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THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Costumes And Makeup
In concert with the set design, the costumes in The Phantom of the Opera recreate the sumptuous world of 1870s Paris. Director Joel Schumacher turned to Alexandra Byrne, an accomplished film and theatre costume designer who earned Academy Award nominations for her work on Elizabeth and Hamlet, to design the extensive wardrobe for Phantom. 

"I have great respect for Alex,” says Schumacher, a former costume designer himself. "Anyone who can make Elizabeth, which is set in a particularly unsexy period for women, look as good as Alex did, has real talent. She also has a very contemporary and unusual approach to costume design. She works from the inside out, which I love about her.”

From workshops based at Pinewood Studios and in London, Byrne and her team handmade 300 costumes for the ambitious production, and modified another 2,000 obtained through an extensive exploration of wardrobe houses across Europe. 

"The great joy about working with Joel is that he is very clear about what he wants,” Byrne reports. "For Phantom, the visual reference he provided was the film The Leopard. The costumes in The Leopard are incredibly beautiful and very witty. They're not slaves to the period or what I call ‘museum frocks.' They're based on telling the story.” 

With Schumacher's vision in mind, Byrne traveled to Paris to research the world of the Opera Garnier, on which the film's fictitious "Opera Populaire” is loosely based, and to study the clothing and attitudes of the city circa 1870. "I learned all about the period to be able to throw it all away and move on to reinterpret it for myself,” says Byrne. 

While creating a "heightened representation of the period,” the designer had to maintain visual continuity throughout a large cast of characters, many of whom perform three operas, two ballets and stage a masquerade ball within the main storyline. And, unlike the stage production, the film delves into the backstage world of the Opera Populaire, requiring Byrne to outfit the ensemble in a naturalistic fashion that credibly conveys the theatre's bustling hive of backstage activity. 

"The scale of the film goes from being a two character duet to a huge dramatic set piece and back again, so the challenge was to create a balanced style that enhances the scale of the love story and sweeps the audience up into that world without being distracting,” she explains. "Meanwhile, these are not just costumes to look at. They had to be practical as well for the big choreographed pieces. So there were many demands to meet.”

Perhaps the most challenging character to design for was the eponymous Phantom, for whom Byrne had to create wardrobe that conveys a sense of mystery, charisma and danger about a man who is often shrouded in shadows. "It's about silhouette, shape and sexuality,” says Byrne of her designs for the Phantom, played by Gerard Butler. "The starting point was the silhouette, seeing how the costume moves, the shapes that are created and how those shapes resonate. Developing and stylizing originated with Gerard's fittings, by looking at collars, proportions and shapes and seeing how they worked on his body.”

A crucial facet of the Phantom's costume is his iconic mask, which, like the prosthetic makeup Butler wears beneath it, had to be re-imagined for the film, where audiences get their first close-up look at both the Phantom's facial disfigurement and the disguise he wears to hide it. "We went through endless prototypes in developing the shape, the texture, the material and the fit of the mask,” says Byrne, who worked closely with hair and makeup artist Jenny Shircore to create a design that was ultimately actualized in a very fine leather.

Like the design of the Phantom's costume and mask, his underlying physical deformity had to be rendered convincingly, without alienating the audience in the process. "W

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