Minnie Driver has waited more than a decade to reveal her singer/songwriter talents to the world, but she can't wait much longer.
"I have to get my record out before the movie's out because people are going to think I'm an opera singer," she mused recently, referring to her role in the latest incarnation of "Phantom of the Opera," due in December. "And I'm absolutely not."
In fact, Driver, who has finally worked up enough confidence in her voice to release an album (see "Minnie Driver Launches Music Career With Pete Yorn Assist"), admits to lip-synching some of her "Phantom" parts."
"With no disrespect to Renée Zellweger, who has a nice voice, 'Chicago' can be transposed to a place that is much more contemporary," Driver explained. "Andrew Lloyd Webber is ripping off actual operas — Mozart, Wagner — and you're singing in that style. You have to be such an accomplished singer. I could only fake it to a point. I could sing the low stuff. But the high stuff? Forget about it. There's only like 60 women in England who could sing one particular part. It was like glass breaking and dogs start howling when you are singing up there. There was no way."
The movie is, as Driver put it, "a full-blown opera." Yet the actress is convinced it will have the same sort of impact "Chicago" had in 2002.
"It's got this super-charged appeal," she said. "Fifteen million people have seen it worldwide. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the catchiest pop songs. It's 'Moulin Rouge,' but much more classical. It's certainly as big and amazing."
Along with Driver, "Phantom of the Opera" stars Gerard Butler ("Timeline") and Emmy Rossum, who played Sean Penn's daughter in "Mystic River" and who also co-stars in the upcoming action thriller "The Day After Tomorrow" (see "Jake Gyllenhaal Raises Environmental Awareness By Running Away From Stuff").
Before the remake hits theaters, audiences can catch a sneak peek of Driver's voice in "Ella Enchanted," a spin on "Cinderella" based on the novel of the same name.
"I sing in that too; it's strange," said Driver, who had never sung in a movie before. "We sing that Elton John song, 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart,' and there's a big dance number. It's a weird year, musically."
The movie stars Anne Hathaway in the title role, along with Vivica A. Fox and Cary Elwes ("The Princess Bride").
"Anne sings and dances. She does the whole show, and she's cute as a button and a good actress," Driver said of her co-star.
Driver describes her supporting part in the movie as that of "a clumsy fairy." "I play this kind of foxy nanny whose magic spells are always going wrong, and at the last moment when it really has to work, it works," she said.
"Phantom of the Opera" and "Ella Enchanted" are Driver's only upcoming movies, as she's been focusing on launching a music career. She's performing at the Trampoline Records' showcase at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, this week, where she will continue meeting with record labels.
"I just want to get a little independent deal and say, 'You don't have to get me a sh--load of money to make the record, because it's done, but just a little money to go out and tour,' " she said. "That's kind of the vibe I'm looking for."
Driver's not setting aside acting entirely, though. "I'm doing more 'Will & Grace,' which is my favorite thing to do," she said. "It's the most fun I have working."
And there's no singing involved in it, either.