Antonio Banderas has been signed to play the title role in the movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, a spokesman for Banderas' agent, Emmanuel Nunez, told Playbill On-Line. Nunez's office said he inked the contract Aug. 14.
Banderas publicist Robin Baum told PBOL there was no other information about the film--that no co-stars or director had been selected and no shooting schedule or place. Asked to confirm Banderas' signing, Baum said "If that's what his agent said, I'd just as soon leave it at that."
Calls to the Warner Brothers New York offices found publicists in the dark about the news and unable to confirm or deny it.
Banderas is currently shooting the film White River Kid, directed by Arne Glimcher and co-starring Ellen Barkin, Bob Hoskins and Beau Bridges. It due for release in 1999. Phantom would be Banderas' second Andrew Lloyd Webber film, after Evita. His other film credits include The Mambo Kings and Desperado.
Rumors that the The Mask of Zorro actor was the front runner for the role have been flying for months. At least some fans unhappy about the Banderas rumor have launched an online campaign to stop it. The Save Phantom From Hollywood website and Diane Flogerzi's Phantom Movie Page website, which have been campaigning against the previous leading contender, John Travolta, subsequently fixed their sights on Banderas, and even protested at Warner Bros studios Aug. 7-8. They say Banderas is not up to the role. A recent Playbill On-Line poll showed readers overwhelmingly in favor of casting original stage Phantom Michael Crawford.