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Joel Schumacher invades Bangkok

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: January 24, 2005 | Publication: The Manila Times | Author: Dennis Ladaw

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Prolific American director Joel Schumacher was in Bangkok, Thailand, last week to promote his latest film, the movie version of the blockbuster musical Phantom of the Opera.

The director met the international press during the Bangkok International Film Festival.

Schumacher is famous for many movie hits including Flatliners (1990), A Time To Kill (1996), and Batman Forever (1995). The list of superstars he has directed included Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Michael Douglas and Colin Farrell. However, for Phantom of the Opera, Schumacher used a cast of young unknowns.

Although the movie was released in the United States just last Christmas, Schu­macher said he and his friend Andrew Lloyd Web­ber started planning the film in the late eighties, when the stage musical became a blockbuster in New York.

“When Andrew asked me to do it, I was flattered because I had done only five films until then,” he recalled.

However, Webber had to postpone the project due to personal reasons, he said. Likewise, getting funding was also difficult. Movie musicals weren’t that popular during this period.

“Originally, we wanted to use the original cast of the stage production, Michael Crawford, who played the Phantom, and Sarah Bright­man, who played the ingénue Christine. “But due to the delays Schumacher was compelled to discard the original cast.

“I felt it was important to use a fresh young cast. Christine is supposed to be in her teens. I told Andrew this and he said it was ok, I could get anyone I wanted for as long as the actors I get could sing.”

Thus, he cast Gerard Butler and Emmy Rosum. “I’m glad it took too long to make this movie,” he laughed. “Because through the years, I got to make other films so I now felt more confident about my work. It also gave us the opportunity to wait for Emmy to get born and grow old enough to play Christine!”

Rosum, whose previous films include the award-winning Mystic River (2003), was born just when Schumacher and Lloyd Webber were planning the film version of Phantom of the Opera.

Schumacher was glad Web­ber managed to get his own funding for the film. “It became an independent production so we were our own bos­ses. We had to work within the budget but I did get to make the film I wan­ted to make and An­drew got to make the music he wanted to create,” he said.

Doing a musical is a change of pace for Schuma­cher, whose past works have included such provocative films like Tigerland and A Time to Kill. “There are so many tragedies happening on this planet, and I’m glad we celebrated Christmas with a colorful musical set in 1870s Paris,” he said.

Strangely, the director said he doesn’t watch a lot of movie musicals. When pressed by The Manila Times to name his favorite musical prior to directing Phantom of the Opera, he had to think hard for an answer.

“I guess it’s West Side Story [1961]. I liked the dancing and I’m a street person myself so I guess I empathized with the story,” he said.

Schumacher assured, however, that he would always be political. He said he and his old friend Michael Douglas were children of the sixties and seventies so “we will always be arguing about certain issues that affect our lives.”

Films, he said, must have the ability to change the world. “We always have that in mind whenever we start making a film. It ought to change your life completely or at least change it during the two hours you see it. It must also entertain. If the audience is entertained for those two hours then we’re happy too. We make films to reach out and it’s up to the viewers to take it how they take it,” he said.

He directed Douglas in the psychological drama Falling Down (1993), but their friendship dates back to the early seventies. Douglas (who was also in Bangkok for the festival) recalls having met Schumacher when he was a struggling actor and Schumacher was a “struggling costume designer.”

“We used to attend these Hollywood parties and we’d always look for our place cards on the tables. I ended up in a table that didn’t have any place cards. And so did Joel. Of course, we started talking—we were the only guys in that table!” Douglas laughed.

The Oscar-winning actor paid tribute to Schumacher, saying that he’s one director who loves actors. “You’d be surprised at the number of directors who hate actors and the number of directors who want to be actors!” he exclaimed.


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