Saturday, June 07, 2003

  • Patrick's thoughts on the upcoming Phantom of the Opera movie Courtesy of

    "It's really going to be kind of an epic," said Patrick Wilson, who I found lazing in the grass by Heckscher Field, where he had just finished playing on the Urinetown team with best friend and Full Monty co-star Matthew Stocke. Although he was referring to the upcoming film version of The Phantom of the Opera, in which he plays romantic lead Raoul, he could have been talking about any of his upcoming film projects.

    In case you haven't heard, 29-year-old Wilson is on a roll. After enjoying back-to-back Tony noms for his work in the Broadway musicals The Full Monty and Oklahoma!, he's caught the eye of the other coast. First up is the September HBO premiere of Mike Nichols' six-hour adaptation of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, in which he joins an all-star cast playing closeted Mormon Joe Pitt (Mary-Louise Parker is wife Harper). Then, on Christmas Day, he hits the big screen in the $95 million The Alamo, directed by John Lee Hancock and produced by Oscar-winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. Wilson plays Colonial William Barret Travis, the young leader who fought and died in the historic battle, alongside seasoned pros like Dennis Quaid, Jason Patric and Billy Bob Thorton.

    But Wilson won't necessarily be around to hit the red carpets when those two eagerly anticipated projects are released. Instead, he'll be holed up in London's Pinewood Studios, where filming begins on Phantom in September. Reportedly joining him is 33-year-old Gerard Butler in the lead role, a veteran of a few London theater productions who will be seen as the love interest in this summer's Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. Although Wilson wouldn't divulge any other casting, my overseas sources tell me that 16-year-old Emmy Rossum is onboard as Christine. (Ironically, Rossum and Wilson's former flame Jennifer Love Hewitt played the young and older versions of Audrey Hepburn in TV's The Audrey Hepburn Story.) In addition, I hear Miranda Richardson has been offered the role of Madame Giry and Alan Cumming is planning on playing one of the Paris Opera House owners.

    Before he landed the part, Wilson had meetings with both composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who is producing the pet project, and director/screenwriter Joel Schumacher, who had seen some of Wilson's Broadway work. Because of Lloyd Webber's involvement, the focus was on the music during the casting process, which gave Wilson an edge. "I think that it was a relief for Sir Andrew and his crowd to meet me," he told me. "They'd been seeing a lot of Hollywood people for the part who hadn't been doing musicals for the past 10 years. With a score like Phantom, you really can't fake the singing."

    With a younger cast (Michael Crawford was 46 when he played the Phantom opposite 27-year-old Sarah Brightman), Wilson promises a leaner, meaner Phantom of the Opera. "It's going to be more of a battle between the Phantom and Raoul," he said. "Raoul's more of a fighter in the film. It's a little more aggressive. I never really saw all of that in Raoul when I saw the show, probably because I was 15 and just wanted to hear the songs and see a guy with a mask on." Wilson also revealed that there will be a climactic swordfight between Christine's two suitors and that there will be plenty of horseback riding for him, a skill he learned during his months on the Texas set of The Alamo.

    For Phantom followers, who have helped make it one of Broadway's most successful shows ever, Wilson offered words of encouragement: "They're not trying to reinvent the wheel here. Anyone who's a fan of the show is going to be a fan of the movie. It's not a studio taking something that is sacred to millions of people in the world and changing it for the sake of changing it." Phew! That's all we ask of you!