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An Interview with Anthony D.P. Mann, Director and Star of Phantom of the Opera

by Mike Haberfelner

May 2014

Anthony D.P. Mann on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Phantom of the Opera - in a few words, what is it about?


Phantom of the Opera is the tale of a younger singer who is haunted by an obsessive masked genius who lives beneath the theatre where she is making her debut… and the Phantom will ensure her success at ANY cost!


So what drew you to Gaston Leroux's novel Phantom of the Opera in the first place, how close do you remain to your source material, and what are your main deviations of course?


This has been a favourite story of mine – and a dream project – ever since I was a kid. There is something of the idea of the whole Beauty and the Beast theme that appeals to me as an actor and filmmaker (because actors generally are outsiders, you know ;-). I’ve been such a fan of several of the cinematic adaptations (starting with Lon Chaney Sr.’s turn in 1925) and of course the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. The book itself is a great mystery thriller, and I’ve gone back (in some ways) to that idea, as well as finding a fresh take on the story. It’s very different from the musical. In fact, ours may be the scariest Phantom of the Opera adaptation of all time – I’m telling it as a genuine ghost story!


Other sources of inspiration when writing Phantom of the Opera?


I was inspired to not be inspired, if that makes sense? I wanted to do some different with the tale, and certainly distance myself from the over-romanticised stage musical. Yes, there is a great love story at heart in Phantom of the Opera, but there is also a great dark thriller there… we’ve already received praise for creating a very threatening and unstable Phantom, which I think would be more truer to real-life than other interpretations we have seen.


Over the years, the Phantom of the Opera has been brought to the screen in quite a few quite diverse ways - so what can you tell us about your directorial approach to your subject at hand, and how do you think your version will stick out? Oh, and how would you describe your film's approach to horror as such?


The film actually starts off in the present day, with a paranormal reality TV series doing a story on the legend of the ghost who apparently haunts this old theatre. As the story progresses, we start to flash back and forth between the 1930s (where the original events unfold) and 2014 where one of the TV crew seems to be haunted by ghosts of the past. I’m prouder of this script / adaptation than any of my previous efforts… a lot of thought and effort went into making this one something special.


You also play the lead in your Phantom of the Opera - so how do you even approach a character like this, what do you draw upon to bring him to life?


I’m an actor primarily, and the filmmaking has come about as an unexpected surprise and wonderful way for me to tell stories in my own voice. I’ve had a very specific idea of how I wanted the Phantom to be – for many years, actually – and I think that translated in the final product. The character is obviously driven to some degree of hatred and insanity on account of his lot in life, but it’s important to make him human. There is a vein of loneliness that seems to run through the characters that I play, and that is a place that I find fascinating to explore as an actor. The Phantom is such an intriguing character to play – a genuine baddie throughout most of the film, and yet the audience is so sorry for him by the time the credits roll… great appeal to a ham, LOL!


Besides the Phantom of the Opera, you have in recent years also played Dracula and Sherlock Holmes - so what fascinates you about these iconic characters, what makes it fun to play them?


I love the classics, and have always gravitated towards them. Thanks to a healthy upbringing on the BBC and Universal / Hammer / Amicus [Amicus story - click here] / Tyburn films, I’ve always been surrounded by the great monsters. I love dark stories – fairy tales – and have had very specific ways that I wanted to interpret them when given the opportunity. I used to play Sherlock Holmes on radio in Montreal, and I think my take is unique… same can be said of my Dracula, and now The Phantom. I’m great at larger-than-life characters, subtlety never being one of my strong points ;-)


Back to Phantom of the Opera - a story like this needs quite some elaborate sets/locations, right - so what can you tell us about yours?


We were blessed to have access to a grand old theatre for a couple of weeks, wherein we shot about 80% of the film. The hall itself, Convocation Hall, is an authentic (1920s) space on campus at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario. Exteriors were shot at the beautiful Regent Theatre in Picton (where we are screening the film in late May), the Phantom’s lair in the (I insist) haunted cellars of an old school and the masked ball sequence was filmed at the Renaissance, a glorious banquet hall – also in Kingston – that makes for the ideal blend or horror and opulence on screen. All locations combined, we have a sumptuous-looking film… What was that about location-location-location?


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


It was a LONG and arduous shoot, with every second of the shooting blocks filled. My cast was fantastic, dedicated – and patient! By far the most intricate shoot I have ever done (in order to get era and atmosphere spot-on), it was also the most rewarding experience as a film-maker. I’m not going to divulge budget, but the film is a remarkable accomplishment with the resources we had to work with.


As far as I know, Phantom of the Opera has only recently started its festival run - so what can you tell us about audience and critical reception so far? And any idea when the film might be released onto the general public yet?


The film has enjoyed a handful of screenings thus far, and is receiving excellent notices. We actually had a distribution deal in place with Reality Entertainment before a single frame of film had been shot, and also tied the casting process in with a reality series searching for our Christine… and what a wonderful young actress we found in Savannah Kimmerer, who beat out a fair number of potential candidates to be our Christine. Thanks to TVCogeco for getting behind this project!


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I’m always working on new schemes and planning my next work. Next up, I hope to shoot an adaptation of M.R. James’Casting the Runes, one of my favourite supernatural stories. After that, musical film adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is another dream project (did you know I compose and sing?). I’ve also just signed a publishing deal to write two books for BearManor Media: The first will be an annotated publication of my screenplay for Terror of Dracula, and the second (tentatively titled Terror on a Shoestring) is going to be a personal journey / how-to guide in the world of micro-budget indie horror film-making. There are a few other things in the pipeline, too – but you never can tell what’s going to come to fruition or not. It’s both exciting and terribly frustrating!


What got you into acting and filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on either subject?


The only formal training I have is as a musician. I’m a trained pianist and singer, but never took an acting lesson or a day of film school in my life. I’m a lifelong student of film, in that I love movies and have studied them since as long as I can remember. I also spent a fair amount of time interning / volunteering with TV stations (such as TVCogeco), really learning to hone my craft that way. I’m an actor, first and foremost – but I learned early on that the best way to play the roles I wanted / tell the stories I wanted to tell, was to produce and create those opportunities… people seem to have taken to my work, which is so humbling. But these aren’t vanity projects, by any stretch – I work with very talented people, all of whom get their opportunity to shine… I’m very lucky that way J


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Phantom of the Opera?


I have now shot four features which have all scored distribution:

- My first, 2010’s Sherlock Holmes and the Shadow Watchers (an original adventure authorized by the Conan Doyle Estate) is finally getting a release through World Wide Multi Media in August

- Terror of Dracula, a very faithful adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel which was actually featured in Fangoria Magazine, hit on DVD and VOD in 2012 and is also distributed by World Wide Multi Media

- My very personal 2013 film Ghostkeepers is an original haunted house thriller in which I play a washed-up horror film actor (foreshadowing??) is out everywhere now courtesy of Reality Entertainment.

Prior to that, I made two shorts: An adaptation of Hound of the Baskervilles, and a comedy called Canucula! – both of which have been seen by far more people than they ever should have been, LOL!


Do describe yourself as an actor and as a director?


I’m a storyteller – that’s the best way to sum me up. I write, act, direct, compose, sing – it’s all in the pursuit of telling stories in my own voice. I’m neither a method actor or a strict director, but there is a solid structure to my approaches to both. I generally start with a concept, and find ways to see it through… whether I’m doing anything right is best determined by others. Thankfully, people have been quite kind, thus far ;-)


Filmmakers, actors, whoever else who inspire you?


Great actors – larger than life characters. My favourite actor is former Dr. Who Tom Baker [Tom Baker bio - click here] – he’s so grandiose, and what a voice! Anthony Hopkins, there’s another fellow I admire… Raconteurs, and the classic stars of yesteryear: Peter Cushing, Vincent Price [Vincent Price bio - click here], Christopher Lee… these were all my heroes in life. I love people who have great stage presence – singer / songwriters who can command an audience (big fan of Roger Whittaker!) – genuine entertainers, these are people I am inspired by. As far as filmmakers go, I just saw Grand Budapest Hotel and can’t say enough about it… time for me to go back explore the film works of Wes Anderson, because I think he’s a bloody genius!


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Favourite movie of all-time is The Changeling from 1981, starring the great George C. Scott. It’s the best haunted house flick of all time, and it gets played at least twice a year in my home. Ghostkeepers was (in part) a love-letter to that movie.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


I’ll reserve comment there – you never know who I might end up working with in the future ;-)


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?, and look me up on Facebook!


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


I think we’re good!! Good questions, Michael J


Thanks for the interview!


And to you for the opportunity, sir!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
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produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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Ryan Hunter and
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out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


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