A NIGHT AT THE
JOEL SCHUMACHER FINALLY BRINGS ANDREW LLOYD WEBBERS
STAGE MUSICAL PHANTOM OF THE OPERA TO THE SCREEN
BY CHRIS BETROS
JOEL SCHUMACHER BELIEVES the best choices
are always the riskiest ones. The comfort zone is a
bad place, says the 65-year-old director, who makes
his first musical with Phantom of the Opera. Although Gaston
Lerouxs 1911 novel has been filmed many times before,
Schumachers work is not another remake but a film version
of the stage musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The composer first approached Schumacher in 1987, but put
the project on the backburner after his divorce from Phantom
stage star Sarah Brightman, whom he had wanted to star in
the film. Meanwhile, Schumachers career moved along
with The Client, two Batman films, A Time to Kill, Tigerland
and Veronica Guerin. As he was finishing Phone Booth in late
2002, Webber asked him again and put up $85 million of his
own money to finance the film. The story remains basically
the same. A disfigured musical genius who lives beneath the
Paris Opera House in the late 1800s falls in love with Christine,
a young member of the opera company.
As a disembodied voice, the Phantom teaches Christine to sing.
She thinks he is an angel sent by her deceased father. Phantom
features a largely unknown cast, including Emmy Rossum (Day
After Tomorrow) as Christine, Gerard Butler as the Phantom
and Patrick Wilson as Christines patron and prospective
suitor Raoul. I wanted to have three young and sexy
stars, says Schumacher. The music, sets and costumes
are romantic and opulent, but at heart, this is really a tragic
Schumacher thinks the enduring appeal of the story is that
audiences can relate to the person who is the outsider, namely
the Phantom. Many people have feelings of being disconnected.
The Phantom stands for that. I think his physical handicap
is a manifestation of what any of us feel is unlovable, like
the Hunchback of Notre Dame or the Beast in Beauty and the
Born in New York, Schumacher always hung out at the cinema
when he was growing up. My father died when I was four;
my mother was working six days a week and three nights a week.
Sitting in a dark movie theater was an escape for me,
he recalls. After graduating from college, he worked as a
department store window dresser, before starting in films
as a costume designer for Woody Allens movies. He made
his directorial debut in 1980 with The Incredible Shrinking
Woman. Throughout his career, he has constantly been drawn
to dark themes. Some of our most interesting stories
are dark. We seem to be living in a time where if something
doesnt have a happy ending, its considered a dark
Japan has been a goldmine for Schumacher. I first came
here for Flatliners (1990), when I was still relatively unknown,
he recalls. I was overwhelmed to see all these fans
of St. Elmos Fire standing outside in the snow to meet
me. That was really thrilling. CB M
PHOTOS BY CHRIS BETROS
HOLLYWOOD COMES TO TOWN
A BUSY WEEK FOR SHOWBIZ FANS AS CELEBRITIES DESCEND ON
PHOTOS BY CHRIS BETROS
|Clockwise from left:
Brad Pitt and George Clooney at the Oceans Twelve
press conference; Matt Damon was a busy guy, promoting
both The Bourne Supremacy and Oceans Twelve; Director
Garry Marshall and Julie Andrews had plenty to say about
The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement; Oliver Stone
and Colin Farrell go Greek in Alexander; Renowned British
ballet dancer and choreographer Adam Cooper, here for
Les Liaisons Dangereuses, poses with actress and former
ballerina Ryoko Yonekura.
HOTEL MANAGER WITH A SUPREME SENSE OF SERVICE
ASK TRACY MERCER WHERES HE from and hell joke
he was born 1,500 miles outside of Chicago. Hes really
a Kansas boy, where he grew up and went to university. Kansas
seems a long way from where he is now: general manager of
the upscale 57-room Four Seasons Hotel Marunouchi.
HOW DID YOU END UP IN THE HOTEL BUSINESS?
I was an English literature major and never going to be in
the hotel business. It started as a part-time job while I
was at university. When I graduated, I pursued it because
I needed a break from the academic community and I enjoyed
WHAT FIRST BROUGHT YOU TO JAPAN?
I first came to Japan in 1993 with Four Seasons at Chinzanso
and spent two years there. Then I went to Singapore for about
5 years before coming back to this hotel.
WHAT SHOULD A GOOD HOTELIER BE?
All a customer ever says is I want and if you
can respond to that from your heart in a flexible way, then
you have what it takes.
WHATS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR HOTEL?
We are the only hotel that offers Tokyo station platform-to-hotel
service and vice versa. For customers, I think it is the single
most impressive memory on arrival and departure. It knocks
people out. We have a greeting service at the airport, too.
DO YOU CHECK OUT THE OPPOSITION?
All the time. Sometimes their guests stop and ask me for directions
because they think I work there.
WHATS YOUR MANAGEMENT STYLE?
I am a control freak. Every day I am in the kitchen, checking
menus. I have a lot of informal meetings with staff. I made
it a priority at the beginning that all staff speak English.
WHATS A TYPICAL DAY FOR YOU?
I live in Meguro and show up here at 8am. My day is totally
unstructured. I try and leave between seven and eight.
WHAT ABOUT TIME OFF?
I try to take one day off.
TO DO WHAT?
I hop around from interest to interest. I get very intense
and then move onto something else. CB M
Would you like to comment on this article?
Send a letter to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.