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Phantom musical's a movie: Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit 'popera' has been waiting for 15 years

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: December 21, 2003 | Publication: The Vancouver Province (British Columbia) | Author: USA Today
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LONDON -- Unlike this week's frantic holiday shoppers, Joel Schumacher can calmly plan for next Christmas. That's when his long-awaited film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera is due in theatres.

But it won't feature original Phantom Michael Crawford or others once rumoured to star, such as John Travolta and Antonio Banderas.

The stars of the movie are Emmy Rossum, seen now in Mystic River, and Gerard Butler of Timeline and Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. (Patrick Wilson of HBO's Angels in America plays the dashing Raoul.)

Schumacher is a filmmaker with a knack for discovering new talent, from Colin Farrell (Tigerland) and Matthew McConaughey (A Time to Kill) to Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric (Lost Boys).

Schumacher was first asked to helm the romantic musical 15 years ago.

When the offer came around again, Schumacher met Webber and said, "If you still want me, I'd love to do it but on one condition: with a very young, sexy cast. And he said, 'I have a condition: The three leads have to be good singers.'"

"Michael Crawford is now 65," Schumacher says. "Emmy Rossum just turned 17 and has been singing at the Metropolitan Opera since she was seven. To find three gorgeous people who could act and sing, well, we did it."

Can any movie match the stage production's extravagant theatricality? "Phantom has its own life," says Schumacher, who in Pinewood Studios has created a fictitious Paris Opera to house the Phantom's underground, canal-like lair.

As for an overprotective Webber hovering over his shoulder during filming, which concludes in early January, that never happened. "Andrew will be the first person to tell you he's not a film person. He's re-orchestrating it, he's written a new song for the Phantom, and he's looking forward to polishing the sound of the film."

Schumacher says the years when Phantom was repeatedly delayed didn't alter his concept for the movie.

"Millions of people have seen the show -- it's been playing for 16 years -- and people forget the millions of people who can't afford a legitimate theatre ticket, who haven't seen Phantom onstage. I say to Andrew all the time that I'm glad we waited."

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