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New twist to the Phantom

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: December 9, 2004 | Publication: | Author: MUMTAJ BEGUM

Posted by: admin

Thursday December 9, 2004


ONE OF the earliest versions of The Phantom of the Opera produced in Hollywood was back in 1925, starring Lon Chaney as Erik the Phantom. Since then, there have been many other versions made for both the big and small screens.

The story, however, got a major boost when Andrew Lloyd Webber turned it into a musical back in 1986. It was staged at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London and went on to win every major British theatre award that year. It also became the largest grossing stage production, having earned worldwide box office receipts of over US$3.2bil (RM12.16bil).

Now director Joel Schumacher (of Flatliners, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, 8mm and Phone Booth fame) is taking the songs written by Webber and turning the theatre production into a music-driven movie.

And why not? The Phantom of the Opera has all the elements of a great movie – tragedy, romance, passion and compelling characters – with which a director can fully take advantage of. Plus Webber’s songs are loved by those who have seen the production and those who have not.

The Phantom played by Gerard Butler takes Christine portrayed by Emmy Rossum into his lair underneath the Paris Opera House in The Phantom of the Opera.
Written by Gastron Leroux , the 1911 novel tells the story of a disfigured genius and a much-feared fiend who haunts the Paris Opera House. As he lurks around the catacombs of the theatre, he secretly coaches understudy Christine to be an opera star.

In the production notes for the movie, Schumacher says: “Andrew’s version presents the Phantom as more of a tragic lover and a sensitive romantic, not just a creature of horror to be feared. He also made the Phantom’s relationship with Christine much more of a love affair than it is in the original story.”

Phantom is apparently very close to Webber’s heart and it was he who approached Schumacher to make the film version of his musical. “One of the great joys of collaborating with Joel is that he has a great ear for music; he really gets it, he understands how the music drives the story.”

Some changes are incorporated into the film version, the biggest being Schumacher looking at the Phantom’s childhood which further adds depth to the Phantom’s plight and allows viewers to understand his nature.

Wanting to turn the film into a “sexy, young love story”, Schumacher looked for a fresh cast to play the principal roles.

According to Schumacher, part of Christine’s beauty is her innocence and naivety. He said, “We needed to find a young woman who could exude a genuine youthful innocence and longing, and at the same time, we had to find two wildly charismatic actors to play the two men she is torn between.”

Actress Emmy Rossum (recently seen in the film The Day After Tomorrow) had a screen test and then a week later went to sing at Webber’s house, an experience she found nerve-racking. It turns out, however, that Rossum has a fantastic singing voice!

Rossum is reported to have said: “The biggest challenge for me was finding a balance between my voice and my acting. It was important that my acting be at the same level as it would be in a normal film, so I had to find a place at which my voice and my acting meshed in a way that felt natural.”

For the role of the Phantom, Schumacher looked for an actor who radiates charisma, somebody who has a bit of “rock and roll sensibility in him.”

Webber explained: “He’s got to be a bit rough, a bit dangerous; not a conventional singer. Christine is attracted to the Phantom because he’s the right side of danger, so we had to find an actor who could deliver that vocal quality.”

That actor turned out to be Scotsman Gerard Butler, who starred in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. To prepare for the role, he listened to the album of the stage production.

Joel Schumacher (left) and Andrew Llyod Webber on the movie set.
Butler confessed: “It just blew me away. By the end of the script, I had tears streaming down my face. I really identified with the character of the Phantom, with his passion, his longing and artistry, as well as the pain and isolation he’s felt all his life.

“I think that’s why Phantom is such a powerful piece, because people identify with his pain. The older you get, the more you develop baggage in your life – things you don’t want to let go of, things you fear that if you open them up to the world, the world will find you repulsive and ugly.”

There is already a good buzz around the performances of both Rossum and Butler. Recently too, Rossum received a “breakthrough performance actress” award from The National Board of Review in the United States. Others in the cast are Patrick Wilson (who plays Raoul), Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver, Ciaran Hinds, Simon Callow and Victor McGuire.

Songs featured in the film include Think of Me, the tune that launches Christine from chorus girl to starring soprano; Angel of Music, the intense duet between the Phantom and his young protégé; The Phantom of the Opera, the Phantom’s signature tune, with which he seduces Christine to his lair beneath the opera house; All I Ask of You, Christine and Raoul’s romantic rooftop serenade; Masquerade, the spectacular ensemble piece that touches on the Phantom’s most elaborate campaign of terror; and The Point of No Return, the chillingly fiery duet between the Phantom and Christine that takes place during the premiere performance of Don Juan Triumphant!, the Phantom’s own opera composition.

On top of all these popular numbers a new song titled TK is played during the final credits at the end of the film.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera is presented by Nescafe Gold and opens on Dec 16.

Free passes
NESCAFE Gold and The Star are giving 125 lucky readers the chance to catch the film, before it opens at the cinemas on Dec 16. There will be a special screening on Dec 14 at GSC MidValley, Kuala Lumpur, at 9pm thanks to Nescafe Gold. If you want to be amongst the first to see the film, just cut out this article and make your way to the lobby of Menara Star, No.15 Jalan 16/11, Petaling Jaya on Monday (Dec 13) from 2.30pm till 5pm.

The redemption will be held on a first-come-first-served basis, and each person will only be allowed to redeem two tickets each.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Twenty-five readers will also get a Phantom “His & Hers” mask and a 50gm bottle of Nescafe Gold. Another 20 readers will get a Phantom T-shirt and a 50gm bottle of Nescafe Gold. These special recipients will be chosen at random, so don’t forget to wear your lucky socks.


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