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Patrick Wilson

'The Phantom of the Opera'

THESP FILE
What actor/actress would you most like to work with? Paul Newman
What’s your favorite film from the past five years? “Spellbound”
Which character in a film have you watched and wished you could’ve played? Forrest Gump or Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape”
Next film:Sundance entry “Hard Candy,” about a suspected pedophile.

As the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, nemesis of the title character in “The Phantom of the Opera,” Patrick Wilson plays not just “the boyfriend” but also turn-of-the-century action hero, a good deal more than the Raoul of the stage version.

“My memory of the show, and specifically of the role, was that he was ‘the other guy,'” recalls Wilson. “When I read the script, I saw that (director) Joel (Schumacher) had made him very active, gave him some guts, tried to focus on the three of them as a real love triangle.”

That’s why Wilson signed on to what he calls “the most physically exhausting shoot that I’ve had,” which includes his other 2004 movie role as William Travis in “The Alamo.” “And then emotionally exhausting on top of that.”

Wilson, 31, had already demonstrated his musical prowess in the Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!” and the stage version of “The Full Monty,” both of which earned him actor Tony nominations. Add to these a supporting actor Emmy nom for his complex, pivotal perf of Joe Pitt in HBO’s much-lauded adaptation of “Angels in America.”

For “Phantom,” Wilson enjoyed what he calls “a very dynamic, interesting role” in Raoul, who ages nearly 50 years between the film’s framing device (set in 1919) and the key action, which takes place in 1870 Paris. Schumacher’s concept, he says, was to “put Raoul through the wringer. It can’t just be ‘I love her.’ It has to be ‘I’ll die for her.'”

As a result, Raoul rides bareback to Christine’s rescue, engages in swordplay with the Phantom in a snow-covered cemetery and nearly drowns in an underwater trap en route to the Phantom’s lair.

“We wanted to make it a much more visceral experience,” Wilson says.

As for the musical side of the work, Wilson said that composer and producer Andrew Lloyd Webber “was around a lot, but more as a fan. Musically, he and I hit it off really quickly. I knew the lyrics to almost every show he’s written, just from doing musical theater. He didn’t have a lot of musical notes.”

Lloyd Webber has been quoted as calling Wilson “one of the great natural lyric tenors from the theater.” And his performance of “All I Ask of You” is one of the film’s emotional high points.

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