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Category: Interviews
Article Date: August 9, 2003 | Publication: Calgary Sun (Alberta, Canada) | Author: LOUIS B. HOBSON, CALGARY SUN

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Gerard Butler is having the last laugh and it's a hearty one.

Earlier this year, the Scottish actor surprised everyone from family to friends to limo drivers when he was cast as the masked title character in Joel Schumacher's screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. The film is due out Christmas 2004.

"When I phoned to tell my mom I was auditioning, she said: 'But Gerard, can you sing?' and my friends all asked if it was the non-musical version of Phantom," recalls Butler who stars as Angelina Jolie's love interest in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.

At the time Butler was preparing his singing audition, he was filming scenes from Cradle of Life in London.

"I was singing on set 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. That I couldn't sing.

"Now that he's learned I got the part he's leaving messages asking if he can be my driver and I'm telling him just where he can go for having so little faith in me."

Butler hadn't sung since he was 12 when he'd played one of Fagin's street urchins in a Scottish community production of Oliver! so he immediately sought out a voice coach.

"By the time I actually met with Joel, I'd only had about four lessons and foolishly told him the truth. I could sense that didn't impress him."

Butler's reading obviously did because Schumacher immediately arranged a meeting with Lloyd Webber.

The actor already had a second crucial ally in the film's musical director Simon Lee.

"Simon agreed to come to Andrew's house with me and play for the audition. He told Joel I was the fastest learner he'd ever worked with."

At that first meeting Butler got Lloyd Webber's blessing and he's continued with his singing lessons ever since.

The Phantom begins filming in the fall.

After small roles in Harrison's Flowers, Shooter and Fast Food, Butler, 33, was cast simultaneously as the leads in the TV mini series Attila the Hun and Wes Craven's film Dracula 2000. Earlier this year, he filmed the time-travel thriller Timeline in Montreal.

"I went to find the house we had lived in and when I was walking down the street, I noticed a rainbow in the sky. I know this sounds weird but it really did end right at our old house. It's one of the eeriest experiences I've ever had."

Eerie is the way Butler also explains filming a major stunt in The Cradle of Life where he and Angelina Jolie shimmy down ropes to escape from a cliff fortress in China. "You're upside down so you have no concept how high up you are and I got instantly nauseous."

Copyright 2003 Sun Media Corporation


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