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'Phantom' fleshed out for film

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: February 4, 2005 | Publication: Associated Press | Author: ANTHONY BREZNICAN
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LOS ANGELES - "The Phantom of the Opera" required a makeover for his close-up.

In its journey from stage to screen, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical underwent some tailoring to mend the holes in the gothic love story.

For the nearly 80 million theatergoers around the world who have seen it since it debuted in 1986, here are some new things you'll see in the film:

The chandelier

In the play, the Phantom sends the opera house's massive chandelier crashing to the stage right before the intermission. Since films don't commonly have intermissions any more, Lloyd Webber said he proposed moving that famous moment to the end of the movie, which changes the climax of the story.

"It's a big change from the theater show if they analyze it, and I hope they don't," said the composer, who also served as screenwriter and producer. "What the Phantom's doing is destroying the whole world he loved by that one action. It's very different from what it is in the theater, which is a vague act of revenge toward Christine."

Authentic ages

The story involves the Phantom, a mysterious masked man, who manipulates the young opera-house chorus girl, Christine, by speaking to her from the shadows and pretending to be the ghost of her dead father. He then unleashes his rage when she falls in love with another man, her childhood sweetheart, Raoul.

Lloyd Webber, a fan of Joel Schumacher's vampire thriller "The Lost Boys," asked him to work as the musical film's director because he enjoyed the filmmaker's blending of song and action in previous movies.

"I said I'll do it on the condition that Christine be very young. She's supposed to be a teenager, and there's an innocence about this character so she must be young," Schumacher said.

For the film, the composer and director selected Emmy Rossum, who was 16 and turned 17 during filming as Christine, and Gerard Butler, who was 34, as the Phantom. On stage, the characters are usually played by much older actors.

"It makes her more vulnerable. I wanted the relationship with the Phantom to be more of a sexual, passionate, darker, more obsessive, more destructive relationship," Schumacher said. "She's in the spell of her dead father ... and who's this voice speaking to her? I think if she's older, you just want to smack her. 'Will you grow up please? There's no ghost here, girl.' "

Phantom history

How did the Phantom come to live in the underground lake below the Paris opera house?

Although the stage show doesn't answer the question, the movie includes a flashback sequence to put his past into perspective.

"I said to Andrew that movie audiences need whys and wherefores. 'Why? Who is the Phantom? How did he get there?"' Schumacher said.

Lloyd Webber said moviegoers will get a taste of "the backstory of the Phantom, what he was like as a little boy. That was fun."

It also explains the Phantom's relationship with Madame Giry, played by Miranda Richardson, the opera's ballet mistress, who is his protector and seems to be the only one who understands his motivations.

New songs

Minnie Driver, who plays the arrogant, devious soprano Carlotta, is a singer in real life - but not an opera singer.

Driver is the only cast member whose screen singing is performed by another person. "I wanted a comic actress for obvious reasons," Schumacher said. "It's played very broad, a character to make fun of. I haven't found too many opera singers who can make fun of themselves."

But Driver gets to show off her pipes with a new song Lloyd Webber and lyricist Charles Heart wrote for the closing credits, "Learn To Be Lonely," which has a more contemporary feel.

Lloyd Webber also wrote a new song for the Phantom to sing in the movie, but it was ultimately cut from the final version. Look for it on the DVD's deleted scenes.

"It just stopped the movie. It was a lovely song, and it was a sort of inner monologue of the Phantom's, and it was actually information we knew already, about his longing for Christine. But we know that," Schumacher said.

Hero on a white horse


The movie expands on the scene that opens the play, with Raoul as a frail old man who attends an auction of items from the now-defunct opera house. That sequence now extends to various points throughout the movie and supplies a twist ending not included in the play.

Patrick Wilson, who appeared on Broadway in the most recent revival of "Oklahoma!" and in the TV adaptation of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America," got the part of Raoul but said the character was written too thinly for the stage.

"Raoul's one of those roles where you're the third one down the cast list, the second guy. He's the solid guy," he said. "They wanted to make the movie more heroic, more energized, more passionate, so it only made sense to have Raoul more active and doing stunts. We gave him a real fight."

In the movie, Schumacher and Lloyd Webber said they wanted Raoul to be more dashing - a hero who literally rides on a white horse to save Christine and lock swords with the Phantom.

"I really wanted him to be a real person. I made him into an action hero here," Schumacher said.

Wilson said the movie manifests many of the things from the play that had to be imagined.

"You finally get to see the lair and the water. You finally get inside the Phantom's eyes and really see the passion in his eyes and the disfigurement and what he's fighting," he said. "You get to see all these things happening. The chandelier really falls and really explodes and really catches on fire. It becomes a very visceral experience."

 


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