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The Phantom of the Opera is back inside Universal’s heart.
The studio is tackling a reimagining of its famous cinematic horror story with a modern musical update, picking up a spec titled Phantom by John Fusco.
Emmy- and Grammy-nominated producer Harvey Mason Jr. and singer-songwriter slash EGOT recipient John Legend will produce alongside Mike Jackson, Legend’s partner at production banner Get Lifted Film Co. The company’s Ty Stiklorius will executive produce.
Phantom of the Opera, written in 1909 and 1910 by Gaston Leroux, told the tale of a masked murderer who stalks a Paris opera house and tragically falls in love with a gifted understudy whom he tries to bend to his will and make a star, killing those who get in his way.
While many a modern audience will know the story via the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, it was also one of the first hit movies for Universal, which adapted it in 1925 as a silent horror film starring Lon Chaney.
The new tale is set in New Orleans and will take in all of the city’s mystique.
“I have long wanted to explore The Phantom of the Opera in a contemporary and new way and in a French Quarter setting. New Orleans is not only known as America’s most haunted city, but the music, Creole culture, voodoo mystique and the pageantry of Mardi Gras, inspire a natural adaptation of the original Paris setting,” said Fusco, whose credits include the 2019 Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson crime drama The Highwaymen, in a statement.
Phantom follows in Universal’s storied tradition of monster movies, which have famously included beloved takes on Dracula and Frankenstein and characters such as the Mummy, the Wolfman and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The last few years have seen the studio try more auteur-driven and creative approaches to its monster universe, with a Wolfman project from Ryan Gosling and Derek Cianfrance among the current crop in development.
Mason, presently the CEO of the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammys, is a songwriter and music producer who has been involved in the music production for a range of TV and film projects, from Sing and the upcoming Sing 2 to Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Straight Outta Compton and the Pitch Perfect movies. He earned a producer credit for this year’s Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect.
Legend’s Get Lifted most recently produced the HBO documentary The Legend of the Underground, which premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film festival, as well as the doc feature A Crime on the Bayou. Other credits include the award-winning docuseries Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children and 40 Years a Prisoner.
Fusco, who also wrote Hidalgo and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, is repped by UTA and Cliff Roberts of Syndicate.
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