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 eighteenth file of posts. Playbill On-Line thanks all those who took the time to write.
From Shane Colligan:
Forget Michael Crawford...I think that Colm Wilkinson should play Phantom in the movie b/c he does such a great job in the Toronto version and in all that he does.
There is no need to look further than the man who created the role. Michael Crawford simply is the Phantom - he played the part from deep down in his soul and no one since has come close to the passion he found there.
I vote for Michael Crawford as the Phantom. He is the best Phantom I ever heard. He is the man and has the voice and charisma to play it in the movie. He is a singer and an actor and has his own ideas how to create the movie. And he has deserved to be known in non-English speaking countries as Germany for example. I cross my fingers.
I really think that Antonio Banderas will do a PHantastic job as the PHANTOM. Everyone doubted his talents when he was signed to do Che in Evita, and he proved us wrong with that performance which was incredible. I think if we give him another chance, he will prove us wrong and give as another rousing performance. Can't wait till the movie comes out.
From Kim Destler:
I have loved Phantom since I was ten years old. When I first heard Michael as the Phantom I was blown away by the tenderness he shows, the love, not just sex appeal; though he does have that to. He's sensual when he needs to be, but he doesn't let that stand in the way of his love for Christine. Michael Crawford is the perfect Phantom. A person does not have to be 29 and have the body of Fabio to be a great actor and singer. MC's voice is still in great condition, his As and Cs are still beautifully placed, I should know, I'm an operatic soprano. I can't imagine anyone more suited for the role, let alone Antonio Banderas. Erik with a Spanish accent, a tan completion, and a pony-tail? It's a blasphemy!!! Michael Crawford has been singing it for eleven years, and has it down to a science. There is no one better suited for the part than he. He's extremely dedicated to his art and would give his all to it. Warner Brothers is making a fatal mistake by casting Banderas. I doubt he could even hit the As needed for Music of the Night let alone the Bs and Cs needed for the final scene of act one. I just pray that they don't cast anyone they might regret, later
From Carol Jones:
I am a firm believer that when the creator of the successful Phantom role, Michael Crawford is not one of the contenders, it is a travesty. He has a great following and has mastered the music with his mind, body and soul.
From Jose Domingo Mazzone:
I'm from Buenos Aires (Argentina) and "The Phantom .."is my favorite musical, I've seen it several times with different actors playing the phantom role, I prefer Michael Crawford for "The Phantom.."movie, but I think the role can be played by other very good actors like Dustin Hoffman or Kevin Costner maybe with a famous tenor voice.
From Isis Osiris:
I am sure that by now you have received many letters extolling the virtues of Mr. Michael Crawford and the reasons as to why he should play the role of the Phantom in the WB movie. However, I would like to make my voice heard on this subject as well. Mr. Crawford originated the role in London, New York, and Los Angeles. He has film and TV credits in both musical and non-musical roles (Hello Dolly, Forum, Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em, Condorman, etc.,). He is a well-known actor to the live theatre and movie-musical fans. He has just completed a PBS musical special and is currently involved in a concert tour, bringing him even more into the view of the public. The main arguments that I have heard as to why Mr. Crawford should not play the role are 1) that he is not a big enough star and 2) that he is too old. My previous reasons explain why I feel that although he may not be a "movie star," he certainly is well-known to the point where he should be allowed the opportunity to play the part again. To address the second point, I direct you to the story upon which the musical is based. The Phantom is supposed to be old enough to be Christine's father, if not her Grandfather! If anything, Mr. Crawford's well-preserved good looks would make him too *young* to play the role, not too old.
I am sure that these reasons have already been expressed in ways better than I can, but I felt the need to add my two cents to the discussion.
No-one but Michael Crawford can play Erik! Not only is he the CORRECT age and has the experience of Erik, he has the feeling for it. He has a superb haunting voice which brings out Erik's deepest agony and sadness. To cast Antonio Banderas as the Phantom would be like killing Erik and the whole meaning of Erik. It would be painful to hear Erik being played by a Spanish ACTOR!
From Lisa Parker:
If this movie is going to be successful, the producers would be wise to choose an actor who has played the role well on stage already. Plus, with their previous two choices of Travolta and Banderas, the producers have shown that they do not necessarily want someone who falls into the age range of the Phantom according to Leroux's novel. With these two ideas in mind, I'd like to suggest Anthony Warlow. He was Australia's original Phantom and, at the time, the youngest Phantom in the world. He won several awards for his portrayal and has received many accolades for his work since then. Warlow has a strong background in opera which has resulted in an *amazing* voice and an equally strong background in musical theatre with which he has developed an incredible stage presence. Since he is only in his thirties, he could be the younger leading man the producers seem to want. Anthony Warlow could be an overlooked, but very viable choice.
From Veronica Roscioli-Greco:
Oooh! This is a really tough question. I'd say Michael Crawford. He's had experience with this role. Michael is a great singer, so I'd say: HE RULES!
Antonio Banderas also wouldn't be that bad, but he's my second choice. If Antonio wants to play a FRENCH character, he's gotta get rid of the accent. It wouldn't work to say "Hola" and "bonjour" in the same sentence. Yet, Antonio has had experience with Lloyd Webber's music, so having Antonio Banderas play the role would be a really tough call.
From Katiw White:
I have to say that Michael Crawford is the only one who can play the Phantom. How did they find Antonio Banderas for the Phantom anyway? GIVE ME A BREAK. He may be able to sing, but he'd bust his pants trying to act or sing like Crawford. No one can ever be the Phantom like Michael. Michael is the only one to fill those shoes. If Andrew had any say in this he would probably say that Banderas was good in Evita, but could never be a Phantom like Michael. I hope that they don't choose anyone else but Michael to be the Phantom, because if they don't it would be a waste of a great movie and also a waste of not choosing the right entertainer for the part.
From Michael Verrill:
Who Should Star in the Phantom Movie? Michael Crawford of course! I vote for MICHAEL CRAWFORD as the POTO. His voice and personality are what is needed to make the show a success. I saw him in concert just a few weeks ago and it just reinforces my thoughts on him being the star. As he is in great shape and sounds great also. It would be a shame to make the movie without him.
From Rudy Cuypers:
As I live in Belgium, I'm still hoping to see Michael Crawford perform on stage in London. I don't think he will return to "The phantom of the opera" on stage as a performer always moves on. But he is and will always be THE phantom. If you see the transformation this actor/singer made from such hilarious shows like" Some mothers do have 'em" to the musical stage with shows like Barnum and The Phantom and knowing he has a reasonable film experience, I think he's the one for the film-production. As box-office success will be a highly concern it's always possible to cast a movie star in a supporting role and get media attention from there.
Whomever Andrew Lloyd Weber chooses, he should do so with artistic integrity in mind and not dollar symbols. I love Michael Crawford and would love to see him land the movie. I would not however like to see a big name person who is not qualified for the role simply because he believes that person will get butts into those movie seats. At one point I remember Michael Jackson's name being mentioned. Please Andrew, you are already selling out with Phantom ll, please don't sink to greater depths.
It appears as if some Phantom purists forgot the existence of one of the greatest Phantoms of all times: Davis Gaines. I believe that Mr. Gaines has even surpassed Michael Crawford, in performing the role of the Phantom, more times than any other actor. While I agree that Mr. Crawford played an extraordinary Phantom, it is my opinion that Mr. Gaines played a DEFINITIVE Phantom. I can't recall a Phantom whose singing AND acting made the hair rise on the back of my neck. Those who have seen Mr. Gaines perform and say, "Go ahead, make your choice," will agree with me. With regards to casting a "known" Hollywood star in the role as the Phantom, would it really matter? The Phantom is either disguised beneath a mask or covered with a ton of make-up. Thus, it wouldn't matter if Antonio Banderas or John Travolta played the part because no one would recognize them. Give the role to an actor is who adept to singing the part, in my view, Davis Gaines.
The originator of the role on stage, Michael Crawford, should play the Phantom on film. He has won awards for the role and it was through his performance the stage production found the audience it has today. Cast Michael as the Phantom and cast the Hollywood "draws" in the roles of Raoul and Christine.
From Amber Cambois:
All these people who say that Michael Crawford is the ONLY Phantom have probably never even seen him in the show. I have seen 12 actors play the Phantom and all of them have been very fine. I would prefer to see Crawford over Banderas, but there are many Phantoms who I would rather see create the role on the big screen than Michael Crawford. Yes, he is the most famous of them, and yes, he has movie experience, but the voters here appear to have such narrow horizons! Haven't you seen Peter Karrie, who pours far more feeling into both his acting and singing than Crawford did? He is who I would cast, for he has a charisma, magnetism and presence which would truly light up the big screen. Crawford as the Phantom is becoming a cliche. Let another great Phantom take over.
From Joanne Gerkin:
I'm old enough to remember when Hollywood decided to make a movie of MY Fair Lady. It was decided that Julie Andrews, who had played the part of Eliza brilliantly on Broadway, should be passed over for the movie role because she wasn't a big enough box office draw. In the end Julie Andrews won the Oscar that year but for a different movie. Now Hollywood is saying that Michael Crawford shouldn't be the Phantom because...? He's not a big enough boxoffice draw? Maybe Hollywood needs to learn by their mistakes.
Michael Crawford IS the Phantom. Even in concert with a single song, he becomes the Phantom. The real fans are awaiting his performance to be immortalized on film. For me Phantom belongs on the stage but the movie would give me a chance to see the One & Only Phantom.
I think that Franc D' Ambrosio should play the Phantom. I saw him play the role in San Francisco and he was fantastic. He has a fantastic voice ( and he is better looking than Banderas.)
From M. D. Duque:
Couldn't get through on the playbill website to voice my vote but was told I could do so in this e-mail to you.
Whoever plays the role doesn't need to be a pretty or recognizable "star" as they will be behind a mask or gruesome make up the whole time. You need someone who can use his mannerisms to express his emotions (since he can't smile, frown etc, as he is wearing mask) and Michael Crawford did this exceptionally on stage. He gets my vote. Plus, he can sing (I realize they could always dub the voice). I would not go see the film if he were not in it.
My only response is-why are we asking this question in the first place? For goodness sake--THERE IS ONLY ONE PHANTOM--MICHAEL CRAWFORD it's a moot point-for crying out loud--the phantom is MC's creation--to even consider any other actor is beyond anyone's imagination-let's stop this fiasco and GET REAL- MICHAEL CRAWFORD IS THE PHANTOM-he is the mystique-the horror-the empathy-the terror-the pathos-the dichotomy that is the phantom -HE IS THE ONLY CHOICE.
My vote for "Who should play the Phantom in the phantom movie". Surely no one can consider anybody else than Michael Crawford. Why take somebody that plays if you can have the Original? I´ve seen the show about twenty times in various languages, but the most impressive ones were the ones starring M. Crawford. His voice, charisma, movements etc. can not be topped. His name is connected to Erik all around the world. There is no adequate alternative to the man that created the role.
From LINDA W HAEN:
There can be only ONE face behind THE mask...Michael Crawford's. I hope he will be given first choice for the movie role...out of respect for such remarkable talent. Too old? Bah Humbug! The Phantom is ageless! as is our MC.
Michael Crawford is the only Phantom, after reading the Complete Phantom of the Opera, by Perry, and enjoying MC's voice, how could there be anyone else???
From Chloe Richardson:
Peter Karrie! His Phantom is outstanding, stunning, the most powerful performance I have ever seen on a stage (and I have seen Phantom 42 times now). He may not have Crawford's fame but I don't think fame is what should count. I think it's a pity that no one is considering other stage Phantoms. Karrie is just as good as Crawford, and in the opinion of many fans even better. Crawford has created his role and won his awards, now let someone else have a crack at it! Peter Karrie has proven himself one of the greatest ever Phantoms on stage, and he has done enough TV work in England and Wales for us to know he can handle the screen too. So cast him as the Phantom, let the world experience the best!
I have seen Phantom of the Opera 5 times. Last nite I had the opportunity to see Michael Crawford in concert. He was TREMENDOUS. I have never had the luck to see him in Phantom and now I am spoiled for the any others. He did several songs from the show. It was pure emotion. Only Michael will do!
From Glaucilena Izzy Grohs:
I choose at first MICHAEL CRAWFORD because he has the voice, the acting ability, the height and the experience on the hole. No doubt he could be a perfect Phantom.
But if the studio, Warner, want a movie star, well I say: choose RALPH FIENNES.
He is a very good actor, on theater and movies, he has either the acting ability, the height, charisma and those wonderful eyes to show behind the mask, which was one of the most important things on Erik: his look and expressions of his eyes, the only real and truth peace of him that could be seen at first. And probably Ralph could be a better singer than Banderas.
From Raymund Sison:
I believe that casting someone other than Michael Crawford as Erik isn't fair to Mr. Crawford nor to Broadway (Can't Rosie O'Donnell help us?). More importantly, it will be doing people not only in America but people all over the world, who, for some reason, couldn't watch Broadway musicals, an injustice.
From Carrie Hernandez:
Although I personally think that out of all the Phantom actors I've seen Davis Gaines is the one who has best epitomized the role, the fact that he is not well-known outside musical theater would make it extremely difficult if not impossible for Warner Brothers to seriously consider casting him in the role.
For this reason, I think that Michael Crawford would be the best viable choice. He's had the film experience that is normally the prerequisite for the casting of such a high profile role as well as the fame of being the "first" Phantom and the one to win the Tony for Best Actor in that role. Politically speaking then, a solid choice.
But the thing that makes him the BEST choice, out of any of the viable options, is the fact that he has shown us that he can bring the character of the Phantom to life in ALL his many facets. He is not just a superb actor (as many of the other people's choices ALSO are) but is, in addition, capable of handling the operatic singing that is required for the part. The Phantom is supposed to sing so beautifully that he is mistaken as the angel of music and is additionally supposed to sing OPERA well enough to convince the audience that he could, indeed, train an opera singer (Christine Daae) not only to be a GOOD soprano, but, the best operatic soprano who had EVER graced a stage prior to 1880. In the words of Gaston Leroux, the author of the original Phantom novel in 1910 "We must pity those who never heard Christine Daae in the role of Juliet... No one had ever heard or seen anything like it!... The exaltation of a voice and the rapture of a pure soul can go no further!" The actor who sings the Phantom must convince us that he is capable of training up such a voice. With regard to Crawford, the voice he used in the later performances of the stage PHANTOM (late Broadway/early Los Angeles) combined the strength and timbre of an operatic tenor with a sweetness that is not usually associated with same. It was the perfect combination for a believable Phantom - angel of music AND competent operatic teacher.
I think Antonio Banderas would be perfect for the role. He is everything the phantom should be.