Feline lovers ascended to New York’s Lincoln Center for the world premiere of “Cats,” Universal’s big-screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash musical.
Monday night marked the first time the A-list cast — including Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, James Corden and Jennifer Hudson — had seen the movie in its entirety. That’s because director Tom Hooper didn’t complete the film until hours before it was unleashed to the masses.
“I finished it at 8 a.m. yesterday after 36 hours in a row. I just put the finishing touches on. So, I’m very happy to be here with it fully finished,” Hooper told Variety on the red carpet. He added with a laugh, “The premiere should be the first time people get to see it, and this is genuinely a premiere.”
The film’s tight turnaround is largely in part to the heavy post-production work. The actors were transformed into felines thanks to CGI and the art form now known as “digital fur technology.”
“Let the audience decide, but I think we’ve come a long way since that first trailer,” Hooper said.
The first trailer, as Hooper alluded, sent the internet into a full panic upon seeing the full-figured felines in all their glory. But the cast remained confident in the final product.
“Tom showed us a lot of tests but to see me as a cat was like, ‘What?!’ Technology is incredible,” said Elba, who plays the mischievous Macavity. “We can do anything with our imaginations now, so I was really impressed with what they did.”
Elba revealed that the actors went method and enrolled in “cat school” to perfect the craft of playing an animal. The cast had to arrive on set early in the morning for training, which included prowling on their knees, nuzzling and smelling each other and rolling around.
“If I’m honest, it was really fascinating,” Elba said. “I’m not a cat lover, but I got to understand cats and how they think and what they’re about. It was quite fascinating to watch and learn.”
And no, he didn’t tell his co-star, noted cat person Taylor Swift, that secretly he’s team dog.
“I didn’t tell anyone that I wasn’t a cat person, apart from Variety, so here we are,” Elba laughed.
Swift stars as the flirtatious and confident cat, Bombalurina. Hooper first met the superstar years ago when Swift auditioned for his 2012 rendition of “Les Miserables.” Although she didn’t end up in that musical, Hooper was quick to ask her about joining his vision of “Cats.”
“I auditioned her for ‘Les Mis’ and she was brilliant,” Hooper recalled. “And actually, I reached out to Taylor first among all the actors…I wrote to her and said, ‘Would you consider being part of the cast?’ And she said yes straight away. So, she was actually the building block that created the cast of the whole film.”
Following a packed screening at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, Hooper, Andrew Lloyd Webber and the cast made their way to Tavern on the Green in Central Park for a rainy night afterparty. The celebration welcomed the likes of Netflix’s “Queer Eye” cast and “Booksmart” star Beanie Feldstein. The soiree featured a milk bar, as an ode to the film, where guests sipped on champagne and martinis (not milk), while dancing to music playing by — who else? — Swift and her “Cats” co-star, Jason Derulo.