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Topic A with Tina Brown 8:00 AM

Category: Transcripts
Article Date: January 2, 2005 | Publication: CNBC | Author: CNBC News Transcripts
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Excerpt from "The Phantom of the Opera")

TINA BROWN, host:

That was a clip from "Phantom of the Opera," a new movie that opens December 22nd. It brings to the screen, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, based on the famous legend of the disfigured musical genius who terrifies the cast and management at the Opera Populaire in Paris in the 1870s. And joining me now is its director, Joel Schumacher, and, of course, the famous composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, who brought--who created this incredible, multigrossing production.

How are you both? And congratulations on the Golden Globe.

Mr. JOEL SCHUMACHER (Writer and Director, "The Phantom of the Opera"): Thank you, Tina.

BROWN: It's wonderful.

Mr. ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER (Writer and Composer, "The Phantom of the Opera"): Very well. We've...

Mr. SCHUMACHER: Thanks for having us.

BROWN: It's really great.

Now, Andrew, you sat in the theater a million times, you know, watching this "Phantom of the Opera," and now you're sitting there, of course, watching the finished movie. What's the difference in the experience of watching it as a stage production and as a movie?

Mr. WEBBER: Well, I guess probably the biggest single difference, of course, is that we could--were able to cast a girl as young as Emmy Rossum. In the original book, she's supposed to be 16, but you could never, ever get a 16-year-old girl to sing in the theater like that because, I mean, their voices are not yet developed enough to be able to do several shows a week. I think that was probably the most significant. But I think it's the wonderful visual look of the film, which Joel's created. I mean, I think Joel's made the very, very best possible movie that could have been done.

BROWN: Well, I mean, in a way, you were able, Joel, to combine your kind of fantastic skills as an art director and as a director with this movie, because you created this lavish, I mean, opulent, gorgeous-looking movie.

Mr. SCHUMACHER: Well, because I had never done a musical before, I actually--the music, the glamorous sets, the costumes, the obligatory parts of "Phantom" I put aside and really analyzed the story because, as you know, my job is a storyteller. And I approached it as if it had never been done before. And I said to Andrew, as he just mentioned, I thought the secret for us was that Christine was a teen-ager and was innocent and naive and that her relationship with Patrick Wilson's character was the awakening of romantic love for the first time. But more importantly, her relationship with Gerry Butler's character as the phantom was a darker, more sexual, more passionate, obsessive relationship, the good kind, and that she had to be young and naive for that to really work. And it had to be the first time for her, and Andrew agreed and...

BROWN: So, Andrew, why--you know, it took a long--many, many years to bring "Phantom" to the screen. I mean, why has it sort of flowered now, and what was it about Joel that made you really want to wait so long to collaborate with him?

Mr. WEBBER: Well, I think, you know, you were saying--Joel was saying that he hadn't done a musical before, but then, of course, very few people have. I mean, the thing is, in film, there haven't been any really great films because--other than "Chicago" and "Moulin Rouge," you know, for a long, long time. And I remember going back to see "The Lost Boys" some years ago now and thinking it was visually great and...

BROWN: And that was Joel's movie that he did.

Mr. WEBBER: Yeah, it was Joel's movie. And I thought that it was visually great, and the use of music was so smart. So way back in 1988, Joel and I talked about this. But then "Phantom" was going so big in the theater, you see, all around the world that people were very concerned about whether or not, if we made a film at that time, it would basically clobber the stage productions. And as there was no track record whatsoever and all of my collaborators, like Hal Prince and Cameron McIntosh and everyone, were sort of begging us not to go ahead with it, we decided to put it on ice.

BROWN: Of course, you've put a lot of your own money into this movie, and you've actually raised it independently. I mean, it's a big risk for you, really, this movie.

Mr. WEBBER: It's in--it's an independent film, yes. I put the money in to sort of get it started, and then we raised the money from country to country, really. But it's great, because it--what it meant was...

Mr. SCHUMACHER: But we had no bosses.

Mr. WEBBER: ...no bosses at all.

Mr. SCHUMACHER: It was just us. And we had been friends since Andrew first offered this to me in '88, so we were like the kids in the candy store.

BROWN: You've got these newcomers in this movie. There's really no big stars in the movie. What was it about, when you auditioned, Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum that made you feel that you had your phantom and your had your Christine?

Mr. SCHUMACHER: Well, the agreement that Andrew and I had was to find exactly the right people for these roles, and if they were stars, fine, and if they were unknown, fine, but they had to do their--I had to feel they were right.

BROWN: They had to be able to sing, right?

Mr. SCHUMACHER: Yes. Well, that was the deal, that I--they were perfect for me as actors in these roles and perfect for Andrew as voices. So first was Patrick Wilson, which was a no-brainer because he was so accomplished on the Broadway stage and was just doing "Angels in America" for Mike Nichols, who said he was brilliant in it. So--and he is the boy that if your daughter brings him home, you're thrilled. And there was Gerry Butler, who if your daughter brings him home, you'd lock her up or call the police. But he had no musical training but had sung in a band in Scotland, and I thought he would be a magnificent phantom, and he certainly related to the loneliness of the character. But I said, `If you want this role, you have to sing for Andrew.' So he came in and sang "Music of the Night."

Mr. WEBBER: He came in and sang for me, and I put him together with some of the top vocal coaches and our musical director, Simon Lee, who is terrific, who's conducted the movie. And he was the one, of course, who would have to bring him through, and he said he could, and he was very confident, and I think he has.

BROWN: So tell me about Emmy Rossum. When she came to audition for you, what was that like?

Mr. WEBBER: Well, she was so obviously, I mean, exactly what we were looking for.

(Excerpt from "The Phantom of the Opera")

Mr. WEBBER: It is absolutely extraordinary that this kid--and she came in at the very last minute as well.

Mr. SCHUMACHER: The last second.

Mr. WEBBER: We were almost going to go with one of--with somebody that's a little bit better known, you know? And we didn't in the end, and then she arrived, and that was no contest, wasn't it?

Mr. SCHUMACHER: We had been casting for six months and Emmy came in at the last second, and here she was, 16, ravishingly beautiful, so intelligent, just filled up the room in my house when she came in. And then she just mentioned, casually as a teen-ager, she'd been singing at the opera, the Metropolitan Opera since she was seven.

BROWN: And you just felt complete eureka?

Mr. SCHUMACHER: I said, `Get back on the plane. We're going to screen test you Saturday morning.' And then Andrew and I looked at the screen tests and there really was--they were all very accomplished young women, but there was no contest.

BROWN: Now I mean, how was it, that recreating the whole Opera Populaire in Paris? I mean, did you do all of the research, both of you, you know, together?

Mr. WEBBER: Well, the Opera Populaire, of course, is a fiction.

Mr. SCHUMACHER: Yeah.

BROWN: Right.

Mr. WEBBER: I mean, we...

Mr. SCHUMACHER: They say the Paris Opera loosely.

Mr. WEBBER: ...decided because the Paris Opera House obviously didn't burn down or wasn't wrecked...

Mr. SCHUMACHER: Yeah, right.

Mr. WEBBER: ...we decided way back with the theater that we were going to invent our own opera house, and that's exactly what we did in "Phantom."

Ms. SCHUMACHER: Yeah.

Mr. WEBBER: I mean, we built our own opera house of pine wood. We built our own backstage. We built everything.

Mr. SCHUMACHER: Yes. Well, part of the research, at the peak of the Paris Opera, 750 people lived and worked there, and that was fun to do.

BROWN: That's what I love about the movie, that you feel there's a whole world going on. I mean, there's a real sort of backstage...

Mr. SCHUMACHER: Yes. And when I first did--when Andrew first asked me to do this and I did the first tour of the Paris Opera and they told me 750 people, I thought the Bohemian madness that must be here, the fun and games that must have gone on here. And I wanted--we wanted to bring you the humanity of the piece, and I think that had a lot to do with it. And then also, Anthony Pratt, our great designer--I said, `Since we spend so much time in the theater, let's make the theater a personality. Let's make her a beautiful woman. So he then designed all the beautiful nude statues and this sort of voluptuousness of the theater.

BROWN: Well, Andrew, why do you think--I mean, you know, you've written all these major hits, but "The Phantom" really has sort of broken all the records, hasn't it? I mean, it's just broken...

Mr. WEBBER: Yes.

BROWN: Well, now you even have a Vegas version with an exploding chandelier and a...

Mr. WEBBER: Well, I didn't know that sort of thing could happen there...

BROWN: I mean...

Mr. WEBBER: ...but...

BROWN: ...why--what do you think--well, why is it such a compelling story? Why has it had such an incredible...

Mr. WEBBER: To be honest, I don't know. I mean, one can come up with all sorts of theories about it, but if I really did know, I'd write another one, wouldn't I?

BROWN: Joel, Andrew, thank you so much for joining me.

Mr. SCHUMACHER: Thank you.

BROWN: It's a fabulous movie, just a glorious night out.

Mr. SCHUMACHER: Thanks, Tina.

Mr. WEBBER: Thank you.

Mr. SCHUMACHER: Thanks for having us.

Mr. GERARD BUTLER ("The Phantom of the Opera"): Do you know who I love and he's a Scotsman? Craig Armstrong, who actually composed "Moulin Rouge." And he's done some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard. He used to get beaten up on the way to school because he carried a violin. And I love that story. And now I think he's an absolute genius.

Ms. MINNIE DRIVER ("The Phantom of the Opera"): Bob Dylan's biography pretty much covers everything you'd ever need to know about him and "Nashville Skyline" and "Blood on the Tracks." He's just a poet, and he's amazing.

Ms. EMMY ROSSUM ("The Phantom of the Opera"): Evanescence, I think, because I think they have a really great vocal. She has a lot of range, but I think it has a really good beat, and it's really strong pop music, and that's something I really respect.

 


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