Emmy Rossum

“It’s something that’s always come naturally to me,” Rossum says of singing. “Like breathing.”

Carmen Valdes/Retna

updated 01/11/2005 AT 2:00 PM ET

originally published 01/13/2005 AT 6:00 AM ET

Emmy Rossum never imagined she had a shot at playing Phantom of the Opera’s heroine Christine, being “the youngest and least famous of anybody” up for it. But since nailing her audition in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s living room, the 18-year-old New Yorker has been building buzz, costarring in the Jake Gyllenhaal blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow last year, and now competing for a Golden Globe. Rossum recently talked about getting her foot in the door in Hollywood, dealing with fame and still getting turned away from nightclubs.

Phantom is such a big break. How are you handling the fame?
I’ve always just been happy to be working, and you know, I was working from the time I was 7 (with the Metropolitan Opera), for $5 a night. But I mean, I’m not gonna sit here and say my life hasn’t changed. That would just be lying.

So how has it changed?
Like being on the cover of Elle magazine, people recognize you a little more.

What are your friends saying?
It’s so surreal for all of them, because none of my friends are movie stars. I still live in New York, I still do my laundry. I’m trying to keep it real. (Laughs)

You’re a teen in the public eye. Any Lindsay Lohan-esque moments?
Well, I grew up in a household with very strong ethics and morals. I’m underage, so I don’t go to clubs. I tried to get in once and it didn’t work, at all. (Laughs)

Are your parents excited for you?
Here’s a good story that kind of puts it in a nutshell. I got the call that I got Phantom and I was in total shock. My mom was reading the newspaper, and I said, “Mom, I got Phantom of the Opera! And she looked up and she said, “That’s nice, honey!” And kept reading. But it’s nice, because they don’t tell me what I should do and what movies I shouldn’t do. What was it like to meet Andrew Lloyd Webber?
I screen tested in New York, (then) they sent the footage to Andrew Lloyd Webber that weekend, who announced that I had not been eliminated. And I was like, a-ha! Genius! I haven’t been eliminated! I mean, I didn’t even think I’d get that far. And he agreed to hear me sing, in his living room. So I walked into the apartment and just went, “Wow!”

Gold records everywhere?
I mean, (the place was) just gorgeous. I walked into his living room, and he was sitting on the couch, and just stood up and said, “Shall we?” No pleasantries, no “Hello, how are you?” So I didn’t introduce myself, I just said okay, opened my mouth, nodded to the accompanist and went through the two biggest numbers in the show. And then he stood up and went, “Oh that was really good! I’m Andrew, nice to meet you!”

Then you talked?
Yeah, talked a lot about the character, about how I’d never seen the show.

And you said, "I will tonight"?
No! He said, “Don’t go.” He’s like, “I want the character to come from inside you, if you play her.” And I wanted to make her fresh.

So, what’s next for you?
I’m looking to do something smaller. I started in indies and I worked in indies for five years, and I really love the intimacy of that. … I should be in school right now, but I’m not. It’s ridiculous right now.

And finally, are you dating anyone we should know about?
Um, kind of. (It’s David Wildenstein, 25, the nephew of socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein.) But you shouldn’t know about it. (Laughs)

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