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Emmy Rossum

'The Phantom of the Opera'

Emmy Rossum, the object of desire in “The Phantom of the Opera,” is generating ample buzz for her performance as Christine Daae and already has a citation for female breakthrough performance from the National Board of Review to show for it.

“That took me so much by surprise,” she says.

Why did Rossum want the role, especially since she has still never seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical, on which the $95 million film is based?

Rossum, 18, explains the film’s allure.

“‘Phantom’ is a horror story and a love story. It’s about passion and obsession — sexy, heroic and scary. And Christine definitely grows over the course of the story when she has to make a choice whether or not she’s going to sacrifice her future with the one man she loves and give up her life — a happy life — in order to commit to another life.”

Rossum eagerly dove into her homework.

“I did a lot of strange research. Because I’m a very rational person and so much of Christine’s relationship with the Phantom is based on spirituality, I needed to find something that was going to make that real to me.”

With that in mind, she was one of a dozen people to attend a seance at the Spiritualists Society in London’s tony Belgravia. She traveled to Paris, too, to the Opera Garnier in order, she says, “to stand in all the places Christine would have stood, and on the roof.”

She also saw the lagoon that is still there underneath the opera house.

“If you stand in the lobby and go down 12 flights of stairs, you get to a body of water. It’s very, very creepy.”

Rossum speaks of wanting to please director Joel Schumacher, whose track record at spotting young talent has been notably good over time — think Colin Farrell in “Tigerland.”

“All I can say is I was very much an admirer of Joel’s,” says Rossum, who had just finished shooting “The Day After Tomorrow” when the call came to test for “Phantom.” (Last year, she was seen as Sean Penn’s doomed daughter in “Mystic River.”)

The result led to eight months living in Kensington, mining the material for all it was worth.

“I had to go into a deep-rooted place of anxiety and fear and pain, so it wasn’t always fun,” Rossum says of the shoot. No matter: Yesterday’s rigors are clearly today’s rewards.