then pulling it so it literally does that, and hangs down.
We finally got it down to about five hours but there was a six-day stretch when I was up at 3am every morning.
Schumacher: Well part of it was we didn't want to curse you with the huge fake prosthetic thing, that just glues on, which you've seen in horror movies thousands of times, so to make it look like real damage, it's subtle, so it's done in so many layers, and Jenny Shircore, who is a genius, who designed our hair and make-up, but what Gerry is telling you really it's very difficult to be a movie star. He wants you to share his pain.
Butler: So the girls are allowed to talk about the pain of corsets, but I'm not allowed to talk about anything! [laughs]
But to get back to your question - and thanks for interrupting Joel - it was strange and funny, because when I was walking through the studio, the reaction was very strong. They'd either get very scared or just what the hell is that? And it made me very angry, which was kind of weird, you know, because I was already very angry after coming out of the prosthetic, but at the same time put me in the perfect head state. If you have hours of hours to watch yourself turning into this, or see this disfigurement taking place, it kind of puts you in that place; and when you see people's reactions to you - and they can't help but literally go 'oh my God, that's awful' - then it certainly creates an emotional air.
Q. You were quoted as saying that after Phantom you were going to call it a day, is that how you felt?
A: Leaving the movie industry? After working with Joel I seriously considered it [laughs]. It was very telling, though, that I didn't work again until August.
Up until that point I did five movies back to back with literally a couple of days off between each one, and then I just couldn't... the Phantom really killed me off. I mean, I loved it, it was the most amazing experience, but by the end of it I was done in, I really was.
Schumacher: You came into it exhausted. He was filming on the soccer movie up til the first day of shooting on this thing.