“I saw Gerry Butler in Dracula 2000 and he had such incredible screen presence I wanted to meet him,” says director Joel Schumacher (Phone Booth). “He’s a wonderful actor and I knew he would make a stunning Phantom.”
Though Dracula 2000 is one of Butler’s lesser know films, the actor also familiar to audiences for appearances in Jan De Bont’s Tomb Raider 2: The Cradle of Life and Richard Donner’s Timeline. The Phantom of the Opera affords Butler his first film role in which it can be said he’s carrying the movie.
Having not seen the musical, Butler quickly familiarized himself with the story and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s music. “It just blew me away. By the end of the script, I had tears streaming down my face. I really identified with the character of the Phantom, with his passion, his longing and artistry, as well as the pain and isolation he’s felt all his life.”
And part of what makes the Phantom the fiend is the mask, redesigned for the film by costume designer Alexandra Byrne. “We went through endless prototypes in developing the shape, the texture, the material and the fit of the mask,” says Byrne. “It was about trying to find the real person behind the mask. We want the audience to see his attractiveness, his anger and his vulnerability.”
Wearing the mask for the first time, Butler recalls, “I was amazed and upset by the looks I got just walking around the studio. I wanted to say, ‘What’s your problem? What are you looking at?’ It illuminates the ugliness and the beauty that exists within each of us, and that’s what this story represents to me.”
Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera is scheduled to open in limited release on December 22nd.