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Inside the New 'Phantom of the Opera'

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: December 22, 2004 | Publication: Entertainment Tonight | Author: editors
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The stage musical that has enthralled audiences the world over is finally getting the big-screen treatment when 'ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER's The Phantom of the Opera' hits theaters December 22. We caught up with the 'Phantom' crew to get their take on the lush, period-costume epic -- and its three Golden GlobeŽ nominations -- including Best Picture!

"It's so much blood, sweat and tears," says EMMY ROSSUM, who landed a Best Actress nomination for her role as Christine. "It's such a team effort that it's great. I was really happy [when I heard the news]."

Based on GASTON LEROUX's famous novel and the celebrated stage musical, 'Phantom' stars GERARD BUTLER ('Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life') as the reclusive, masked title character. A musical genius living in the caverns beneath the Opera Populaire in Paris, he mentors an innocent chorus girl, Christine (Emmy), who finds herself center stage when the diva La Carlotta (MINNIE DRIVER) walks out in the middle of dress rehearsal. But when the theatre's wealthy patron, the Vicompte Raoul de Chagny (PATRICK WILSON of 'The Alamo'), courts Christine, the Phantom's obsessive love and fierce jealousy threatens to destroy all.

The film features incredibly detailed sets and elaborate costumes which, while they may look spectacular on the big screen, were not a ball to wear for the actors.

"The costumes were beautiful but the most uncomfortable things I've ever had on in my whole life," a wide-eyed Emmy tells ET. "I mean, the corset -- for six months, five days a week, 16 hours a day -- it physically changed my shape. I think my rib cage is much smaller than it ordinarily would have been because it deformed me at a crucial point in my growing -- but it's all good!"

Minnie Driver, who plays the comic relief in the film, heartily agrees. "They're all hideously grotesque and beautiful," she says about the costumes, especially the 50-pound dress and 30-pound wig she had to balance. "Very heavy. Very heavy indeed. Every now and again someone would let me lean against them, but it was a weird, painful time." Still, Minnie said working with director JOEL SCHUMACHER ('Batman Returns') was the key reason she signed up for the torture, along with the fact that, "It was super fun to be funny in a seriously tragic, romantic movie. I kind of liked that."

Schumacher, who had been Andrew Lloyd Webber's first choice to direct the film ever since the playwright saw the teen vampire flick 'The Lost Boys,' says he was keen on casting Gerard Butler ever since he saw the actor play the title character in 'Dracula 2000.'

"I just had this feeling he'd be a great Phantom," says the veteran director. "His connection with the loneliness -- the outsider in this character was so palpable -- he broke down crying [during] the first meeting; he was so moved by the inner struggle of this character. I said, 'Gerry, here's the good news: you'd make a great Phantom. Here's the bad news: you can't get this part unless you can sing."

Luckily, the actor could sing. Although his previous experience was in a bar band, he mustered up the courage to sing "Music of the Night" for Webber and nailed the part.

"I saw Andrew just get so excited after Gerry finished," says Schumacher. "Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson have had a lot of experience singing, but this was new for Gerry. Andrew loved the fact that Patrick Wilson's voice was such a lyric tenor, and so beautiful and pure, and that Gerry's was rough and courser and sexier and more rock 'n' roll."

In the end, perhaps you can blame it all on the 35-year-old Scottish actor's sex appeal: "Gerry Butler seems to have a swooning effect on women," says Schumacher with a smile, "whether he's playing the Phantom or not."

Watch ET for more with 'Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera.'

 


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