Warner Brothers is seeking a director and star for its forthcoming film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. Lloyd Webber's spokesman has confirmed that Antonio Banderas (Che in the film of Evita) is the front-runner to play the Phantom, and Banderas has told film magazines that he's the man. But Warner Brothers says no contract has yet been signed.
Playbill On-Line asked readers: Who do you think would be best to play the Phantom? Please send your proposed casting choice to Managing Editor Robert Viagas. You must include at least two sentences on why you think your candidate is best. E-mails with just a name will not be posted.
Owing to the huge response, we have created this fourteenth file of posts. Playbill On-Line thanks all those who took the time to write.
From Claire Day:
In my opinion, Michael Crawford should play Erik in the Phantom movie. I believe there are many reasons why Antonio Banderas has been considered for the role of Erik, and also reasons why he shouldn't be. The first and most important reason for him in the eyes of Hollywood and Andrew Lloyd-Webber is that Banderas, as a big name, is likely to attract large audiences who have no real interest in the story for itself but are attracted to the idea by the leading actor. This will make the film an instant success and Lloyd-Webber a few more millions. Antonio Banderas is not the right personality for the part of Erik. I know that, as a proficient actor, he would be able to have a good go at the part, but any actor playing this role must have the required pathos and mystery, which quite frankly I do not feel Banderas would be able to portray. Erik is a dignified Frenchman with a wounded concept of the world, a misguided genius who lacks self confidence and although academically brilliant, he is unable to cope with the harsh realities of life and love. It is also worth remembering that Erik is around fifty years old when the story of his enchantment with Christine begins, and he is full of doubt and self loathing. Therefore it would require a more mature actor than Banderas to put across this complex character, one who is capable of teaching and being taught, one whose soul is saturated with music of all kinds; as music is omnipresent in both the musical and the novel (this is one of the reasons the musical works so well - the music acts as a kind of pathetic fallacy; it is part of the natural world inhabited by Erik). Christine had a negative voice and no real knowledge of the world when she falls under Erik's spell, and the actor would need a magnetism which is absolute, a charisma second to none and the most perfectly pitched singing voice. A versatile actor able to switch from romantic lover to seemingly heartless monster in the time it takes to ring a doorbell... To my mind, the obvious candidate has to be Michael Crawford. He is warm, talented and still fit (despite being of more mature years, regardless of what Hollywood thinks). The Phantom does not need to be devastatingly attractive - his beauty is his voice not his face - but he needs to be sensual, sexual even, seductive. As a mainly comic actor with an astonishing repertoire for disaster and farce, Michael Crawford proved that he can move into serious and demanding roles easily. Crawford has the required experience, and will also draw huge crowds. "A film version of a musical is far more accessible to the hoi polloi than a stage version" will be the official reason for the production, and as Erik himself says (or thereabouts): "since this forbidding and monstrous child must come into being, I intend to be present at its birth. It is possible to love an ugly child if you have tended it from birth".
From Felicity Hendricks:
Why not give Brad Little a chance? He's played the Phantom quite successfully in the Music Box Tour, and I think he's young enough, handsome enough, and has the charisma to pull it off. I'm not fond of MC as the Phantom, myself, but any TRAINED singer would be better than just an actor. I mean, if they decide to cast AB, I'll go see the movie, but musical movies aren't known for their success anyway? Why not just make a movie that sticks to the original story by Gaston Leroux? Then we'd all be happy.
I am a fan of the London cast of "Phantom." I don't know, however, how Michael Crawford would do in the film version of this role. I am sure of only one thing: Antonio Banderas would ruin it for me in his bastardization of the role of The Phantom. Please, don't let this happen to such a fine work!
From Thomas Finch:
I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to express my sincere hope that you choose Michael Crawford to play the Phantom role in the Phantom of the Opera movie. His unique voice is recognized throughout the world as the Phantom's voice and it's quality will make the feature film a wonderful production that will become a classic. I am looking forward to the marquee that reads: PHANTOM OF THE OPERA...THE MOVIE STARRING MICHAEL CRAWFORD!!
Sir!!!! Please be kind enough to add my vote and the vote of my wife and son as those in FAVOR of michael Crawford....for the role of Phantom in the movie!!
Well, I am very surprised that no one has mentioned the true person who can not only sing, but act Michael Crawford under the table. For anyone who was luck enough to see the Toronto company of PHANTOM, they will know it should be COLM WILKINSON. His voice actually made the music easy to listen to (not to mention you didn't have to hear Sara Brightman screech) and was so brilliant to watch. PLEASE buy the cast album and compare if you actually believe Crawford could be even half as good. So here is a vote for COLM WILKINSON!!!
From Carol Jenkins:
I would like to cast my vote for the perfect phantom, Michael Crawford. His complete understanding of the character is reflected in every word and movement. It is impossible to even consider another Erik.
From Belinda Brill:
There is no question that Michael Crawford should portray Erik in the movie version of POTO. Among the numerous reasons is the fact that he already has a complex understanding of the role that I doubt another actor could develop in the time it would take to make the film. Those who say he is too old or "over the hill" are obviously not familiar with the original Leroux novel. Erik is a mature man in his 50's. That is an intricate part of the story. A 30 something year old cannot bring the depth of life experience that is necessary to create a sympathetic, intriguing character. And that is what the Phantom should be - otherwise it's just a horror story set to music. Michael Crawford made Erik a complete human being - not a one dimensional monster. He has the voice, the emotional commitment and the name recognition to make the movie as popular as the stage production. Those who know little about theatre know that Michael Crawford was the Phantom - I've tested this. And he is also known among movie buffs for his earlier film work and he has a large following as a singer. To say he can't draw an audience is a ludicrous argument. And Antonio Banderas could always be cast as Raoul if they feel they must have a "big name". If ALW and WB want to erase and negate what the stage production ( not to mention the original novel) was all about then they should go ahead and cast someone like Banderas as Erik. But it won't be The Phantom of the Opera - and it won't be seen by me.
I believe that Michael Crawford is by far the best candidate. He not only created the roll but worked very hard. I believe that it is mostly due to his efforts that Phantom is as popular as it is. It would be wrong to deny him the role now.
From Monica :
Michael Crawford was the first to give and create the voice and beauty that has caused us to adore The Phantom. He hypnotised us with his extraordinarily breath-taking performances, and only he can truly do justice to the role by donning the mask and cape.
From Richard P. Buswold:
Michael Crawford. The Original The best. His voice is getting on in years. He's getting on in years. Maybe he can use old recordings of his work like he did in EFX. Antonio Banderas? Please after that speaksing he did in Evita that periodically became a large voice? The audience (mostly women I think) was enraptured that he could even sing at all so he gets more credit than he deserves. Brian Stokes Mitchell. Haven't seen him on stage -- yet. Heard his voice and wonder if he can fill "The Music of the Night" with the range and total emotion to make it consistently interesting. David Cassidy? The voice is there but the acting? In the movies the acting is the thing. Yul Brynner was and is the King of Siam. Not Lou Diamond Phillips. Not Ben Kingsley though he did do a better job than Lou Diamond. Who says Erik must be a sex-god anyway? He certainly was not that in the original novel or in Lon Chaney's version. Besides I saw Yul Brynner in the King and I just a few years before his death. When he ripped off his jacket to use the whip I heard a collective female gasp from the audience. Age does not a sex-god make. Michael Crawford was and is Erik, period. Any other choice and I'll be forced to wait and see it on TV.
From Heidi-Marie Mason:
I believe that Michael Crawford should play the role of the Phantom in the up-coming movie version. The argument is used that he is not a big screen name and/or that he hasn't enough screen experience to play such a demanding role for the movie. I say that these aren't true, because Crawford is already widely known for creating the role of the Phantom, and if he isn't known by name to most people, he is at least known by his voice. His list of movies is quite impressive, including some musicals made for the screen (i.e. Barnum, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), surely a good resume for the screen; and he has had a few starring roles in movies (i.e. Condorman, Barnum). Antonio Banderas is said to be a favorite for his "big screen name," to which I say I had no idea who he was until "Evita," and even then, I only learned his name because I was acquainted with Andrew Lloyd Webber's work. Those people who did not see "Evita" will not know Banderas that well unless they remember him from a previous role. If anything, I would say Crawford's screen work just about equalled Banderas'. On a more personal level, I think Crawford sings a lot better than Banderas. On the subject of voices, Crawford's voice is more classical feeling than Banderas'. Banderas is a very pop oriented singer, such as befits a rock opera like "Evita," but not the more classically oriented "Phantom of the Opera." The role of the Phantom, a sensual, beautiful role, should go to a man capable of this, and who better than the one who created that sensuality for the stage?
From Wendy Combs:
I truly believe that Michael Crawford should play the role of the Phantom. He has stage and screen experience, and knows the role inside-out. I also believe his voice is best suited for the demanding role, and I can think of know one else who could give justice to the acting and the singing. With Antonio, you may get great acting or singing, but I would be surprised if you would see the two in perfect combination on the screen.
Only Michael Crawford can take this movie to an Oscar. He has PROVED his acting ability in his interpretation of the role of Phantom for 3 1/2 years in London, New York and Los Angeles. And only he brings to the role the incredible voice and passion that is demanded to make this movie a classic.
From Jude Tessel:
Michael Crawford is the Phantom; he created him. If Michael doesn't do the movie, I won't watch it.
From Lynne K. Fredrichsen:
The movie version of ALW's "The Phantom of the Opera" should be played by Michael Crawford because a) he created the role, b) he's fantastic in it and c) he's not getting any younger. Besides, it's almost criminal _not_ to cast him as "Phantom". I understand Hollywood's preference to a "box-office name", but a lot of us movie go-ers are also aware of exactly who Michael Crawford is and would line up to see him in this movie in a NY second. You'd be surprised by how many MC fans there are out here! Doesn't Andrew have a say in this??
From Sandy Rabinowitz:
If Michael Crawford is not cast in the movie version of Phantom of the Opera, then Hollywood will have perpetrated another travesty akin to not casting Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady or Carol Channing in Hello Dolly. The Warner Brothers coffers will not suffer if Michael Crawford is cast in the role which he not only created, but richly deserves to reprise if the focus of the project is on quality. Use "big box office" names for the roles of Christine and Raoul to appeal to younger audiences. Dub their voices if necessary. But please remember that Michael Crawford IS the Phantom of the Opera.
I'm a big fan of Phantom of the Opera and have been waiting for this movie. Like many other, I always believed Michael Crawford would be the one to play the phantom. I can't believe Warner Brothers would even consider anyone else. Please cast my vote for Michael Crawford.
From Lyle and Louise Flogerzi:
I have seen Michael Crawford in the Phantom of the Opera in Los Angeles, California. When a movie of the Phantom is produced there could be no other person but Michael Crawford to play that role. It would be a total fiasco to use anyone else. He is the Phantom! I enjoyed his performance as one of the best opera's I have seen.
From Cheryl Hoyle :
Since Michael Crawford created that role and is very familiar with the material in that role i believe that he is the best choice to play the Phantom in the movie. my second choice would be Franc D'Ambrosio of the San Francisco cast of Phantom.
Can anyone else really play this role to the art and perfection he has?? This is not a question but a fact of life, all of his fans including myself would pay 10.00 a ticket at the show just to see him in this role, I paid 65.00 a seat when he was in North Carolina . The movie, it's a great idea without Michael Crawford don't even waste your time!!!!!!!!!!!!! He is the true music of the night.
The Phantom was originally a figure of horror. Then, revisionists turned him into a romantic figure. Either way, Michael Crawford ain't the Phantom. He couldn't scare a fly, and has as much erotic appeal (in one woman's opinion) as the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. Brian Stokes Mitchell, please! Or Robert Cuccioli (without the grease)!
From Craig Mason:
Michael Crawford should play the role. It was his outstanding interpretation and performance, not the play, which is a mite tedious, that made PHANTOM a hit until it developed its own momentum, keeping it from being an expensive flash in the pan like SUNSET BLVD. Experienced in movies as well as the stage, he's an incredibly sensitive actor who has the range to incorporate the character's most pained and vulnerable moments, his tightly wound passion, and his most angry and vindictive self, yet have his performance remain believable rather than disjointed. The character of Erik IS in his 50's, so Crawford, who was actually young for the role when he first played it, is now the proper age, and his voice has actually improved since the POTO cast recording is made. Crawford's performance in PHANTOM made theatre history, and it's incredible that Lloyd Webber and Warner Bros. don't fall all over themselves to preserve it on film. WB passed over Julie Andrews for MY FAIR LADY, the greatest casting mistake in Hollywood history; I can't believe they'd do it again.
From Cissy Burns:
There is only one person who should even be considered to play the phantom of the opera and that is: MICHAEL CRAWFORD!!!!!!! He created the role, he immortalized it in the theater, and in order for this movie to be the classic film it is destined to be, he should bring his wonderful talent to the big screen. I wish I could vote 1,000 times for Michael Crawford.
From Susan Inglett:
I am a new fan of Michael Crawford because of his superb performances, and would like to see him play the part of the phantom in the movie version.
From Linda Minich Frick:
My vote is for MICHAEL CRAWFORD, of course. Antonio Banderas would make a great Raoul, but there is no Phantom but Michael. He IS well-known. His PBS concert raised the most money for the Washington, D.C. station when it was aired. He has the experience, the depth, the energy, and the amazing, almost psychic connection with what the Phantom character was meant to be. No other Phantom I've ever seen could move as he does. No other actor could move US as he did. The other roles could be loaded with Hollywood "names", but Warner Brothers will be missing a chance to create a work of art if they do not sign Crawford. My own "psychic" prediction: Michael will win an Oscar to add to his many other awards if he plays the Phantom in the movie. He was born to play that role, and if he doesn't get it, it will be a very sad thing--not for Michael who continues to enjoy success and artistic growth--but for the rest of us, especially for Warner Brothers, who will have missed their chance to make a movie equal to CITIZEN KANE, GONE WITH THE WIND, TITANIC, etc. Without Michael it will be just another movie.
From Rose Mary D'Aloisio:
Going to see a movie about the Phantom of the Opera without Michael Crawford is not within the realm of possibility. Michael, the very talented and world class entertainer is "THE PHANTOM" !!!!!! Please DO NOT even consider anyone else for the role.
From Pat Donovan:
Listening to Michael Crawford sing anything mesmerizes you. You can't get the songs our of your head. Why would you want anyone else to play the part?! This would be a career suicide. THINK!
I think that Michael Crawford should play the phantom in the upcoming movie. He knows the role inside and out and would be able to portray the character more realistically than anyone else could. Also, I thought that Antonio Banderas did not have a great voice (definitely not comparable to MC's) and I also thought that he struggled with some of the songs in Evita, and the music from Phantom is much more complex and demanding than Evita's. It is one thing to be able to sing rock music, but it is another to be able to sing operatic music (and even harder to sing it well). Of course, MC has proven that he can sing the music (and master it) from the play.
From Annette Moore:
Stage presence does not always carry over to movies. Just because someone has succeeded in a role on the live stage doesn't necessarily guarantee that they could pull it off on the big screen. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Gary Oldman, who has proven his onscreen draw ability (Beethoven, Dracula, Scarlet Letter) recently and frequently, and who purportedly sings, though I've never heard him. Besides, any of these guys can be dubbed if need be.
That's one of the advantages of being a movie instead of a play.