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Film: Music of the night

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: December 12, 2004 | Publication: Belfast Telegraph | Author: editors

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Andrew Lloyd Webber is keeping his fingers crossed that the 55m screen version of his epic musical The Phantom of the Opera is as big a hit in cinemas as it was in theatres - after all, he spent 4m of his own money to help make it possible.

And there's also the little matter of a previous attempt to bring one of his other, many, hits to the screen.

That was director Alan Parker's ill-fated and much-panned Evita, which starred the miscast Madonna.

Phantom is certainly one of the most successful musicals ever written and, of course, Lloyd Webber certainly knows about musical hits since it first premiered in l986.

It has taken over 2bn at the box office, sold millions of albums and CDs and played in just about every country in the world.

The film, directed by Joel Schumacher, is being tipped to follow this well-worn path.

Lloyd Webber promises that the film will stick faithfully to the stage story of the disfigured Phantom who hides in the catacombs of the Paris Opera House and harbours a tragic passion for the young chorus girl Christine, whose lover, Raoul, must compete for her heart.

Lloyd Webber, while not quite shuddering at how poorly Evita turned out, does shed a tear for Argentina: "When it appeared on screen it was a sledgehammer of noise. With Phantom I wanted to give the audience's ears a rest."

He is famous, of course, for discovering new talent and giving it the starry glitter, for example, Elaine Page and the original Christine, Sarah Brightman, whom he married, and later divorced.

The role was, indeed, created for Brightman. So the screen Christine, New York-born Emmy Rossum, looks destined for greatness.

Not that she's a completely 'new' talent. In fact, she's a trained opera singer who joined the New York Metropolitan Opera at the age of seven and who has appeared in 20 different operas, singing in five languages.

Of her first meeting with Lloyd Webber she recalls: "He had the most magnificent apartment I had ever seen, I was floored by it.

"I went in and started vocalising with the accompanist and Andrew walked in as we were preparing. He didn't say hello, didn't introduce himself, he just sat down in front of me and said: 'Shall we?'

"I thought to myself, this is my one shot so I'd better just stand up and do it.

"I didn't introduce myself, 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'."

She knows that if Phantom does become the hit it's predicted to be, her life will change forever.

"The future is there for me, there for the taking. It could shoot me to an entirely new career level."

What drew her to the part of Christine was the character's vulnerability and sexiness - remarkably, she is only 18-years-old - and that she was handed the chance to grab a major role which offered singing, acting and working with Lloyd Webber and Schumacher, the director who has formed a great partnership through several films with Dublin hellraiser, Colin Farrell.

"Christine is a sad person, trying to find true love and happiness.

She is tortured and she has to contend with the Phantom and with the love of Raoul."

Emmy has, she confesses, never seen the stage Phantom: "I had never even seen Sarah Brightman sing and I decided not to watch any videos. I wanted to approach the character with no baggage, to come to it with a fresh eye."

Glasgow-born Gerard Butler - he's one of the many actors in line to replace Pierce Brosnan as the next James Bond - plays the Phantom: "He is a tortured, selfish character, but he is also a tragic, obsessed one.

"He is like so many of us - abandoned, unloved, ugly and imperfect. And he is the sort of man who breaks my heart."

The Phantom, says the 34-year-old Butler, may not be the most endearing of men, but he is fiercely protective of him: "If you had been cast aside by the world, without love, you'd feel bitter!"

The Phantom of the Opera is a lavish, darkly romantic film with a cast that includes Patrick Wilson as Raoul, Minnie Driver as prima donna Carlotta, a role which gives the often-troubled actress a really meaty role which proves just what an actress she is, Jennifer Ellison and Miranda Richardson.


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