Your new movie Phantom of the Opera - in a few words, what is
Phantom of the
Opera is the tale of a younger singer who is haunted by an obsessive
masked genius who lives beneath the theatre where she is making her
debut… and the Phantom will ensure her success at ANY cost!
So what drew you to Gaston Leroux's
of the Opera in the first place, how close do you remain to your
source material, and what are your main deviations of course?
has been a favourite story of mine – and a dream project – ever since
I was a kid. There is something of the idea of the whole Beauty and the
Beast theme that appeals to me as an actor and filmmaker (because actors
generally are outsiders, you know ;-). I’ve been such a fan of several
of the cinematic adaptations (starting with Lon Chaney Sr.’s turn in
1925) and of course the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. The book itself is a
great mystery thriller, and I’ve gone back (in some ways) to that idea,
as well as finding a fresh take on the story. It’s very different from
the musical. In fact, ours may be the scariest Phantom
of the Opera adaptation of all
time – I’m telling it as a genuine ghost story!
sources of inspiration when writing Phantom of the Opera?
was inspired to not be inspired, if that makes sense? I wanted to do some
different with the tale, and certainly distance myself from the
over-romanticised stage musical. Yes, there is a great love story at heart
of the Opera, but there is also a great dark thriller there… we’ve
already received praise for creating a very threatening and unstable
Phantom, which I think would be more truer to real-life than other
interpretations we have seen.
the years, the Phantom
of the Opera has been brought to the screen in quite a few quite
diverse ways - so what can you tell us about your directorial approach to
your subject at hand, and how do you think your version will stick out? Oh, and how would you describe your film's approach
to horror as such?
film actually starts off in the present day, with a paranormal reality TV
series doing a story on the legend of the ghost who apparently haunts this
old theatre. As the story progresses, we start to flash back and forth
between the 1930s (where the original events unfold) and 2014 where one of
the TV crew seems to be haunted by ghosts of the past. I’m prouder of
this script / adaptation than any of my previous efforts… a lot of
thought and effort went into making this one something special.
You also play the lead in your Phantom
of the Opera - so how do you even approach a character like this, what
do you draw upon to bring him to life?
an actor primarily, and the filmmaking has come about as an unexpected
surprise and wonderful way for me to tell stories in my own voice. I’ve
had a very specific idea of how I wanted the Phantom to be – for many
years, actually – and I think that translated in the final product. The
character is obviously driven to some degree of hatred and insanity on
account of his lot in life, but it’s important to make him human. There
is a vein of loneliness that seems to run through the characters that I
play, and that is a place that I find fascinating to explore as an actor.
The Phantom is such an intriguing character to play – a genuine baddie
throughout most of the film, and yet the audience is so sorry for him by
the time the credits roll… great appeal to a ham, LOL!
Besides the Phantom
of the Opera, you have in recent years also played
Holmes - so what fascinates you about these iconic characters,
what makes it fun to play them?
I love the
classics, and have always gravitated towards them. Thanks to a healthy
upbringing on the BBC and
Hammer / Amicus
[Amicus story - click here] /
I’ve always been surrounded by the great monsters. I love dark stories
– fairy tales – and have had very specific ways that I wanted to
interpret them when given the opportunity. I used to play Sherlock
Holmes on radio in Montreal, and I think my take is unique… same can be said of
my Dracula, and now
Phantom. I’m great at larger-than-life
characters, subtlety never being one of my strong points ;-)
Back to Phantom of
the Opera - a story like this needs quite some elaborate
sets/locations, right - so what can you tell us about yours?
were blessed to have access to a grand old theatre for a couple of weeks,
wherein we shot about 80% of the film. The hall itself, Convocation
is an authentic (1920s) space on campus at Queen’s University in
Kingston Ontario. Exteriors were shot at the beautiful Regent Theatre in
Picton (where we are screening the film in late May), the Phantom’s lair
in the (I insist) haunted cellars of an old school and the masked ball
sequence was filmed at the Renaissance, a glorious banquet hall – also
in Kingston – that makes for the ideal blend or horror and opulence on
screen. All locations combined, we have a sumptuous-looking film… What
was that about location-location-location?
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
was a LONG and arduous shoot, with every second of the shooting blocks
filled. My cast was fantastic, dedicated – and patient! By far the most
intricate shoot I have ever done (in order to get era and atmosphere
spot-on), it was also the most rewarding experience as a film-maker. I’m
not going to divulge budget, but the film is a remarkable accomplishment
with the resources we had to work with.
far as I know, Phantom of the Opera has only recently started its
festival run - so what can you tell us about audience and critical
reception so far? And any idea when the film might be released onto the
general public yet?
film has enjoyed a handful of screenings thus far, and is receiving
excellent notices. We actually had a distribution deal in place with
Reality Entertainment before a single frame of film had been shot, and
also tied the casting process in with a reality series searching for our
Christine… and what a wonderful young actress we found in Savannah
Kimmerer, who beat out a fair number of potential candidates to be our
Christine. Thanks to TVCogeco for getting behind this project!
Any future projects you'd like to
always working on new schemes and planning my next work. Next up, I hope
to shoot an adaptation of M.R. James’Casting the Runes, one of my
favourite supernatural stories. After that, musical film adaptation of
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is another dream project
(did you know I compose and sing?). I’ve also just signed a publishing
deal to write two books for BearManor Media: The first will be an
annotated publication of my screenplay for Terror of Dracula,
and the second (tentatively titled Terror on a Shoestring) is
going to be a personal journey / how-to guide in the world of micro-budget
indie horror film-making. There are a few other things in the pipeline,
too – but you never can tell what’s going to come to fruition or not.
It’s both exciting and terribly frustrating!
What got you into acting and filmmaking to begin
with, and did you receive any formal training on either subject?
only formal training I have is as a musician. I’m a trained pianist and
singer, but never took an acting lesson or a day of film school in my
life. I’m a lifelong student of film, in that I love movies and have
studied them since as long as I can remember. I also spent a fair amount
of time interning / volunteering with TV stations (such as TVCogeco),
really learning to hone my craft that way. I’m an actor, first and
foremost – but I learned early on that the best way to play the roles I
wanted / tell the stories I wanted to tell, was to produce and create
those opportunities… people seem to have taken to my work, which is so
humbling. But these aren’t vanity projects, by any stretch – I work
with very talented people, all of whom get their opportunity to shine…
I’m very lucky that way J
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Phantom of the Opera?
have now shot four features which have all scored distribution:
first, 2010’s Sherlock Holmes and the Shadow Watchers (an
original adventure authorized by the Conan Doyle Estate) is finally
getting a release through World Wide Multi Media in August
of Dracula, a very faithful adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel
which was actually featured in Fangoria Magazine, hit on DVD and VOD in
2012 and is also distributed by World Wide Multi Media
very personal 2013 film Ghostkeepers
is an original haunted
house thriller in which I play a washed-up horror film actor
(foreshadowing??) is out everywhere now courtesy of Reality Entertainment.
to that, I made two shorts: An adaptation of Hound of the
Baskervilles, and a comedy called Canucula! – both
of which have been seen by far more people than they ever should have been, LOL!
describe yourself as an actor and as a director?
a storyteller – that’s the best way to sum me up. I write, act,
direct, compose, sing – it’s all in the pursuit of telling stories in
my own voice. I’m neither a method actor or a strict director, but there
is a solid structure to my approaches to both. I generally start with a
concept, and find ways to see it through… whether I’m doing anything
right is best determined by others. Thankfully, people have been quite
kind, thus far ;-)
actors, whoever else who inspire you?
actors – larger than life characters. My favourite actor is former Dr.
Who Tom Baker [Tom Baker
bio - click here] – he’s so grandiose, and what a voice! Anthony Hopkins,
there’s another fellow I admire… Raconteurs, and the classic stars of
yesteryear: Peter Cushing, Vincent Price [Vincent
Price bio - click here], Christopher Lee… these were
all my heroes in life. I love people who have great stage presence –
singer / songwriters who can command an audience (big fan of Roger
Whittaker!) – genuine entertainers, these are people I am inspired by.
As far as filmmakers go, I just saw Grand Budapest Hotel and
can’t say enough about it… time for me to go back explore the film
works of Wes Anderson, because I think he’s a bloody genius!
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
movie of all-time is The Changeling from 1981, starring the great George
C. Scott. It’s the best haunted house flick of all time, and it gets
played at least twice a year in my home. Ghostkeepers
part) a love-letter to that movie.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
reserve comment there – you never know who I might end up working with
in the future ;-)
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
look me up on Facebook!
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
think we’re good!! Good questions, Michael J
for the interview!
And to you for the opportunity, sir!