Andrew Lloyd Webber is famously a cat person. In 2018, he became the honorary president of a Turkish Van cat club. In interviews, he has gushed about cats. “I’ve always loved cats ever since I could remember. My mother read T.S. Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ poems to me when I was very small. My first cat was a Siamese cat called Perseus. I don’t know why he was called Perseus because it’s not a very Siamese name. It’s a Greek name, really. But he was a lovely seal point cat. A very, very intelligent cat. Now I have four marvelous Turkish Van cats, who are the swimming cats. They come from a place called Lake Van in Eastern Turkey,” Huffpost quotes him saying.
So it should say something that Tom Hooper’s nightmarish adaptation of the musical has haunted him so that Webber has now gotten a dog.
Let’s rewind a li’l bit. 2019’s “Cats” was a highly anticipated disaster, with Hooper reportedly still editing it mere months before its theatrical release and eventually releasing an unprecedented modified version a few months later. In 2020, Webber himself joined the cast of critics panning the film, calling it ridiculous. “The problem with the film was that Tom Hooper decided…that he didn’t want anybody involved in it who was involved in the original show,” Webber said to The Sunday Times.
While Webber has a long history of criticizing the film adaptations of his shows, it’s easy to see why Hooper’s vision of “Cats” disturbed him. Aside from the grotesque visual effects, the movie butchered both the music and what little story the musical had. It showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the original musical’s appeal. (If you want to hear more of that, this video talks about it in depth.)
Webber once again talked about the disaster that was the “Cats” movie with Variety yesterday. “‘Cats’ was off-the-scale all wrong,” he said. “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.”
As a new and traumatized dog parent, he’s even gone on to make his dog his therapy pet. He recounted telling an airline to allow him to bring his dog with him on the plane, saying, “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. 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.’”
I didn’t think I’d ever say it, but same, Andrew Lloyd Webber. “Cats” emotionally damaged me too.