EXCLUSIVE: Screenwriter Anthony McCarten and his Muse Of Fire Productions has teamed with Scooter Braun’s SB Projects and producer/financier Compelling Pictures’ Denis O’Sullivan & Jeff Kalligheri for Phantom. That is the working title of a music-filled big scale contemporary psychological thriller film loosely inspired by the 1910 novel Le Fantome de L’Opera by Gaston Leroux.
Pic will be a psychological thriller in the vein of Black Swan and Misery, set in London’s contemporary music scene. Leroux’s depiction of a destructive relationship remains, as will a dark love story, but the movie intends to upend the romanticism associated with previous interpretations, and instead lean into the suspense and horror that was a big part of the book.
Scooter Braun and James Shin will produce for SB Projects, McCarten for Muse of Fire and O’Sullivan and Kalligheri for Compelling Pictures, which will also finance. SBP’s Scott Manson will be exec producer.
McCarten will write the screenplay. Braun and Shin will engage a group of today’s leading songwriters and music producers to create new songs for the film. This will not be a break into song musical; the songs will come when a character performs them within the story. Braun manages a roster of some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, J Balvin, Idina Menzel, Demi Lovato, Ashley Graham and Tori Kelly. The company has been busy as producers.
“The basic idea that lured me in was the chance to brush the cobwebs off a 110 year old tale, and return it to its roots suspense and horror,” McCarten told Deadline. “It will be a contemporary version of story, incorporate contemporary themes, and a new musical soundtrack drawing on some of the biggest recording talent.”
McCarten said they’ve got a list of potential musical artists, which he would not disclose. “You’re aware of everyone on the list, they are multi-Grammy winning artists. We’re aiming to do something quite groundbreaking with music and the score, and something that may also be new for the artists themselves. We’ll reinvent this story for a new generation free from Gothic romantic period trappings. Our phantom is not offering anyone singing lessons, and there is no gondolier with a mask.” There will be a love story, but it will be darker. “It’s a bit like taking an old piece of furniture and stripping off the layers of paint, back to the original grain. It’s back to the much scarier, horror suspense roots that were in the book. With this version of the tale, we aim to bring a more psychological lens to the questions of what may, and may not, be real; and to who and what we can be.”
Nominated for four Oscars, most recently for The Two Popes, McCarten said Phantom will constructed similar to I Wanna Dance With Somebody, the Whitney Houston biopic that Stella Meghie will direct with Naomi Ackie playing the singer. His Muse of Fire and Compelling Pictures assembled a strong package with a killer script by the time they brought on Sony’s TriStar to be their studio partner. McCarten and Compelling are producing that film along with Pat Houston, Clive Davis, and Larry Mestel, with Compelling financing. It will be distributed worldwide in November 2022 by Sony Pictures via Tristar.
Said Compelling Picture’s O’Sullivan and Kalligheri: “It has long been a goal to bring a psychological thriller driven by original music to the big screen. In SB Projects, we’ve found great creative partners across the board, and the opportunity to have new songs accentuate and complement the singular writing of Anthony McCarten is one that we know will be a treat for audiences everywhere.”
Said SB’s Shin: “We’re always trying to find fresh and innovative ways to build and tell epic music driven stories, and we believe we have found the one that marries an enormously exciting thriller genre to it. We are happy to be partnering with Compelling and such a one-of-a-kind talent like Anthony.”
McCarten is repped by CAA and David Fox at Myman Greenspan; Compelling by Evan Krauss of Eisner LLP.