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RETURN OF THE PHANTOM

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: December 19, 2003 | Publication: DAILY MAIL (London) | Author: BAZ BAMIGBOYE
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GERARD Butler soars into the heartbreaking high notes of 'Anywhere you go, let me go, too.

Christine! That's all I ask of . . .' Then Joel Schumacher breaks the musical spell and shouts 'Cut!' Mr Schumacher is allowed to do what he wants; he is, after all, the director of an $80 million big-screen version of The Phantom Of The Opera being filmed at Pinewood Studios just outside London.

Butler has the part - made famous on stage in 1986 by Michael Crawford - of the disfigured musical genius who stalks the labyrinths of the Paris Opera writing beautiful music for Christine, the young soprano and ballet dancer whose voice captivates him.

The ingenue is played by 17-yearold American Emmy Rossum, who was seen as Sean Penn's daughter in Clint Eastwood's Mystic River.

One of the film's major props, the chandelier, remained under wraps.

Made from 22,000 Swarovski crystals, it weighs 2.2 tons and makes for a dazzling sight - but some 'stunt' chandeliers with plastic drops have been made as the big one can be dropped only once.

The Phantom embraces his Christine as I watch from the stalls of the Paris Opera, which has been stunningly recreated by designer Anthony Pratt. As Austin Shaw, who is overseeing the running of the film for Andrew Lloyd Webber, walks me through Pratt's workshops and various soundstages, I am astonished at the level of detail, for I have seen at firsthand the hidden secrets of the Paris Opera.

Just before Lloyd Webber's stage show opened in 1986, I went with Crawford, leading lady Sarah Brightman, producer Cameron Mackintosh and the composer to Paris to see the three acres of tunnels, store rooms, nooks, crannies, stables, cellars and a lake that lie beneath the building.

'It's like an underground city where 750 people lived and worked,' Shaw explains as we walk around one of the Pinewood stages. It's on three levels and is teeming with life, including sheep, chickens and two white stallions.

ON THE backlot, the facade of the Opera has been erected, so authentic you'd think it had been transported brick by brick from Paris. 'It'll end up in a skip, but it's saved for ever on film,' Shaw adds.

Schumacher reminds me that we first met in Los Angeles about 15 years ago on the set of Flatliners, which he directed, when he introduced me to the then unknown Julia Roberts.

Schumacher and Lloyd Webber were planning to make a Phantom movie even then. 'Good things happen if you wait,' Schumacher tells me, before returning to his two leads.

The Phantom picture was first set up at Warner Brothers in 1989 but, notwithstanding Alan Parker's Evita, the public didn't have much of an appetite for movie musicals until Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge and this year's Oscarwinning Chicago.

Shooting of the Phantom will continue into next year at Pinewood and an orchestra will record the score at Abbey Road studios in late spring.

The film also features Patrick Wilson as Raoul, plus Minnie Driver, Miranda Richardson, Simon Callow and Ciaran Hinds.

Copyright 2003 Associated Newspapers Ltd.

 


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