Feature by: Lizzie Guilfoyle
HAVING mesmerised theatre-goers for the past 18 years in London's
West End, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera has finally
been given the Hollywood treatment thanks to American director,
Yet the transition from stage to screen has not been an easy
The film was originally discussed by Lloyd Webber and Schumacher
in 1990, when it was due to shoot in Munich and Prague with both
Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman - the stage stars - due to
reprise their roles.
However, it had to be shelved for both 'personal and professional
reasons' and did not resurface until two years ago, when Schumacher
returned to London to complete post-production on Veronica Guerin.
But far from being daunted by the prospect of bringing such a
much-loved musical to the big screen, Schumacher was determined
to bring a fresh perspective to it.
"I just approached it as if it was a new task and the first
thing I said to Andrew was, 'you know if you analyze the story,
Christine must be very young. And she must be innocent. It just
has to be the awakening of many things in her life'," he
told a recent London press conference, held at the Dorchester
"And I said, 'I need a very young cast to do this story.
It's really a tragic young love story. If there are famous young
people that can do it, great, if there are none, then I want to
have the freedom to cast whoever I think is right for the part'.
"And Andrew said, 'that's fine but they all have to do their
own singing'. And that was our deal and that's how we started.
"I didn't know I was going to find these two young people,
but that's where we started from, two years ago."
The subsequent audition process led him to rising young stars
Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum, who bring a terrific chemistry
to the movie. Yet their casting was probably a surprise to many
on-lookers, who may have envisaged bigger names in the roles.
Butler, especially, raised many eyebrows, particularly as he
had very little musical training prior to taking on the role.
But as Schumacher explained: "He had mentioned once, in
passing, that he'd been in a band. Ok, so we all know what that
means. It was either Gerry was playing the tambourine and trying
to pick up girls, was rapping and trying to pick up girls, was
trying to play the guitar and trying to pick up girls, and possibly
succeeding at the latter!
"But I thought he'd be a great Phantom, and the deal I had
with Andrew was that, definitely, the two of them would sing for
"Whoever was going to play those roles would ultimately,
at the end of the process, sing for Andrew and that would be the
determining factor, because the deal was he wouldn't force me
to put anyone in the movie I didn't want, but I wouldn't force
him to use anyone whose voice he didn't feel was right for this
"And Gerry was very passionate
about the character. And I said, the good news is you'd be a great
Phantom; the bad news is, you're going to have to sing for Andrew
Lloyd Webber. And Gerry did.
"He came in and I tell you something, he was amazing.
I saw Andrew - I was sitting behind Andrew in his music room here
in London - and I saw Andrew jump up. Gerry sang Music of the
Night and I saw Andrew jump up and sort of race across the room
and shake his hand vigorously.
"I knew Andrew would be polite if he didn't like him, but
I could tell by the enthusiasm, and then Gerry got the role."
Having been cast, Butler set about ensuring that his portrayal
of the Phantom - and his all-consuming love for rising starlet,
Christine Daae - wasn't just about creating a monster, but someone
who was more of 'a wounded, pained human being'.
"It was much more that we were trying to tell the romantic
triangle between myself, Raoul and Christine. We had to tell a
much more human story," explained Butler.
"For me, from the second I arrived, I came in saying 'I
need to find a way of movement for the Phantom which is powerful
and focused and yet subtle'. I didn't want to be theatrical because
I thought on camera it would be grotesque."
Given the nature of his make-up, this wasn't as easy as it seemed.
"My best way of expression was through the eyes, and from
what I was feeling and what I could say in the voice," he
"So I always wanted every note that he sang to be an expression
of his life, of his pain and his love, and his frustrations."
Getting the look and feel of the character right did come at
some personal discomfort, however.
"The prosthetics were a difficult thing to deal with. It
was a bastard! The first three times I did it, it was nine hours
in the doing and then about an hour and a half to get it off.
"It's difficult when somebody's super-gluing the bottom
of your eye and then pouring alcohol to get it off the eye-lash
and you're screaming with the pain, and then attaching a piece
of silk with a bit of string to the lower eyelid, pulling the
string, underneath the prosthetic, round your back, down to a
piece of metal and then pulling it so it literally hangs down.
"We finally got it down to about five hours but there was
a six-day stretch when I was up at 3am every morning."
Such was the physical and mental strain of playing the Phantom,
however, that Butler even considered taking a long break from
movies after filming had been completed.
When asked to elaborate, he explained: "Up until that point
I did five movies back to back with literally a couple of days
off in between each one, and the Phantom really killed me off.
"I mean, I loved it, it was the most amazing experience,
but by the end of it I was done in, I really was."
The Phantom of the Opera is now playing in cinemas.