The 2019 movie version of Cats, directed by Tom Hooper, impacted my life in a big way. I watched it in cinemas four times (once to write about it, another to watch with a friend who then made us watch it with our other friend, and another time when I hosted a pre-lockdown screening). I imprinted on the movie, and made money off it for my work. Cats has brought me more joy than almost any other movie I’ve seen. My love for it is not ironic, even though I can acknowledge it was a sickening abomination of a film.
You know who did not love Cats, the movie? Mr. Cats himself, the original musical’s composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber. In a Variety cover story, the Broadway mainstay talks about his lengthy career, COVID theatre protocols, etc. But the real meat of the piece comes in at the end. Speaking about cinematic adaptations of his work, Lloyd Webber reveals that his experience with Hooper’s Cats was so traumatizing, he went out and bought a dog.
Lloyd Webber told Variety that the much-maligned film was “off-the-scale all wrong.”
“I saw it and I just thought, ‘Oh, God, no,” he said. “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.”
Cats made Lloyd Webber so “emotionally damaged” that he has to have his dog with him at all times. When an airline asked on a recent flight if he could prove if he really needed a therapy dog, he replied with, “See what Hollywood did to my musical Cats.” He alleges that he didn’t need a doctor’s report.
I understand his frustrations. But with all due respect Mr. Lloyd Webber, you are wrong. Yes, watching Jason Derulo gyrate as Rum Tug Tugger was disgusting, and seeing Ian McKellan lap up milk in a closet while standing up felt weirdly pornographic, but I’m certain if he watched Cats all the way through four times he would find a way to appreciate this masterpiece.