Taylor Swift pounced on writing new ‘Cats’ song with Andrew Lloyd Webber

Nardine Saad
Los Angeles Times

Ultimate cat lady Taylor Swift enrolled in the purr-fect training for her upcoming role in “Cats.” She got to go to “cat school.”

The “Lover” singer’s wildest dreams came true while preparing for Tom Hooper’s big-screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical, in which she stars as the swishy-tailed feline Bombalurina. She initially met Hooper when she screen-tested for his 2012 musical, “Les Miserables” but didn’t get the part.

“Basically, when I was approached this time it was a straight-up offer, and then I started going in for rehearsals and they have this behavioral studies class called cat school,” Swift told Apple Music’s Beats 1 host Zane Lowe in a segment that aired Wednesday.

“You go in and watch these videos of cats,” Swift added. “You watch them walking. You watch them sensing things. You learn facts about them anatomically, biologically, how do they sense things, what’s their gaze like … it’s amazing.”

While cat school certainly has its own catnip-like appeal, Swift said she was drawn to the CGI project because she always wanted to work with Hooper, who records and films vocals live. “Les Miserables,” which starred Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman, won three Academy Awards, including supporting actress for Hathaway.

Swift, who credits musical theater with getting her into “performing as a medium,” also got to co-write with Webber “Beautiful Ghosts,” a new song for the film.

“So it turns out when I meet him, he’s the best. He’s got more cats than I have. He’s obsessed with them. He has the best gossip I have ever heard. We’re just bros immediately,” Swift said of the Tony Award-winning composer.

Webber apparently wrote a new melody for the film, which he unexpectedly revealed to Swift in a rehearsal at his home, but had no lyrics for the instrumental piece.

So Swift pounced with a topline: “I knew exactly what this character would say if she was going to sing a song. I knew where in the movie they were going to put this song,” she said, revealing that “Beautiful Ghosts” will follow the heart-wrenching ballad “Memory.”

“I’d been kind of gathering data but I had no idea what the song was like. I didn’t have sheet music. I knew that it would be after Jennifer Hudson sings ‘Memory.’ I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if you have this little young kitten reflecting off what she had just heard,” Swift said.

“What if you’ve got this little kitten that’s been deserted and kind of tossed out by her owners, and she’s had to wander around the streets of London wondering where she’s going to find a home? Wouldn’t she be thinking, ‘At least you had those amazing memories’?”

Swift then shared some lyrics for the song, which at one point riffs off Webber’s previous work with the line: “And the memories were lost long ago, but at least you have beautiful ghosts.”

Universal Pictures will release “Cats” on Dec. 20. The film also stars Hudson, James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson and Francesca Hayward.