Friday, December 24, 2004

Patrick to participate in Hurricane Relief Concert

No Ego Trip for 'Phantom' Star

Phantom of the Opera: Patrick Wilson Unmasked

USA Weekend Magazine: Patrick Wilson's Broadway

Rising 'Phantom' Star No Stranger in Tampa

"Theater Talk" Spotlights "Phantom" Film Dec. 17

Phantom of the Opera Stars Speak Out

"Phantom" Stars Visit "Good Morning America," "The View," "60 Minutes Wednesday" and "Breakfast with the Arts"

HBO Takes a "First Look" at "The Phantom of the Opera" Dec. 20

Special thanks to user "thespian_geek" for the article about Patrick below:

His role in the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Phantom of the Opera is expected to propel him up the Hollywood pecking order at a rate of knots. He has the credentials to back up the gossip. He has been hand-picked for parts by some of the most influential names in the business: on stage he was chosen by Trevor Nunn for Oklahoma, for television he was selected by Mike Nichols for a pivotal role in the award-laden mini-series Angels in America, and in film Joel Schumacher settled on him almost straight away for Phantom. Wilson has also been in talks with Robert De Niro to star in his next directorial outing, The Good Shepherd - but it is Schumacher's endorsement that really counts, simply because there is no director better at launching young talent. Those who owe him a debt of thanks include Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and most recently Colin Farrell, and Wilson is well aware that selection by Schumacher is tantamount to anointment in Hollywood circles.

He's right. We've been chatting for the best part of an hour and he hasn't sworn once. He obliges with a laugh followed by a stream of profanity in a cod Irish accent. But he is also quick to point out that, unlike the young Irishman and many other Schumacher proteges, he is approaching fame from an older perspective - he's 31 and with a considerable career on Broadway behind him.

Thing is, he has been in this kind of position before. He has, he says almost wearily, spent a large part of his working life being tipped for big things. Yet it's not difficult to see why so much is expected of him: the light brown hair and ice-blue eyes give him the look of a young Paul Newman, and on top of that he has the singing voice of an angel.

Although he demurs and insists he is far from perfect, there is an air of too good to be true-ness about Wilson. Lloyd Webber hit the nail on the head: during the filming of The Phantom of the Opera he referred to the actor as "the Impossibly Perfect Patrick Wilson". Lloyd Webber was talking about Wilson's professionalism and willingness to do all his own stunts, but he might as well have been referring to the actor himself - and it's a reflection of our cynical times if we regard such praise with suspicion, rather than as something to be admired. Still, whatever expectation hangs upon him is worn lightly. Wilson is charming and affable as he pours early-morning coffee in his hotel room and talks about his childhood in Florida.

He can't remember a time, he says, when he wasn't singing. Childhood was a comfortable existence: his father was a local TV anchorman and his mother a voice teacher. Everyone in the family was musical - but that doesn't mean the young Wilson was the sort of child to burst into song for surprised guests. "My mom always wanted me to do that, but I'm not that kind of guy," he says, shaking his head. "I hated that. We always had to sit by the piano when there were people over. I was an athlete and I was the guy who left football practice early to go to choir. That was me."

If you were to make a film of Patrick Wilson's life, it would have to start with a clean-cut, loose-limbed youngster moving with his family from Norfolk, Virginia, to Florida. As he explains, he was a promising athlete who excelled at baseball and American football, but he never neglected his singing voice. One minute he would be getting down and dirty in the rough and tumble of Friday night high-school football; the next he would excuse himself to go off and sing show tunes. Yes, he also loved rock music - especially Van Halen, who remain his idols - but even so, there must have been some sort of ribbing in the locker room? "I guess," he acknowledges, "but if you're good it doesn't matter. Nobody really cared. I went to a really small school and I was just 'that guy'. I held my own, I wasn't trying to cover up anything. I love singing and I love sport and the only reason I quit playing baseball and football was because it conflicted."

These days the only sport in which Wilson indulges is what he calls "soccer" - he says he plays in the midfield - which meant that living in London for six months while filming Phantom was a godsend. On Sundays he would stroll from his rented flat in South Kensington to Hyde Park and jump into whatever kickabouts were going on. He also became a Chelsea fan after watching them play Arsenal. His favourite colour is blue, he says, admitting that it's a pretty feeble excuse to choose a team. That said, Chelsea also remind him of his baseball team, the New York Yankees, because "they bought their whole team, just like the Yankees".

After graduating from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, one of America's great drama colleges, in 1996, Wilson headed for New York and basically became an overnight success on stage. None of that scuffling a living here and there, finally making it when the big star couldn't go on or some such. "No, I never did that, knock on wood," he says, rapping the table top and apologising for his good fortune. "You do feel, 'Sorry, I've been working."' He shrugs. "I went to college and trained for it. I was cast in Miss Saigon and then Carousel straight out of college when I was 22 - which was great, because when you do a national tour in the States, that's where you make your money. I was able to live off that money for two years, and I could stay in New York auditioning and do some off-Broadway shows, then three Broadway shows, and I was very fortunate to hit it early on.

"Truthfully, though, once I got out of school there weren't any young men - leading men - out there who were either straight or could play straight. So I got hired and I enjoyed it and I said, OK, let me ride this out for a while. It took me to New York and Broadway and I knew I'd always get into the movies later. So it's worked out well."

In the movie version of Wilson's life, of course, this would be the point where things begin to go a little too well. And so it proved. Having landed his first lead in a Broadway show called Fascinating Rhythm, he saw it close "in about an hour and a half". (Actually it was two weeks, but who's counting?) Everything he'd worked for seemed to have come crashing down; all those hours on the road in small town after small town working towards Broadway looked like they were going to count for nothing in the end.

It was, he insists, a great show; a musical revue packed with Gershwin songs and catchy arrangements. But the failure of Fascinating Rhythm was a chastening interlude in what had begun as a glittering career. "It teaches you what success is," says Wilson. "It's the same thing when you do a movie and you spend six months or three months or however long loving what you do, and then it comes out and bang" - he snaps his fingers - "it's gone. You do it for the experience and you don't know how long it will last. It's just like anybody's job. You have to take the experience for what it is because there is so much that you can't control."

Wilson bounced back, taking other, smaller parts before moving on to the musical version of The Full Monty on Broadway. He played Gaz, the part made famous in the screen original by Robert Carlyle. He is scathing about what he sees as modern trend of making musicals out of hit films "because they can't think of anything else to make them out of", and is at pains to point out that this version of The Full Monty was different. It was written by the playwright Terrence McNally and adapted to Buffalo, an American steel town that is very much like the Sheffield of the original. "A plant closing down wherever it is in the world has the same kind of impact on the town," says Wilson. "We made it American. We didn't go in there and act like Robert Carlyle because we just weren't. I was 27 playing a 35-year-old man with a 12-year-old kid."

Despite new lines and original music, one thing didn't change: Wilson had to bare more than his emotions every night in front of a baying audience. "Well, it's not the half Monty," he says in mock- macho tones. "We did it - and, in keeping with tradition and not wanting it to be gratuitous, we were lit from behind. Some shadows were bigger than others." He laughs. "You do it a couple of hundred times and then the lights screw up and that's live theatre. People bring torches and cameras, but it was fun. You're naked for a split second and you're dancing and you don't really care. The hardest part was when you were doing a scene - you're parading around in jockey shorts and tighty-whiteys as well as being pale and 150lbs and skinny. It tries you."

The Full Monty didn't just put Wilson back on track: it brought him his first Tony nomination and attracted the attention of two men who would be highly influential in his career, Trevor Nunn and Mike Nichols. Nunn was bringing his London production of Oklahoma to Broadway and wanted Wilson to play Curly. Nichols, meanwhile, was preparing the HBO mini-series of Tony Kushner's award -winning play Angels in America, and wanted Wilson for the key part of Joe Pitt, the Reaganite Republican and closeted homosexual.

For Wilson it wasn't a choice: it was a dilemma. He'd have sacrificed a limb for either part, so to be offered both was simply too much. He couldn't decide, he says - so in the end he did both, shooting Angels during the day and then rushing back to Broadway for Oklahoma in the evening.

"I remember the first day of shooting Angels in America," he says now. "I couldn't have written it any better in terms of how to make a transition from theatre all the big, big movie stars fashion themselves as theatre actors and do theatre whenever they can. I didn't feel different and I didn't feel scared. You step up. It's great to watch these actors, but if you can play with them it's even more exciting. "I remember on the first day saying to Stephen Goldblatt, the cinematographer, 'OK, where should I look?' And he said, 'Just do your thing, we'll find you'. Mike Nichols created this atmosphere where you could do no wrong. It's the same with Joel Schumacher: you have these directors that trust themselves, trust their judgment in you, trust their instincts and trust your instincts, so you're on the same page and you feel you can give more.

"Of course, when you're a young actor and your screen mom is Meryl Streep and your other scene partner is Al Pacino, there's a lot of Oscars in the room. To watch the way they work and their dedication and their focus, that's what rubs off on you. But by the same token you don't feel that you're at school because you've got a job to do. You don't have time to sit and go, wow."

By now we are at the second act in the Patrick Wilson movie and it's time for another key plot point. Oklahoma brought another Tony nomination and Angels in America brought him Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, but The Alamo would put a stop to all that.

Disney had long been planning to film an epic about the battle of the Alamo, and initially director Ron Howard and leading man Russell Crowe were to repeat their successful partnership from A Beautiful Mind. Crowe was to be Sam Houston, Billy Bob Thornton would be Davy Crockett and Ethan Hawke would play William Travis. But arguments over scripts, budgets and schedules put paid to this version, Crowe and Howard walked, and director John Lee Hancock was brought in. Thornton stayed as Crockett, but Dennis Quaid was brought in to play Houston, with Wilson as Travis.

Having agreed to make the film on a budget that was half of what Howard had stalled on, Hancock had trouble delivering the film for its agreed date last Christmas. The studio gave him more time to edit and aimed for an Easter opening, but by the time it was released America was at war in Iraq and nobody wanted to see a film about an American military defeat. While certainly not a classic, The Alamo isn't the worst film released this year by a long way - but it was slaughtered by the press and all but wiped out at the box office by Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

Wilson's disappointment is palpable, and it is still a raw nerve to which he makes a number of references during our conversation. "The frustrating thing is that you can't control bad press and people seem to want to beat up Disney anyway," he says at one point. "It's unfortunate. I'm really proud of the movie and what we set out to do, but we had to push the date. As an actor you do your job and then it's in somebody else's hands. I feel like the press or whoever got into the process early on; people just wanted to beat it up. I guess that's what happens, but it was such an incredible experience and a truthful experience." He pauses. "It will be one of those movies that people rediscover."

Everything in Patrick Wilson's career has been building to this point, the third act denouement of the story. The Phantom of the Opera has its world premiere in London on Monday night, and a film that has been in the making for almost 14 years and has become one of the most talked-about in the industry will finally be unveiled.

Wilson plays Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, a character he admits he'd previously thought of as "something of a pansy". But in Schumacher's re -imagining of the Lloyd Webber musical, Raoul is very much the action man, with swordplay, horse riding, general derring-do and a show-stopping version of All I Ask of You to boot. For Wilson, playing Raoul is one of the things that makes him want to do more movies - and yet another opportunity for which he says he should be thankful.

There are plenty of people who just dream of being on Broadway and never get to achieve that, and I got to have it as my playground,'' he says. "You don't know what kind of success you're going to have. I probably auditioned for 30 or 40 television shows and never got one, and I auditioned for three movies and got two of them. It's a fine line between the jobs you want to have and the jobs you can get. Your goals change as you go along."

When he first went to New York, Wilson's aim was to be nominated for a Tony within five years; he achieved it twice. He loves the theatre and doesn't consider that he has left it - he simply says that he always wanted to do movies in his thirties and that the time has come to move on. He is at pains to defuse any suggestions of careerist ambition: Broadway, he says, should never be seen as a means to an end.

"That's too cynical," he says sharply. "I can't stand it when people say it's a good stepping stone. Do you know how many young actors, actors of all ages, would die to be on that kind of stage? It presented me opportunities to do movies, but this isn't too different to me to the way I felt when I was 24. After I'd done three or four movies I wanted to do a play; I wanted to prove to my agents and everyone else that I wasn't just going to do musical theatre. And that's the way I feel about movies. It's just something different."