Gerard Butler's 'Phantom of the Opera' Was Good, You Guys Are Just Mean
Underrated? Maybe. Over-hated? Definitely.
Ah, yes, everyone's favorite or least favorite musical movie. A film that you can ask someone about, and they will either sing its praises with fond nostalgia or go on an hour-long rant about how it's the greatest misuse of a stage production of all time . The Joel Schumacher-directed The Phantom of the Opera is by far not the worst adaptation of Gaston Leroux 's novel, those who have seen the 1998 Dario Argento film can verify, but it sure isn't the best. When I first became obsessed with the masked musician, I had many unkind words for the 2004 movie, and it's not as if all of my complaints were unfounded.
There are reasons that this movie is so polarizing. While the production is gorgeous, Alexandra Byrne 's costumes are amazing, the sets are sweeping, and the orchestra is on point, in short: it's a pretty movie. But how it fails is the two things the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical needs: it needs the depth of emotionality, and even more importantly it needs a great cast of actors to tie it all together.
RELATED: Andrew Lloyd Webber's Movie Musicals, Ranked
Patrick Wilson as Raoul De Chagny is a total exception; he was brilliant, perfect for the role, even. The supporting cast was also perfectly fine, but that's not where the real issue is, because the two characters people have their eyes on are the ingénue Christine Daae, here played by Emmy Rossum, and the Opera Ghost himself, played by none other than Gerard Butler . Rossum's issue was plain and simple: She was way too young, being 17 years old at the time of filming. This is even more uncomfortable considering how hard they leaned into the romantic and seductive elements of the story, given that both Wilson and Butler were twice her age.
Why Don't People Like Gerard Butler's Phantom?
Butler, on the other hand, is a whole other story, and a lot of it comes down to being given the burden of playing such an iconic character. This film has a very, very long production history, being in the works since the days of Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford, who were originally considered before it became way too late. A lot of actors were considered to play the eponymous role, including Hugh Jackman and Antonio Banderas, which maybe would've been a shock to average moviegoers, but not to those in the know. Why didn't they just pull a Jesus Christ Superstar and cast understudies from the Broadway or West End production? I don't know. No matter which direction they went in, someone was bound to be upset either way. Eventually, Butler was cast, and people had some notes.
Let's get the complaints out of the way. No, Butler was not a classically trained singer, and his performance is at times mentioned in the same category as Pierce Brosman in Mamma Mia and Russell Crowe in Les Misérables. He wasn't awful, but a character like the Phantom needs to be more than not awful, being one of the most enduring and iconic roles in all of musical theater. The deformity that condemned him to a life of violence and seclusion looked more like a bad rash.
Those who took issue with this version of the Phantom just didn't like how purposefully attractive they made him, which is a perfectly valid issue to have. That was the direction that they went with for this film in most regards. The costumes are the same way, as are a lot of the directions for the performances. It's considerably easier to tell when comparing the film and the stage production side by side where the weaknesses are.
He Might Be Underrated, But He Was Absolutely Over-Hated
However, none of this is Butler's fault, and he tried his absolute best. He was not an experienced singer before shooting this film. He was in a rock band as a student, and he was aware of how strange it was to be in that position. But both Schumacher and Webber believed Butler's singing voice had an edge to it that they felt fit the character, and Butler put the hard work in to be ready for this movie. More importantly, in spite of the idea that the director and producer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, had in their head for the Phantom, which was more of the darker side of a love triangle than a sympathetic villain, Gerard's performance as the Phantom is actually pretty underrated.
This role makes so much sense when you learn that it was his performance in Dracula 2000 that drew Schumacher's eye, playing a darkly brooding, revenge-driven monster. Singing aside, which really was just fine, where Butler shines is in the acting performance of The Phantom. He almost works in spite of the emotionally clumsy direction, and the whole Mills & Boon vibe the movie had. He wasn't afraid to go to a terrifying and ugly place when he needed to, like in the murders, and at the moment when Christine rips off his mask. He played the role as if his charm is a very fragile veneer for something furious and unstable. He can act superior around the people he's haunting, throwing his voice around and openly mocking the Opera House staff because he knows they're too scared to do anything about it, but when Christine shows him affection, he fully breaks down and weeps like a lost little kid.
An Olive Branch For 2004's Phantom
The Phantom, as a character in any of his many adaptations, is one with a lot of layers. Just watching one man slowly chip away bit by bit until the ending gives way to the center: Someone who has been devoid of love his entire life and is desperately crying for help. Butler plays his layers quite well. Starting off with seductive, dominant, and alluring, then becoming volatile and domineering, and the Final Lair where he stands in front of Christine and just starts sobbing. It still gets me, Gerard Butler had his moments as The Phantom, and does it with an edge and a danger that someone who would go on to play Leonidas could give it.
I really do anticipate that both camps won't really be happy with my conclusion, either in saying that Gerard Butler as the Phantom is okay, or in saying that it was just okay. I think it's time this film moved into the same territory as the first Twilight movie, and that we, those who really didn't like this movie, made peace with its existence. The first eight years were undeniably hard, at a loss for any other version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that was accessible. But 2012 came along, and the 25th-anniversary performance at the Royal Albert Hall was released on DVD. So if you want a definitive version with a cast that many consider to be the best, there it is. There is so much more to the story beyond one musical and one movie , needless to say, Gerard Butler's Phantom is not the end of the world. Was it the greatest musical adaptation ever? No, far from it. But it had its strengths, and there are people out there who do love it, and now that I'm older, and hopefully wiser, I can kind of see why.
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The Phantom of the Opera
2004, Musical/Drama, 2h 21m
What to know
The music of the night has hit something of a sour note: Critics are calling the screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular musical histrionic, boring, and lacking in both romance and danger. Still, some have praised the film for its sheer spectacle. Read critic reviews
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The phantom of the opera photos.
From his hideout beneath a 19th century Paris opera house, the brooding Phantom (Gerard Butler) schemes to get closer to vocalist Christine Daae (Emmy Rossum). The Phantom, wearing a mask to hide a congenital disfigurement, strong-arms management into giving the budding starlet key roles, but Christine instead falls for arts benefactor Raoul (Patrick Wilson). Terrified at the notion of her absence, the Phantom enacts a plan to keep Christine by his side, while Raoul tries to foil the scheme.
Genre: Musical, Drama, Romance
Original Language: English
Director: Joel Schumacher
Producer: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Writer: Gaston Leroux
Release Date (Theaters): Jan 21, 2005 wide
Release Date (Streaming): Dec 27, 2011
Box Office (Gross USA): $51.2M
Runtime: 2h 21m
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Co: Joel Schumacher Productions
Sound Mix: Surround, Dolby SRD, DTS, SDDS
Aspect Ratio: Flat (1.37:1)
Cast & Crew
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Critic Reviews for The Phantom of the Opera
Audience reviews for the phantom of the opera.
The Phantom of the Opera is a true masterpiece, it not only fully realizes the vision of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, but it also retains the spirit of the original novel. Newcomer Emmy Rossum gives a stunning performance as Christine, capturing the character's youth and innocence, and Gerard Butler's depicting of the Phantom embodies the character's tortured soul and disillusionment. The sets and costumes are also extraordinary, creating an immersive, fantastical world that's breathtaking. Yet the stylistic tone never overwhelms the story, but instead services to heighten its romanticism, and the themes of social alienation and artificial reality. Translating a musical to cinema is a difficult task, however not only does director Joel Schumacher succeed brilliantly, the visual style of The Phantom of the Opera excesses Webber's stage production.
It took them, like, 78 tries, but they finally got the musical version, which, in all fairness, didn't hit the stage until nearly 80 years after "Le Fantôme de l'Opéra" came out, but that still narrows the number of adaptations down to about 43 since 1986. Man, this novel has been adapted to death, then back again actually in the form of a phantom, then back to death again, but now, we've got ourselves a little twist... and no film adaptations since, so that should probably tell you about how well this film did with critics... even though it was a booming financial success and hit with audiences, though that's probably because the non-critic drama geeks likely didn't know about Joel Schumacher's filmography. Speaking of finally getting the musical version, this is certainly Joel Schumacher's big return to the magical world of musicals, only this time, he's actually dealing with white people problems instead of trying to be "that white guy" who does a black film, which is probably why this film got better reviews other than "Sparkle", which isn't to say that this film's reviews have been all that glowing. Man, I certainly don't agree with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus, but I love how it goes on and on about how the film is "histrionic, boring, and lacking in both romance and danger", and then they turn right around and basically say, "Oh yeah, but it looks pretty". I reckon the critics can't help but look at cheesiness in a Joel Schumacher film and not think of "Batman & Robin", and considering that Schumacher is nothing short of cheesy, whether it be on a "Batman & Robin" scale or whatever, I guess he'll continue to never catch a break, as sure as Emmy Rossum will clearly have a hard time breaking out as a major star, even with a hit this massive under her belt, and Gerard Butler will never catch a break when it comes to romance films of any kind. Man, that poor son of Scot just isn't doing it for the critics when it comes to romances and, well, that's good, because his romantic comedies deserve it. A film like this, on the other, regardless of what the critics say, is what Butler and Schumacher should be gunning more for. Still, make no mistake, this operatic opus hardly goes unhaunted. Now, we're talking about a Joel Schumacher-directed and written adaptation of a musical adaptation of a romantic drama dealing with an opera here, so it's not like you can't see corny coming, yet that hardly makes the cheesiness any less problematic, for although some fluffiness gets to be snappy, all too often, it's more along the lines of sappy, turning in some cornball set pieces and dialogue that momentarily take you out of the film, though perhaps not as much as much of the forced musicality. The musical aspects that drive this film heavily are indeed competently crafted enough to aid in the final product's being as rewarding as it is, yet the incorporation of the musical goes plagued by a bit of inorganic forcefulness that not only overwhelms certain set pieces with profound prominence of musicality that distances you from reality considerably, as well as over-the-top flashiness to exacerbate the already pretty well-established cheesy aspects, but leaves the plotting that should be built around the music rather than more along the lines of a slave to the musical aspects to come off as more awkwardly manufactured than fluid. The musicality's driving the plot along isn't quite as awkward as I expected, yet awkwardness is there, and common within the musical aspects, and with the musical aspects being so exceedingly prominent in the story structure, you better believe that this film's plotting is often rather problematic. Of course, on the handful of occasions in which plotting isn't driven by musicality, the film's storytelling is still flawed, being not necessarily terribly messy, but rather hurried and under-expository, which isn't to say that Joel Schumacher's directorial missteps end there. Schumacher's directorial efforts are indeed inspired, yet he remains a flawed director handed quite a bit to work with, thus he faults quite often, particularly when it comes to the dramatic aspects, which are generally effective, yet tainted with overblown histroinics that were undoubtedly found and evidently somewhat overlooked in Andrew Lloyd Webber's original play and Gaston Leroux's antecedent novel, yet goes particularly pronounced by the overambition within Schumacher's direction that only drowns out quite a bit of what Schumacher desperately strives to achieve. I'm not at all totally in agreement with the consensus' bold statement that this film fails to capture "both romance and danger", yet there is some spark lost in the midst of Schumacher's overambition, which brings more to light certain aspects of the source material's not translating quite as well as it should have to the silver screen, thus leaving the final product to stand rather short of full potential. Of course, what does make it to the cinematic world organically proves to be a graceful success, maybe not to where the shortcomings are obscured, though certainly to where the final product, as a whole, stands as genuinely rewarding, largely thanks to its, as put best by the consensus, "sheer spectacle". Boasting striking color, near-breathtaking flare and brilliant dynamicity, this film is, if nothing else, a masterpiece of art direction, with John Fenner and Paul Kirby translating Andew Lloyd Webber's spectacular with an abundance of graceful artistry to the thoroughly attractive visuals, complimented by John Mathieson's lushly handsome cinematography. As for the production designs by Anthony Pratt that the art direction compliments, they stand as nothing short of truly tremendous, as well, with Alexandra Byrne's costume designs being cleverly flashy and often memorably definitive of the characters behind the costumes, and Celia Bobak's set decoration being colorfully intricate and engrossingly sweeping in scale, thus truly bringing to life Webber's original vision's spectacle and musicality, which in turn helps greatly in bringing the film to life more than working to the film's detriment, which is saying a fair bit. Clocking in at 143 minutes and going handled by a storyteller who doesn't need substance driven by style to be a flawed storyteller, this film's narrative is told primarily, by a considerable margin, through musical numbers, and while that is certainly a delight to see on the stage, on screen, it often taints storytelling with a kind of awkward style-over-substance that throws off resonance and could very well distance investment, so if you're going to have the guts to make a film of this type, then you better have some powerful musical style, and, well, needless to say, considering the essentially unparalleled success of Andrew Lloyd Webber's original stage vision, this film delivers on upstanding musicality that, I must admit, gets to be a touch flawed, both as a storytelling component and as the holder of the ever so occasional improvable stylistic choice (Seriously, what in Senesino's name is up with that pop rock sound that pops in occasionally?), yet remains thoroughly impressive, with sweeping style and striking substance that both engrosses and entertains as it goes dazzlingly performed, both instrumentally and vocally, which isn't to say that fine singing is the only thing done right by the performers, or at least some of them. Minnie Driver is quite underused as Carlotta Giudicelli, and quite frankly, I'm surprised and a little upset to say that I'm glad, because although Driver has proven herself to be a competent actress, in this film, she slips up, turning in a terrible Spanish accent to make all the worse the overbearing overacting that makes her much more obnoxious than effective as the antagonist, and while no other performance proves to be that faulty, only so many people really standout, due to restraints in material, yet do expect to see quite a few charmers in the secondary or even tertiary cast, and quite a bit of compellingness within the lead cast. Gerard Butler's film-picking tastes have, at least in recent years, proven to be very faulty, and, quite honestly, his overacting self wasn't exactly all the commendable in something like "300", yet I would still consider him a reasonably promising talent who has his moments, with this film being one of his moments, for although he only has so much to work with, Butler captures the misery, mystery and dark depths of the titular and iconic Phantom character with engaging charisma and, towards the end, pretty powerful emotional range, while Patrick Wilson charms as our down-to-earth male protagonist, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, and the very lovely leading lady Emmy Rossum compels as the both vulnerable and strong spirit as, Christine Daaé, the iconic center of a dark romance and danger. On-screen performances are hit-or-miss, yet generally work and keep this film going, and really, that's what you can say about a certain off-screen performance, for although Joel Schumacher has never really been all that strong of a director, and one who makes more than a few mistakes with his overambitious execution of this promising project, his palpable inspiration will give this film its fair share of moments of genuinely effective resonance, while keeping consistent in something of a smooth pacing that keeps you generally comfortable with the flow of the film, even with the storytelling mishaps. If nothing else, Schumacher delivers on thorough entertainment value, proving the consensus' statement that this film is "boring" to be particularly wrong by keeping everything lively and colorful, with occasions of true depth, and while such a formula has enough missteps to plague the film with shortcomings, it gets the final product by as a rewarding piece. Closing the curtains, it's hard to look back at this film and not recognize quite a bit of cheesiness in certain dialogue pieces, set pieces and histrionics, as well as a bit of awkwardness to forceful moments in the musicality and other distancing areas of storytelling, thus making for a flawed execution of a promising vision, yet one that still stands strong, supported by the stellar art direction by John Fenner and Paul Kirby, - complimented by striking cinematography by John Mathieson - and production designs by Anthony Pratt that compliment Andrew Lloyd Webber's upstanding musical numbers, which liven up a strong story, brought to life by a couple of charismatic performances - particularly those by our compelling leads - and the, albeit overambitious, yet generally engagingly inspired, smoothly-paced and entertaining direction that goes into making Joel Schumacher's adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" an underrated and fairly worthwhile watch. 3/5 - Good
The Phantom of the Opera is one of the few enjoyable Joel Shumacher films, and whatever problems I had with this film, its still a fantastic musical. I have never seen the original Broadway musical so I may not be the best source for a review, but I have listened to these songs before, and I can tell that they did a fine job at making the songs on the big screen. One large problem I had the film was Gerard Butler, who I felt looked to handsome to be believable as the Phantom of the Opera. His singing voice was the only one I didn't enjoy in the film and its hard to explain but he just doesn't have the voice for a singer. They make his character out to be so hideous when really he just looks like he was given a terrible makeup artist, so I really did not find it believable that everyone would consider him some gross beast. Another problem I had is that I should fee a sense of fear from the Phantom, but they don't give us any thrills are questioning, just Gerard Butler running around in a mask. But I did find I loved the music and was really getting into it, and if I ever got to see the musical in its true form on Broadway I would definently do it. The setting and stage is incredible and everything about the films setting is gorcious, so they really made it all feel beautiful. Its trying to be a good musical and it succeeds, but I wasn't impressed by the cast or the character of the Phantom.
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6 Ways Gerard Butler was a Great 'Phantom'
Ten years ago, when I was in 8th grade, my guilt ridden chorus teacher bought us the Phantom of the Opera movie as a peace offering. It was in lieu of our class trip to Broadway, that was unceremoniously canceled for no apparent reason at all (still bitter about it). Like all insufferable 13-year-olds, we sat there, arms crossed, eyes rolled as he slid in the DVD and hid in the corner in fear of having sidekick phones, fanny packs, and Kangol hats being pelted at him. But thankfully, no awful, early 2000's fashion abuse befell him because as it turned out, we were all enthralled by the musical. Who knew that a version of Phantom of the Opera, starring Gerard Butler of all people, would captivate a bunch of millennial tweens ?
Now, I mention Butler not because no other notable people starred. The movie featured the likes of Patrick Wilson, Emmy Rossum, and Minnie Driver. I mention him particularly because he was made in the likeness of the non-Tom Selleck looking Brawny paper towel man. It was certainly a bizarre casting choice, that may have had a lot to do of being instantly smitten and caffeine riddled, but it was one that actually worked. So now, on the movie's tenth anniversary, here are all the legitimate reasons why Butler was an unexpectedly good phantom:
The Uncovered Side of the Phantom's Face? Smokin'
Like, COME ON.
He Brought a Surprising Vulnerability to the Role Despite Being a Burly Hunk of Man
Here's my written apology for the PTSD this GIF of PS I Love You may have caused.
His Singing was Raw and Emotional
All about keepin' it real.
His Unidentified Accent Made the Exhaustive Use of the Name "Christine" Seem Less Nauseating
Was it Scottish? Was it French? Scrench? Frottish?
5. He did his damnedest to bring an extra, less creepy dimension to one of the creepiest characters to ever exist... ever
Still creepy though. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
TBH, he Scared the *Bleep* Outta Me — As the Phantom Should
A red peacoat was never more terrifying.
Kudos, Butler. You can sing to me any time.
Images: lepetitehobbit/Tumblr; toloveakiwi/Tumblr; Giphy (2); Warner Bros.
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After treading the boards in countless plays, Gerard Butler took roles in dubious movies like Reign Of Fire , Lara Croft: The Cradle Of Life and Richard Donner's Timeline . Recently though, he scored a critical hit with upcoming Scottish drama Dear Frankie although box office success still eludes him. This time he tries something completely different, playing a masked madman in Joel Schumacher's adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical The Phantom Of The Opera .
You haven't had much experience in musicals so it seems strange that you should be cast in this...
When Joel [Schumacher] called my agent and asked if I could sing, even he wasn't sure about it. He knew that I could sing but not if I could handle something like this. I was dubious myself as to why they were considering me for The Phantom until I read the script and then I could completely understand why he came to me and why I would want to play it. I read it as I was listening to the music and to me it was a major experience because I felt I had to tell this guy's story. Without sounding pretentious, I felt his soul - all his passion and his hopes and frustrations and, in the end, his tragedy. It was like it was happening to me and I judge whether or not to do a part based on how easily I slip into it while reading the script.
With your lack of singing experience, did you have some trepidation about taking this on?
Yes and no. I have a level of fear going into every project and that's what keeps me going. If I'm being honest it was a much higher level of fear with this than most other things because it was a musical. But I've done a whole bunch of movies where I've come in as the underdog but I have the tools and experience to deal with. Basically you've juts got to use the pressure to make yourself work harder.
Did you have to do a lot of vocal training to prepare?
Yeah, I started singing for The Phantom in January and we started filming in October and I sang all the way through to the next June. In fact I was singing for about two months before I even knew I had the role because they pretty much said: "This role's yours but we just can't say it yet but you've got to train as if it's yours." That's a weird position to be in because I didn't know if they were then going to turn around and say that somebody else had the role but still I sang every day with my own musical teacher. When I went to Scotland to do another movie I would sing with a coach up there and then when I went to New York I sang with a coach over there - I mean I've now sung with coaches in LA, New York, London, Glasgow, St Louis and Rio de Janeiro! I felt like retiring after The Phantom.
Did acting behind a mask also present a challenge for you?
Yeah, but it's something you get used to. Again you use it like a tool to help you become the character. There's a reason he has the mask and you make his reason your reason. Also you have to understand the advantages of that mask insomuch as it's something to hide behind and it's also a very powerful thing to behold. He understands that because he wants to present the most intimidating and sexy exterior he can. At first it was a bit strange and daunting to have to wear a mask but afterwards I came to enjoy it. In warm conditions though it started to slip off my face. Other times they used this double-sided sticky tape and I literally couldn't get it off my face. I would feel like I was ripping my face off and I had a lot of cuts and bruises because of it - huge red marks. People might think it was method acting.
Did you find singing the dialogue rather unnatural?
This movie was such a steep learning curve for me because I had never done that before - singing while trying to give a cinematic performance. The temptation is to open your mouth and belt it out and do something theatrical which would just be ghastly because every time you open your mouth it's 30ft wide on a big screen. Therefore I had to learn devices and ways of keeping it subtle and truthful. Sometimes that would mean that I would barely be singing or I would be much more concentrated on the feeling of what he was going through. I was always focused on that actually because that is the power of cinema - the eyes of The Phantom could say so much more.
You're now gearing up to play the poet Robert Burns in a biopic. Is that another daunting prospect for you?
In a way but I feel so lucky to have that opportunity because it's such a great story and we have the best script by Alan Sharp, who wrote Rob Roy. I cajoled Julia Stiles into doing it but she told me it was the best script she'd read in years so she's on board and we also have Brian Cox. We cover Burns' life from the ploughman days to the Edinburgh society days and his take-off as a poet. It's beautiful, it's passionate, it's sexy, it's hilarious and it's really quite sad as well.
And you've got The Game Of Their Lives coming up where you play a member of the American 'soccer' team who beat the English football team. Being Scottish you must relish the chance to beat the English at football!
What do you think? Actually I just find that very funny. The Scots will do anything to beat the English or just to see them lose, but I've never bought into that really. I was supporting England in the World Cup, so for me it was very funny to pretend to be an Italian-American but still stuff the English 1-0. It was amazing. We went down to Rio de Janeiro in a soccer stadium there with thousands of extras and played this game against the English - who were, funnily enough, mostly Brazilians - but it's great. I saw a cut about nine months ago that I wasn't very impressed with but I saw it again a couple of days ago and it's been tightened up and a few things added. I think we have a movie on our hands now.
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Do You Remember When Gerard Butler Starred In ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’?
Where to stream:, the phantom of the opera (2004).
One may think of many things to describe Gerard Butler : late-career matinee idol, romantic comedy buffoon, jacked Greek gladiator. But “musical theater anti-hero” might not make it into the top five descriptors. Yet, while most remember the Scottish actor’s star-making turn to be his role in the 2007 fantasy epic 300 , his first shot at critical and commercial success as the lead role in Joel Schumacher ‘s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster musical extravaganza, The Phantom of the Opera .
For the role of Christine Daaé, the object of the Phantom’s desire, producers eyed Katie Holmes. Anne Hathaway eventually landed the role, but dropped out to shoot The Princess Diaries 2 . Her replacement was the terminally boring Emmy Rossum , who by then had been featured in Mystic River and The Day After Tomorrow . (I also like to think of her as the poor man’s Jennifer Love Hewitt). Patrick Wilson , who had received a Tony nomination for his role in The Full Monty on Broadway but had only been in two movies (one being a meaty role in Mike Nichols’ Angels in America ), was cast as Raoul, Christine’s suitor and the Phantom’s romantic nemesis.
I guess the movie — and Gerard Butler in it — are supposed to be sexy? Searingly romantic? I can see the potential, possibly, but the wooden performance from Rossum paired with the masked Butler (who no one even knew anyway) did not make a very sensual combination. It had he opposite effect: it’s hilariously clunky and silly, a complete cinematic and musical misfire that fell flat.
I mean, even the dramatic reveal of the Phantom’s deformity is sort of a joke:
It was a modest success, doubling its budget at the box office, but the film is particularly unremarkable. While Butler came out of the experience unscathed thanks to the massive success of 300 , the rest of its cast (including Minnie Driver, who once showed promise as the ingenue in Good Will Hunting and then sort of disappeared) went on to make rather forgettable career choices (although, I suppose, you could argue that Rossum’s role on Shameless is somewhat successful).
The point is: Gerard Butler may have hoped we’ve forgotten about this, but I never will.
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Gerard butler drops the mask and opens up about bringing “the phantom of the opera” to the big screen..
December 5, 2004 | Uncategorized
Once upon a time, a famous composer and a renowned gay director were casting the male lead in an oft-delayed, big-budget film version of one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time.
They considered the actor who had originated the role on stage, but decided against it. “Too old!” they said.
Next, they mulled over a handful of major movie stars who were said to be interested in the part. “Too big!” they thought.
And then, they auditioned a young Scottish actor with oodles of charisma and a few little-known movies under his belt. When he’d finished singing the last notes of the show’s signature tune, the composer and the director smiled to themselves: “This one is just right.”
Yet as anyone who knows their bedtime stories can tell you, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” doesn’t end with the central character scarfing down the perfect bowl of porridge—that’s only the beginning. And quite similarly, the decision to cast the unheralded Gerard Butler in director Joel Schumacher’s film version of “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera” drew more than it’s share of growls from discontented Broadway bears who had wanted to see their man, Michael Crawford (who originated the role of the Phantom in London in 1986), reprise the role on the big screen.
Surprisingly, Butler, 35, understands where Crawford loyalists are coming from. “When I was first approached, I thought, ‘Me? The Phantom?’ I was very dubious about the prospect of being right for the role or taking it on,” says Butler, “not just because of the role itself, but because of it being a musical.”
But once Butler read the script, he says, becoming the Phantom became his passion. “Joel could not have written a more perfect version of “Phantom” for the screen,” says the actor, calling on his cell phone from Iceland where he’s playing Beowulf in the upcoming “Beowulf and Grendel,” a retelling of the epic poem. “So I took a couple of singing lessons on the sly because I didn’t want to waste anybody’s time or make a fool of myself.” After his third voice lesson, Butler recalls his teacher “looked at me with this beaming smile and said, ‘you can do this.’”
Of course, before Butler would even get the chance to audition, a lot of other actors would have to be passed over. That’s because Lloyd Webber first approached Schumacher about making a movie version of “Phantom” back in 1988—the year the show (based on Gaston Leroux’s novel) won the Tony Award for Best Musical and Best Actor (Crawford). At the time, the director was fresh off helming “The Lost Boys;” Butler was still a teenager.
The plan was to shoot the film in 1990, with Crawford and his popular stage co-star Sarah Brightman (Lloyd Webber’s wife at the time), recalls Schumacher. But after Brightman and Lloyd Webber amicably split, “the rights to everything got tied up in the divorce, so it all got put on hold.”
Schumacher and Lloyd Webber continued to revisit the project throughout the years, with John Travolta, Antonio Banderas and Hugh Jackman all mentioned as possible candidates to wear the mask. With those rumors swirling, a group of Crawford fans banded together in 1998 to form The Michael Crawford Phantom Movie Campaign (MCPMC) and its Web site, phantommovie.com. “We grew quickly and got a lot of press,” says Jane Woodside, one of the group’s founding members. MCPMC held fundraisers, took out Interviews ads in “Variety” and got close to 10,000 signatures in its online guestbook, but their efforts ultimately proved fruitless.
Robert Viagas, a program director at “Playbill” magazine, saw Crawford perform “Phantom” three times, and understands MCPMC members’ outrage over his not getting the movie role. “There are people for whom Crawford was practically a religion,” says Viagas. “They were so devoted to his interpretation because Crawford really got to the soul of the character.”
Indeed, Woodside says “I’ve seen ten other actors as the Phantom, but Crawford’s performance is so spectacular; the other actors acted the role, Crawford became.”
But even Viagas, a Crawford devotee himself, believes the 62-year-old actor, who is now performing in Lloyd Webber’s “The Woman in White”—a modest musical hit in London—is too old to play the Phantom. “If this film were being made ten years ago, I might say I made a mistake,” Viagas says. “But he has puffed up quite a bit and is rather barrel-chested now.”
Fast forward to 2002. After a holiday dinner with Lloyd Webber and his new wife Madeleine, Schumacher consented to refocus the project—with one condition: “I analyzed the story and realized Christine had to be a teenager, because she’s so innocent. Therefore, the guys had to be young. I wanted gorgeous, brilliantly talented, young sexy people to do it.” Lloyd Webber agreed, but added another condition of his own: Schumacher’s beautiful young people would have to do their own singing.
So the search was on for the Phantom, with Schumacher seeking “someone who was stunning on film, but beyond that, someone who could act the pain. This is a man who’s never been touched—except to be beaten.”
Fortunately for Schumacher, he recalled a trip he’d made to a St. Louis shopping-mall Cineplex, accompanied by his assistant, where they felt like catching a flick. The only movie on the marquee both hadn’t seen was something called “Dracula 2000,” starring a little-known actor named…Gerard Butler.
“Gerry burst out of a coffin, and I thought, ‘Who the hell is this guy?’” Schumacher recalls. Schumacher arranged for the hunkish former law student to audition for Lloyd Webber. No pressure, really. Butler just had to perform the Phantom’s signature song, “Music of the Night”—in a small music room at the composer’s London townhouse. Butler says he remembers Lloyd Webber sitting beside the piano, with his hands placed together at his lips, as if in silent prayer.
“I was cringing,” recalls Schumacher, who unbelievably hadn’t heard Butler sing a note up to that moment. “I had no idea whether he could do this. I thought, ‘This could be a disaster.’ And then Gerry opened his mouth, and I thought, ‘F*** man!’”
Lloyd Webber was not as outwardly enthused. He jumped up, shook Butler’s hand and then launched into a fifteen-minute critique of the performance.
“I should have taken that as a [good] sign because he said so many positive things, but I thought I blew it,” recalls Butler, who had seen “Phantom” performed on stage twice, but never with Crawford in the role. “I only listened to the negative things and thought it was a very elaborate blow-off.”
But quite the opposite, Butler had won the role and now Schumacher was faced with the daunting task of turning the handsome Scot into a monster—no easy task when you’re working on a canvas as fine as Butler’s mug. “I didn’t want him to have tons of prosthetics,” Schumacher explains. “I didn’t want him to look like the horror-monster ghoul, because then you wouldn’t believe Christine’s attraction.”
Eighteen-year-old Emmy Rossum, cast as Christine, never had any problem finding herself drawn to her co-star. “They say ‘the eyes are the window to the soul,’ and I think really great actors, like Gerry, act with their eyes,” she says. “His eyes smile, feel pain and show anger.”
In “Phantom,” however, one of those eyes is discolored, with a droopy lid, attached to a face ravaged by terrible growths, rashes and sores, and a scalp plagued with alopecia.
To create the droopy eye, make-up artists superglued a piece of silk to Butler’s lower eyelid and pulled the lid down with a piece of string that wrapped all the way down his face (beneath a prosthetic), around the back of his neck, down his back and out his shirt. The string attached to a piece of metal, which allowed for manipulation. Butler’s sensitive skin was further irritated by the chemicals used to remove the prosthetics. Getting them off at the end of the day was almost as torturous as the hours it took in the morning having them applied. “I’d get alcohol in my eye,” recalls Butler. “I’d be screaming with pain.”
Some would say Butler has been preparing for the “Phantom” role all his life—mastering not only his vocal abilities, but also the character’s deep despair, loneliness and rage. Butler began singing as a schoolboy. And he was only 13 when he began abusing substances, routinely persuading “some old drunk to get me a bottle of old wine that tasted like sh*t but did the trick.”
He performed for a few years in a Scottish band called Speed, but devoted more and more time to living the wild rock star life. Delving into a world of drugs and alcohol, Butler’s demons threatened to end his stardom before it even took root.
Eventually, Butler reached a stage where he lost all discipline. Friends noticed in him a frightening “Jekyll and Hyde” mode, at times exceptionally entertaining, and at other times erratically violent. “I’ve jumped around the edges of the roof of a 46-story building,” recalls Butler in his strong Scottish brogue, between puffs of a cigarette and sips of café latte. “You could find me throwing myself in front of cars or banging my head against walls. I would wake up with the worst cuts and bruises and lacerations.”
Although he never officially attempted suicide, Butler says he often “felt so full of pain that I didn’t know how to deal with it. I felt it almost would’ve been better if I wasn’t even around. When I was drunk seemed like the perfect time to put myself in a position for something tragic to happen.”
Butler’s childhood pain and suffering began when his mother, Margaret, left his father and took toddler Gerard with her from Montreal and back to the family’s native Scotland. Butler didn’t see his father, a former bookie, again until he was well into his teens.
“Gerry’s very much like Colin [Farrell],” notes Schumacher, who directed the latter in “Tigerland” and “Phone Booth.” Gerry grew up without a father, raised by a wonderful mother. Not the richest people in Scotland. Colin grew up without a father, with a wonderful mother. Not the richest people in Ireland. They’re both fantastic looking street-pub lads. The difference is, Gerry gave up drinking years ago.”
Indeed, Butler has been clean of drugs and alcohol for eight years. All the past pain now exists only as a tool, allowing the actor to relate to his characters—none more than the Phantom.
“I’ve been through very dark periods,” says Butler, explaining depression has long plagued his father’s side of the family. “I had such a fear of expressing myself. There was such a turmoil and a war going on within myself. And I think that’s something that would certainly be expressed in the Phantom—so desperately wanting to have somebody there for him; that one companion to be able to explore and be with.”
Schumacher, too, relates to the ostracized Opera House dweller, especially as a gay man. “The Phantom’s physical disfigurement is a metaphor for whatever most people think of as being unlovable, or what’s been rejected about themselves,” says the 65-year-old director. “The Phantom represents a person, who—through no fault of his own—is kept outside. All minorities share that connection.”
Growing up outside Glasgow in Paisley, Butler didn’t necessarily relate to the plight of gay men, mainly because he didn’t really know any. It was only after he moved to Glasgow that his eyes were opened. “I was amazed how free [gays] could be,” he says. “I would have thought that a gay culture would not really be accepted there because historically it’s a very tough city where not much out of the ordinary is tolerated. When I started going to university, a whole new world opened up to me.”
Butler developed a gay following when he shaved his head and tanned his frame to play the male lead in 2003’s “Lara Croft Tomb Raider 2: The Cradle of Life” opposite Angelina Jolie (“the sexiest woman I ever worked with,” he says). Walking around the streets of London’s Soho district in his biker jacket, Butler couldn’t help but notice he was being eyed left and right by anonymous male admirers.
And the 6’2” hunk may further cement his sex-symbol status if rumors about his next possible role pan out. Indeed, the latest talk is that Butler might replace Pierce Brosnan as yet another larger-than-life character: James Bond.
“I know they’re thinking about recasting the role right now, so who knows?” asks Butler, who had a small, non-speaking role as a seaman in the 1997 Bond film, “Tomorrow Never Dies.” “Of course I’d be open to some dialogue. Growing up, Bond was an icon for me. But if I was to do Bond, I would like to see something darker in him again—like when Sean Connery did it in some of the earlier, grittier movies. More violence. More of an animal. He was the dude. He was the one all the guys wanted to be and all the girls wanted to f***.” Forgive Butler for forgetting about those of us men who wouldn’t mind shaking 007’s martini ourselves—particularly with Butler filming the tuxedo (that’s under the wetsuit). But for now, the man is the Phantom. “Just to be part of this masterpiece,” he says, “it really blows my mind.”
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Live-Action How To Train Your Dragon Is Making Gerard Butler A Viking Again
Someone better start shipping a freight of Biotin over to Gerard Butler's house because the "300," "Phantom of the Opera," and "Plane" star has got a mighty big beard to grow! Butler is a well-decorated performer who has dabbled in just about every film genre possible, but arguably his best role is as Stoick the Vast in "How To Train Your Dragon." As /Film's Leo Noboru Lima explained when ranking the animated adventure flick as the best in Butler's filmography, "How to Train Your Dragon" is one of the few mainstream movies to take Butler seriously as both an imposing leading man and a heartfelt performer, noting, "The film captures those two dimensions of Butler and layers them on top of one another, allowing Butler's prowess as a heartrending dramatic performer to erupt through the cracks of his — ahem — stoic persona." Lima also rightfully highlighted his delivery of "I did this" as his most "gut-wrenching."
I had a blast and a half with 2023's "Plane," especially after learning the film's wildest moment was the brainchild of Butler himself. This is to say, I wasn't sure if there was anything that could make me love Gerard Butler more, but after a recent announcement over at Deadline regarding the live-action remake of "How To Train Your Dragon," I've been delightfully proven false. Butler will be reprising his role of Hiccup's father Stoick, joining Mason Thames and Nico Parker as Hiccup and Astrid, respectively. Original series director Dean DeBlois is also returning to write, direct, and produce, so there's a feeling of "getting the band back together" on this new reimagining.
A Viking dad just trying his best
Stoick the Vast is not just the (presumed) single father of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, he is also the chief of the Hooligan Tribe and allegedly popped a dragon's head clean off of its shoulders when he was a baby. Do I believe it? Yes, yes I do. At times Stoick's dedication to doing things "the Viking way" made him appear stubborn, close-minded, and a source of frustration for Hiccup, but at his core, Stoick is a loving father who only wants what's best for his son. "How To Train Your Dragon 2" sees him make a devastating decision to prove where his heart has always been, and a moment that is only going to hit even harder if the live-action adaptation is a success and inspires a follow-up feature.
A Scottish actor, "How To Train Your Dragon" will also allow Butler to act with his natural dialect, which means I'll most certainly be crying if I get to watch him say "You're as beautiful as the day I lost you." Celebrity stunt casting often hurts animated films , but every once in a while, an actor will throw themself into the art of voiceover work and transform a character into something very special. Gerard Butler is one of those people, and I have no doubt that he's going to absolutely dazzle us in the role in live action.
The live-action remake of "How To Train Your Dragon" is currently scheduled to arrive in theaters on June 13, 2025.
Gerard Butler Reprising His Role In ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ In Live-Action Remake
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Gerard Butler Returning For How To Train Your Dragon Remake
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