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Interview with Gerard Butler

Category: Interviews
Article Date: December 15, 2004 | Publication: Cinema Confidential | Author: Thomas Chau in New York City

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When it was first suggested that Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" would make the transition from stage to screen, several names were bounced around over the years: from the musical's original performer, Michael Crawford, to the likes of John Travolta and Antonio Banderas. But a Scottish actor who had never had a singing lesson in his life before? Unheard of.

Here how Gerard got the much coveted role of The Phantom in "The Phantom of the Opera," directed by Joel Schumacher.

Q: How much preparation went into this role?

GERARD: There was a lot of preparation. There was a lot of hard work, but then again you can count yourself lucky that you get the best experts around you to train you in whatever field. In this field, it was singing, pseudo opera, so I had about a thousand free singing lessons and then you put another tool in your tool kit. And singing’s something I’ve always loved to do, so to sing in this arena, in this movie, was a fantastic opportunity. I thought — if they feel I could do this, then — wow, what a great challenge.

It also meant a lot of pressure. I arrived late because I came off another movie, I think about two weeks before I started filming. And in the first five weeks of filming, I wasn’t filming, but I was there every day. I had my coaching first thing in the morning, would go out and sing with the musical director, and then go with what was the choreographer, for movement, and then go off to some costume fitting and then into the sword-fighting. I was still working out, and every time I’d walk past the 600 crew, they’d be like — when do you start, when do you start? You’re The Phantom Of The Phantom! When do you start? And you know, it kind of made me a little crazy, because obviously I was nervous about taking on this role, and also knedw there were a lot of people going — what has he got? Who is this guy? Why is he The Phantom? So therefore instills a lot of fear and fear is the great motivator, and it just helped me get my head down and — I worked really hard on this. In fact there were a couple of times when Joel said — back off, you’re working too hard, just relax. Especially with the voice. Because my voice was always developing and I was working so hard on everything that it was getting really exhausted before I even started filming, because I had just come off three movies — four movies kind of back to back. "Tomb Raider" and straight into "Dear Frankie" and straight into "The Game Of Their Lives" — and oh, before "Tomb Raider" there was "Timeline." It had been a pretty busy schedule.

Q: We had no idea you could sing...

GERARD: (laughs) Neither did I.

Q: How long did you spend practicing?

GERARD: I started at the end of "Tomb Raider." I had never had a singing lesson before Phantom. I had never had a single lesson in my life, and in fact they sent me the script, and I didn’t know why they sent me the script, and I called my agent and said, get me a voice coach because I don’t even want to go and meet Joel if I can’t do this. I knew I was going to sing with this woman, and I thought, if she tells me I can’t do it, then I’m not going to waste anybody’s time. I’m not going to go and sing in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber and make a fool of myself if I know I can’t do it. And in some ways to me, I’m very good at mapping out in my head ways of thinking about things, even if they’re not right, but I thought — this is not a big deal, either I can do this, or I can’t. What it requires is taking a bunch of singing lessons, and I did. And then I had to go and sing for Andrew Lloyd Webber, and that was a nerve-wracking experience, as you can imagine — singing Music of the Night. Because once you start, the enormity of what I was trying to do suddenly hit me, and then all those vulnerable inscure feelings go through your head like — you’re not a singer, who do you think you are singing Music of the Night in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber? But I got the role, and I thought — you know what, I’ve got to trust myself.

Q: How was wearing the prothesis?

GERARD: Very hard. Because the first three times we did it when we were still refining it, it took nine hours. I have a bad back, so just sitting in a chair fore half an hour, I get uncomfortable.Just having the whole thing applied was uncomfortable, but then again, I’m trying to play The Phantom of the Opera, he’s been disfigured all his life and he’s got a lot more pain than I, and anything that takes you towards that state of awareness, that psychological state, whenever I finished the makeup I was not in a great mood, and I enjoyed not being in a great mood, because I knew in the moments of the movie when you see him in his prosthetic makeup, he is in not in a great mood either.

Q: How was working with Emmy?

GERARD: She’s wonderful, she’s extremely talented, and she’s beautiful. I was there at the screen test when she walked in, she hadn’t even sung a word, and I said to Joel, that’s Christine. She’s incredible sensual, sexy, she’s also very innocent looking, and she’s professional, she’s hugely confident. She’s a great girl. And she’s done the most amazing job as Chrfistine.

Q: What's up with the rumors that you could be James Bond next?

GERARD: These rumors are very entertaining, that’s all I can say.


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