Date: 24th January 2001

Phantom Of The Opera Film Is Go

Prolific writer BEN ELTON has penned a new script for the long- awaited PHANTOM OF THE OPERA movie - and warned that he and ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER will take the lead roles.

The popular British funnyman claims he will don drag to star as CHRISTINE, while Lord Lloyd-Webber is set to play the titular character. The pair joked about their possible acting collaboration because they've as yet failed to line up any stars for the forthcoming blockbuster movie version of the infamous musical. Elton says, "It seems absolutely obvious to me that we should play the lovers in the cinematic version of Phantom. "I will play Christine and Andrew will play the Phantom - and he won't be wearing a mask!" Lloyd-Webber, 52, has been attempting to bring his hugely successful musical to the big screen for more than a decade now.

Countless screenplay writers have turned in scripts but none have been approved by Lloyd-Webber and WARNER BROS, the studio who are making the movie. Sick of set-backs, the musical maestro asked his friend Ben Elton to write his own version. Both Lloyd-Webber and Warners loved the first draft so much that the project has now been officially greenlighted. Lord Lloyd-Webber says, "
We are hoping to start filming the Phantom of the Opera movie next year. "I am producing it, Ben has written the first draft and the film is finally going to happen. It is very exciting and will be completely different from the musical."

Elton and Lloyd-Webber first worked together on THE BEAUTIFUL GAME, currently showing in London's West End, part of which was used at the inauguration of PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH (20JA01). However experts doubted they would collaborate again after the show received mixed reviews. "We've become good friends and enjoy working together," says Elton, "Andrew said he had been trying to get Phantom the movie off the ground for ten years and asked me if I would have a bash at the script. "I love the show and thought it would be a great challenge. I had a lot of fun writing the screenplay and it has got the greenlight for the first time. "Warner Bros love it and I know His Lordship does. It is the most successful piece of theatre in history but I realised it wouldn't work on the big screen unless I changed it a lot."

Over the past decade a number of stars have been linked to the Phantom movie. Original stage phantom MICHAEL CRAWFORD was said to have been promised the lead role, as was Spanish hunk ANTONIO BANDERAS. Lloyd-Webber and Elton are being coy about the cast, which they are adamant hasn't been finalised yet. Lloyd-Webber says, "Until we get a director for the film we can't even begin to think about who will star in it. "The Phantom role is very difficult to cast and obviously it has to be someone who can really sing well." (NB/WN/PDD)

Source: WENN