The story begins in 1930s China, when a nearly bankrupt drama troupe arrived at a decrepit, burnt down theater. They learned from the caretaker about the events which led to the theater's demise: A decade ago the enemies of famous actor Song Danping (Leslie Cheung), who built the place, torched it in revenge for his affair with the already betrothed Yunyan (Wu Chienlian). Song was in the theater at the time but his body was never found. As the troupe settles in and begins mounting a production of Romeo and Juliet, one of the performers, Wei Qing (Lei Huang) encounters a mysterious stranger who had ties to the theater’s opulent past and is set out to avenge those who wronged him…
The Phantom Lover was a remake of Song at Midnight, a Chinese movie made in the 1930s. That movie itself was adapted from Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera.
Making the movie, working with Leslie Cheung and Peter Pau again (the lead and cinematographer on Bride with White Hair, respectively), was an amazing experience. This was a very personal movie for me and also for Leslie, which was why he produced and wrote all the songs.
We really focused on the art direction and set design, to really show the contrast of the opulent past and the grim present. The theater was a custom built set, and was actually set on fire and burnt down for a crucial scene--there was no CG back then! Which means we had only one chance, and we did it in one take.