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Phantom’ cast tells tales from underneath the stage

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: December 23, 2004 | Publication: Scripps Howard News Service | Author: editors
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Playing the title character in director Joel Schumacher’s film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” Gerard Butler knew he wasn’t headed for happily-ever-after land.

“When I first read (the script), I would think, ‘This is so sad,’ ” Butler recalls. “Joel would say, ‘But this is so sexy.’ Somewhere along the way, we managed to get them both in there.”

The film “Phantom” is different from the version that entered legend as the second-longest-running musical in Broadway history, after Lloyd Webber’s “Cats.” Schumacher and Lloyd Webber turned Christine (Emmy Rossum) into a teen, as befits her student status, and lowered the ages of the men vying for her love – deformed, bitter Phantom and handsome Raoul (Patrick Wilson).

Rossum, who was 16 when she was cast and turned 18 in September, says her generation is primed for “Phantom.”

“We’ve grown up watching MTV,” says Rossum, who spent five years in the Children’s Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera. “Seeing somebody sing at the same time as watching a visual and an interpretation of a song is not something that’s foreign to us.”

Composer Lloyd Webber approached Schumacher about making a film of “The Phantom of the Opera” soon after the show debuted on Broadway in 1988.

“I’d only made four movies when Andrew asked me to do this, which is kind of amazing when I think (about it),” Schumacher says. “He saw ‘The Lost Boys,’ and he loved the way the music and the visuals were used.”

When the film originally was discussed, Broadway “Phantom” stars Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman (Lloyd Webber’s then-wife) were pegged as the leads. Through the years, fans have held out hope that Crawford would appear as the screen “Phantom.”

“I think we all realized, once we’d gone the route of casting a very young girl, you can’t really cast a 65-year-old man opposite,” Lloyd Webber says. “Slightly different resonance.”

Ironically, the cast’s biggest name, Minnie Driver, who recently released her debut album and sings the song over the film’s end credits, is the only “Phantom” star whose voice is dubbed. Driver plays diva Carlotta, who not only sings opera but also sings it badly.

“To sing opera is not something that you can just pick up and do,” says Driver, who lip-synchs to the voice of Margaret Preece. “That full sound is like a lifetime’s training.”

 


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