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Phantom unmasked

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: December 22, 2004 | Publication: Reading Evening Post | Author: Entertainment Reporter
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ACTOR Gerard Butler says that auditioning for composer Andrew Lloyd Webber was the most nerve-wracking experience of his life.

He has the title role in the lavish screen version of The Phantom of the Opera, which opens at Reading cinemas this weekend.

He told me at a preview of the movie: "I’m not a trained singer and it suddenly hit me that this was the man who had actually written what I was performing – it was a bit like singing for Mozart!"

Director Joel Schumacher was given a free hand in casting the film, which has been in the works for years and was first set for Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, the stars of the original stage production.

Joel said: "Andrew didn’t insist on stars but he made it clear he wanted everyone to actually sing their parts without being dubbed."

He also gave Gerard a hard time in the make-up department – "I didn’t want the usual prosthetics because this is a love story, not a horror movie, so we had to apply the make-up layer by layer."

Emmy Rossum, who plays the heroine Christine, had no problems in the vocal department as she has sung opera since childhood.

“But I was only 16 when I auditioned for the part and I never thought I would get it,” she admitted.

Emmy admires Nicole Kidman and is aiming at a career of similar diversity.

Former Brookside actress Jennifer Ellison makes her big-screen debut in the film, which also features Patrick Wilson as Raoul, the Phantom’s dashing young rival for Christine’s affections.

He described the film as a crash-course in action heroics – he had to learn bareback horse-riding, sword fighting, and underwater swimming besides having to leap from a burning building.

The role of temperamental opera diva Carlotta went to Minnie Driver who admitted that the inspiration for the character was the legendary Maria Callas.

She said: "Joel encouraged me to go over the top whereas he wanted everyone else to treat it as a story of normal human emotions."

Minnie has set her heart on playing Roxie in Chicago.

The Phantom is still running in the West End where it opened in 1986 but Joel, whose previous work includes two Batman movies, was not in awe of the theatrical phenomenon.

He said: "I just approached it as if it was a new work."

© Surrey & Berkshire Newspapers Limited

 


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