How the Film Version of 'Cats' Led Andrew Lloyd Webber to Get a Dog

Monday October 11, 2021
Originally published on October 8, 2021

Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber  (Source:Associated Press)

Andrew Lloyd Webber is blaming "Cats" for his need to have a dog.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most vocal and active forces in bringing legit theater back, especially in London where he problem-plagued, modern update to "Cinderella" went through a stormy path to its opening. But like a fairy tale, that opening had a happy ending with the new version, with book by Emerald Fennell the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Promising Young Woman," with strong reviews and box office. Lloyd-Webber plans a New York production next season.

But what's trending from his lengthy interview in Variety, is a quip about "Cats."

He explained just how wrong he thought the Tobe Hooper film was. "'Cats' was off-the-scale all wrong," says Lloyd Webber. "There wasn't really any understanding of why the music ticked at all. I saw it and I just thought, 'Oh, God, no.' It was the first time in my 70-odd years on this planet that I went out and bought a dog. So the one good thing to come out of it is my little Havanese puppy."

That puppy, Variety adds, "has been a constant companion of Lloyd Webber's during the lockdown. They have grown so attached that he's even figured out a way to bring the dog to New York the next time he travels to the city."

"I wrote off and said I needed him with me at all times because I'm emotionally damaged and I must have this therapy dog," says Lloyd Webber. "The airline wrote back and said, 'Can you prove that you really need him?' And I said 'Yes, just see what Hollywood did to my musical "Cats."' Then the approval came back with a note saying, 'No doctor's report required.'"

Webber also shared with Variety his opinions of film versions of his other musicals, including "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Phantom of the Opera" and "Evita." "He's not a huge fan of Norman Jewison's 1973 adaptation of 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' though he admits he needs to watch it again. And he believes that Joel Schumacher erred in casting Gerard Butler in the lead role in 2004's 'The Phantom of the Opera.' "The Phantom was too young, and the whole point of the Phantom is he needs to be quite a bit older than Christine," says Lloyd Webber.

But adds that Alan Parker's 1996 version of 'Evita' "was the best of the lot and that's due to Madonna's performance. 'To this day, I don't think anybody else could have done it better,' he says."

He also mentioned the current progress on the long-talked about film version of "Sunset Boulevard" that is to star Glenn Close. "Close and Lloyd Webber have been laboring for years to bring "Sunset Boulevard" to the screen, with Chris Terrio of 'Argo' contributing the most recent script polish. But the project, which is set up at Paramount, appears to have stalled out," added Variety.

"I wish I could say it's going into production tomorrow morning, but it's not," says Lloyd Webber. "Paramount has not wanted to go ahead with it. It's not for want of trying. Glenn Close has been absolutely doggedly trying to get it made."

For her part, Close explained to Variety Lloyd-Webber's appeal to audiences. "Andrew has the gift of creating tunes that affect people emotionally," says Close. "A great story enhanced by highly hummable, unforgettable music is a very potent recipe indeed. His music lingers in our minds, moving us again and again. His genius is knowing how to build tunes that become part of our subconscious. Certain notes, in a certain order, always elicit an emotional response, no matter who you are or where you come from. That's why Andrew's music has reached every corner of the world. It is truly universal."