Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats ordeal: let’s hope it doesn’t spawn a sequel

The theatre impresario was so stung by the dismal film that he became a dog lover – but he mustn’t let this give him any ideas

Now that the dust is starting to settle, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Cats caused Covid. Think about it. All the time that Cats didn’t exist in the world, Covid wasn’t a thing. But then Cats came out in cinemas and, just 11 days later, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported its first cluster of cases. What could Covid possibly be if not extreme karmic retribution for a species so wildly out of control that it spent tens of million dollars making a plotless film about nightmarish horny feline monstrosities who eat children?

At least we can soothe ourselves with the knowledge that the people responsible have not gone unpunished. Not only has director Tom Hooper seemingly disappeared into the ether, with no new projects on the horizon, but Andrew Lloyd Webber says he was “emotionally damaged” by the ordeal.

How much exactly? Enough to buy a support dog. In an interview with Variety, Lord Lloyd-Webber claimed that the movie adaptation of Cats shook him to his very core. “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.”

Now, true, it’s a bit rich for the man who invented a stage musical in which a bunch of Cats introduce themselves and then one of them dies and that’s the end to bemoan the creative bankruptcy of a film in which a bunch of Cats introduce themselves and then one of them dies and that’s the end. But apparently the trauma is lasting. Lloyd Webber now cannot travel unless his dog is with him. “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,” he said. “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’.”

Don’t look down … Jason Derulo in Cats.
Don’t look down … Jason Derulo in Cats. Photograph: Universal Pictures/AP

I have two theories about this. The first is that we cannot write off the trauma of seeing your creative work adapted in a substandard manner. Even though Lloyd Webber was presumably paid handsomely for the Cats movie rights, it’s clear that seeing his work so hellishly mangled still weighs heavily. For all we know, whenever Lloyd Webber closes his eyes, he’s still haunted by visions of Rebel Wilson unzipping her fur to reveal a set of human clothes, or Dame Judi Dench wearing a fur coat on top of her actual fur, or the way that the Taylor Swift and Jason Derulo cats have visible human breasts and penises. In which case, join the club.

But at least this opens the door to other creators. Stephen King hated what Stanley Kubrick did with The Shining – so now, by this measure, he should be allowed to take an animal on a plane. Anne Rice said that the movie version of Queen of the Damned butchered her novel, so it only makes sense that she should carry around a basket of puppies whenever she uses public transport. Ken Kesey is dead, but he was so displeased with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest that he should be granted the right to drag a load of ghost dogs around heaven for all of eternity.

My second theory is much darker. Andrew Lloyd Webber seems like a man who doesn’t announce anything unless he can make some money off it down the line. Why would he suddenly tell the world that he bought a dog? I put it to you that he is secretly developing a musical called Dogs, where a load of dogs introduce themselves and then one of them dies and that’s the end.

Dogs will be a vast theatrical success, and in a moment of weakness Lloyd Webber will sell the screen rights and a decade from now we’ll all be forced to watch a nightmarish movie about Jason Statham and Mariah Carey wriggling around on a carpet singing songs to CGI tapeworms with children’s faces. History is doomed to repeat itself. Time to brace ourselves for another pandemic.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Andrew Lloyd Webber calls Cats film 'ridiculous'
Composer of hit musical says director Tom Hooper didn’t consult those involved in the original show when making his widely panned film adaptation

Catherine Shoard

03, Aug, 2020 @12:07 PM

Article image
Cats film: Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber 'collaborate on new song'
Singer has written the lyrics to new song Beautiful Ghosts for the film, theatrical legend is quoted as saying

Stephanie Convery

25, Oct, 2019 @1:00 AM

Article image
Andrew Lloyd Webber says he hated the film Cats so much he bought a dog
Composer says one good thing that came out of the big screen version of his stage musical was ‘my little Havanese puppy’

Samantha Lock

08, Oct, 2021 @1:52 AM

Article image
Cats premiere: mewls loom following ominous Globes result
Tom Hooper’s starry adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical opens in a week – but the only people to see it so far were not left purring

Andrew Pulver

13, Dec, 2019 @7:28 AM

Article image
Cats review – a purr-fectly dreadful hairball of woe | Peter Bradshaw's film of the week
The queasy fears prompted by one of the most disturbing movie trailers ever seen are realised in full in Tom Hooper’s jaw-dropping feline folly

Peter Bradshaw

19, Dec, 2019 @12:00 AM

Article image
Feline confident? Cats' last-minute dash to the cinema
Tom Hooper finished off his musical just 36 hours before its premiere. Will this, a turn-off trailer, awards snubs and an impurrfect gestation stop it being Christmas catnip?

Guy Lodge

18, Dec, 2019 @3:07 PM

Article image
Taylor Swift to star in Tom Hooper's Cats movie
Singer-songwriter to take first major acting role, alongside Ian McKellen, James Corden and Jennifer Hudson, in Hooper’s adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical

Catherine Shoard

20, Jul, 2018 @1:34 PM

Article image
Lockdown catnip? Original film of Cats to be streamed online
Made 20 years before Tom Hooper’s critically savaged production, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1998 version stars Elaine Paige as Grizabella

Chris Wiegand

11, May, 2020 @1:19 PM

Article image
Claws out for the Cats trailer – but Universal will be purring
Critics have savaged the first look at Tom Hooper’s Andrew Lloyd Webber film, yet an extreme response is catnip for a studio chasing audiences in the age of Netflix

Catherine Shoard

19, Jul, 2019 @4:46 PM

Article image
'I haven’t seen it. I've heard it's terrible': match the Cats cast member to their quote
Judi Dench has broken her silence on Tom Hooper’s musical, calling her Cats coat ‘battered, mangy’, ‘a great big orange bruiser’ and more colourful descriptions. So what have her colleagues said about the film?

Stuart Heritage

05, May, 2020 @11:35 AM