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GERARD OPENS A PHAN CLUB; NOW MUSIC MAN IN THE MASK COULD BE NEXT 007

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: December 6, 2004 | Publication: Daily Star | Author: JULIA ETHERINGTON
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HUNKY Gerard Butler is unrecognisable after the nine gruelling hours in make-up needed to transform him from a handsome Scot into The Phantom Of The Opera.

Since he's a relatively unknown actor, his face probably doesn't mean a lot to most people even WITHOUT the mask.

But all that is about to change... Thanks to his first leading-man role in this blockbusting movie version of the stage smash hit, which opens in British cinemas on Friday, Butler will soon be a household name across the world. In fact, he'll be catapulted to fame so fast, his life could become even scarier than the sinister Phantom's.

Behind the scenes, the 35-yearold law graduate from Paisley has already made such a big impression on Tinseltown's finest that he's being tipped to become the next James Bond.

And that will leave a string of big-name actors pretty shaken and stirred.

Before that, he's in the running for an Oscar - thanks to Phantom and his utterly convincing portrayal of the lovelorn spook living in the bowels of the Paris Opera House.

Butler will also make a cool 2million from the film, starring alongside gorgeous Day After Tomorrow actress Emmy Rossum, 18, with Minnie Driver and Liverpool blonde bombshell Jennifer Ellison in supporting roles.

And, despite all those gruelling hours in make-up, he says he's loved every minute of making the movie.

"I trust that my chemistry with Emmy was very sexy, " he confides with a grin.

"I used so much passion and longing towards her - which wasn't difficult because she's beautiful!

"I enjoyed delving into that older-younger thing between the characters because it was so dramatic.

"In some ways, the role was a dream come true for a guy who ain't 22 any more."

Butler has certainly had to wait for stardom ... After his law studies at Glasgow University, he started acting in the theatre then took a string of small film and TV roles. Up until now he's been best known for Tomb Raider The Cradle Of Life, with A-list actress Angelina Jolie, and parts in Dracula 2000 and Timeline with Anna Friel.

He will also play Scotland's raunchy national poet, Robert Burns, in a movie due out in 2006.

Phantom is a huge departure.

Even though composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber saw potential in his singing, Butler admits he took vital lessons before his bid to win the part because he thought he couldn't carry it off.

Now Phantom's highly respected director Joel Schumacher is singing Butler's praises all over Hollywood.

And rumours that he will succeed Pierce Brosnan to become the sixth screen 007 are growing louder and louder... despite strong competition from black Brit actor Colin Salmon.

MGN and producers Eon are said to be "seriously considering" the 6ft 2in hunk for their new MI6 muscleman.

And Butler could have one big advantage over rival names-inthe-frame Eric Bana, Jude Law, Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman, Dougray Scott, Orlando Bloom, Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd and Ewan McGregor ... He's actually been in a Bond film before - though if you blinked you would have missed him as a ship's captain in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Does he want the 007 job? You bet. In fact, he believes he was probably born for it. "The best Bond was Scottish...Sean Connery, " he insists. "Scots have a darker quality, something more animalistic."

Hollywood hot-shots seem to agree. One insider revealed:

"Executives have seen Gerard's work in other movies and now, in pre-screenings of Phantom, he's really come into his own.

"He's proving he's talented as well as attractive to the opposite sex. Bosses have been impressed by his adaptability and say he's perfect for the Bond role.

"They also like the idea of choosing a relative unknown this time rather than a big name.

"They see Gerard as the young Sean Connery - suave, sophisticated and intelligent with a very long shelf-life. He's got a massive future ahead of him."

Appropriate, then, that this superstar-in-waiting should now be spending so many happy hours literally waiting in the wings...as the Phantom.

It's a production that promises to be quite as spectacular as the box office smash on stage which first starred Michael Crawford and Sara Brightman.

Based on a novel, and previously filmed as a nonmusical, Phantom Of The Opera tells the story of a disfigured musical genius who lives hidden in a labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House. He falls in love with beautiful singer Christine and then decides to devote himself to nurturing her talents.

But, when he realises that Christine can never fully return his passion, he resorts to drastic action...

Emmy goes back home

THE sumptuous Phantom set was home from home for tantalising teenager Emmy Rossum, the sophisticated beauty who's already being compared to screen icon Audrey Hepburn.

The curly-haired leading lady was a child prodigy who made her debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera House when she was just six.

She then spent most of her childhood packing in the punters at classy concert venues.

Cinema audiences will recognise Emmy from blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow and Mystic River, alongside Sean Penn. She also played the young Hepburn in a biopic.

But, despite her big-screen experience and hob-nobbing with the stars, she admits she was almost totally overawed at her first meeting with Lloyd Webber at his New York home.

"He had the most magnificent apartment I had ever seen and I was floored by it, " she laughs. "I went in and started vocalising with the accompanist and Andrew walked in as we were preparing.

"He didn't say hello and didn't introduce himself. He just sat down in front of me and said, 'Shall we?' I thought to myself it was my one shot and I had better just stand up and do it, so I didn't introduce myself either.

"I nodded to the accompanist and I did the two biggest numbers in the show. Then he stood up and said, 'That was great. I'm Andrew'."

Everyone now agrees the composer's choice of Emmy for heroine Christine was inspired.

And she has recovered her composure...as indeed she should as a product of the elite private Spence School for Girls in Manhattan, which also turned out Gwyneth Paltrow.

Emmy's also quick to point out that her stable upbringing means she is nothing like her troubled character in Phantom.

"She couldn't be more different from me, " says the actress. "She is a young woman who is very lonely and who is tortured emotionally. Me? I'm a happy, sociable, really rational girl!"

 


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