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 twenty-first file of posts. Playbill On-Line thanks all those who took the time to write.
From Bud Gray:
My suggestion for the leading male role of "The Phantom Of The Opera" is FRANK IFIELD.
Now in semi-retirement in Australia, Frank is an international recording star of the 60's, 70's, etc. and produced hit records until the 80's when he retired. During this time he had the number one weekly musical television production from London, which was broadcast internationally. Many of his records were constantly listed in the top 10 for the US, England, Australia, Canada and other nations. Frank's acting career included plays in the British theater.
Although semi retired (he's 61) he has recently produced another album, "The Fire Still Burns", which is constantly sold out of stock testifying to the fact he still has many fans. Someone of Frank Ifield's stature would give the play a new life. I predict it would once again be the number one hit after only a short period with Ifield in the lead.
Noone has ever matched this entertainer's voice for quality music: Broadway style, popular, rock, ballads, country, etc.
It seems quite clear that A LOT of people are rooting for Mr. Michael Crawford. WHY isn't Hollywood thinking the same? What is with this sudden need for big named stars who are not RIGHT for the role just to earn big dollars at the box office? WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO MAKING A GOOD MOVIE? Crawford is and always will be the Phantom. SO many associate him with that role, he is known world wide for it as well. Tell Hollywood to get their heads screwed on straight and cast an actor that is supremely right for the role. AS for Raoul, forget Banderas-what is with this infatuation for him? He was okay in Evita-but mandy patinkin could have played it better...I mean, all of this angers me as much as the casting of Chicago. I mean you think everyone knows Bebe Neuwirth from Cheers and Frasier, they may not know her name, but they know her. Seriously. Hollywood needs to find casting directors who cast for TALENT and not for NAMES.
From JEFF DUNN:
Hollywood over and over has made mistakes by casting the wrong people in their musicals. It is time to wake up and realize that the best performers for a musical, is a musical performer. For the role of Phantom there is only one. Michael Crawford. He was absolutely magnificent in the broadway production and there is no one else who can play the part better. I don't even want to hear the name John Travolta. He will ruin the movie. They didn't put Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady. Even though Audrey Hepburn was good, it was missing Julie Andrews singing. The same with Evita. It needed Pattie Lupone's singing. Remember, it is called a MUSICAL. Don't make the same mistakes again. My vote, MICHAEL CRAWFORD.
From Ginny Sampson:
As a teenage fan of Broadway and of Michael Crawford I believe there is only one man who can bring the Phantom to life on the silver screen. The original MICHAEL CRAWFORD, he created the part on Broadway and there is no one else who could breathe energy and passion into the role better. If Mr. Crawford is passed over for a part that he is responsible for creating on the stage it will be a mistake and a travesty.
From Aaron Skalecki:
I am 15 years of age and I am using my Auntie's computer to write this. Michael Crawford is the only person who could play Phantom with the feeling it deserves, he is magnificent. I have seen Michael in person and to me he IS the Phantom. Besides,wasn't he promised the part? Don't the producers want a film that will become a true classic? Or do they want to lose money?
As wonderful as it would be for Michael Crawford to play Erik in the movieversion of The Phantom of the Opera, let's be serious. Almost all theatre fans would pay to see Michael, but if they were the only ones to go, the movie would be a financial disaster. Movies have to appeal to all people, not just one sect of the population. Antonio Banderas would be a better choice for the Raoul, dashing and debonair. The argument that it should be the same as it was for Yul in The King and I, doesn't apply because at that time Broadway and Hollywood were much more closely associated. In the 40s and 50s a Broadway star was a star outright because soundtracks from B'way shows were played over popular radio. Such is not the case today. Sean Connery (if they're going to dub) or Michael Baldwin could do the role, with assistance, and would have the popular appeal need for the movie. The only way for Michael to do it would be to cast Antonio as Raoul, Madonna as Christine, and Travolta and Jonathan Pryce as Andre and Firmin. That would be enough box office appeal to support him. Not the best artistically, but could be very good and lead the way for more musical movies that could be artistically perfect.
Michael Crawford is the obvious choice to play the lead role both from an artistic and commercial perspective. Having seen a number of fine "Phantom's", including Mr. Crawford, it is my very strong opinion that the artistic integrity and impact of the role would be best served by the gentleman who created it so powerfully - Michael Crawford. If the concern is that he is not a big enough "name" commercially, I would point to the millions of albums that have been sold world-wide, all with his unique voice moving people in an unprecedented fashion, and linking his name indelibly in their minds as THE 'Phantom'. Even so, "Phantom" is an ensemble piece, if "bigger" names are needed, put them in the support roles - i.e. Glenn Close as Madame Giry, Brad Pitt as Raoul, Nicholas Cage as Fermin, Billy Crystal as Andre, etc. But DO NOT deprive the movie going public of the PRIVILEGE of witnessing the passionate perfection Michael Crawford, and ONLY Michael Crawford brings to this wonderful character.
From Rutherford Industries:
I would like to vote for Michael Crawford for the role of the Phantom in the up-coming movie of The Phantom of the Opera. Michael has a unique talent for touching us through this role. His voice is not ordinary. He has a way of reaching our hearts through his music. For anyone else to perform this part would be a disappointment to so many who have enjoyed his message to us through this role.
Both Davis and Franc (San Francisco Phantoms) were very very good. Michael Crawford originally thought he was going to play Raoul and was upset to learn he'd be playing what he called a deformed old man. As for Antonio, I am not about to pre-judge his ability to play the deformed composer. It could be worse, Joel Schumacher could be directing.
From Tony Lolong:
Perhaps the title of this poll should not be "who should star in the Phantom movie", since apparently everyone wants Michael Crawford, but rather "who wants someone OTHER than Michael Crawford". I have to agree, he has brought the most unique passion to the role that all have come to know and love and admire and adore and enjoy and pay 65+ dollars to experience.
I cannot imagine anyone else playing the part of the Phantom except Michael Crawford. The man created the Phantom. Without Michael, you would lose the passion, the tenderness, the tragedy of the Phantom. Unfortunately, this trend is not new. Traditionally, when a successful musical is brought to the screen, the Broadway performers are ignored in favor of a "name" star. What I can't understand in this situation is, Michael Crawford IS a "name" star. He's performed in movies, TV and the stage. He is so known for this particular part, it is insulting to Michael and the audience to even consider another actor, let alone Antonio Banderas.
From April Franz:
Add me to the list of Crawford fans who think it would be a travesty to make the movie without him. He defines all the intricate, complicated fibres that make Erik who he is. Banderas? Travolta? What a laugh. No offense to their abilities but neither have the voice and that is indeed a critical factor in a MUSICAL! If not Michael Crawford, at least go with one of the talented Broadway actors who can both act and sing the role--Douglas Sills or one of the current Phantoms. No Hollywood Prima Donnas for this movie.
I very much liked Michael Crawford in the show--but he will not comes across well on screen as the Phantom. Antonio Banderas will just be a joke as the Phantom. How about Doug Sills? Good voice and could come across well on screen. I'd love to see Mandy Patinkin in the part--he certainly is not adverse to appearing unlovely for the sake of a role and does have screen presence.
Hi, I am writing to say that I think that Michael Crawford should definitely play the Phantom in the movie. I don't believe that they could find a Hollywood actor with the right image to portray the Phantom. They just couldn't capture the essence of Erik the way Crawford could.
From Margaret Watts:
There's no question on this matter! Move over Banderas - I had doubts about him in Evita, and though pleasantly surprised, I DON'T think he'd make a good Phantom. And yes, Michael Crawford is a fantastic Phantom, but no-one, NO-ONE is better than ANTHONY WARLOW. Sure he's not the 'International Star' that Crawford is, but his ever growing list of fans around the world is proof enough that he WOULD be an international star if he were to play the Phantom in the movie. This man is amazing - his versatility has astounded many - from Archibald Grosvenor in Patience to the Teen Angel in the Grease show currently touring Australia, as well as his AMAZING performance as the Original Australian Phantom, where he was dubbed the 'man with the golden voice' and other such praises - he would not disappoint audiences. The Phantom of the Opera movie will draw crowds just for being what it is, so an 'International' name is not needed as Phantom. Any skeptic would come out of that cinema craving copies of all of Warlow's CDs - just ask all of those fans of his out there! I know I'm only one voice, but you - the powers that be on this movie - whoever of you out there is making this major casting decision - do us Warlow fans a favour (PLEASE) and listen to his CDs - his 4 albums, Jekyll and Hyde Concept recording, AND his new single of his songs from Grease, and you will see just how wonderful and versatile this man is. He DESERVES this role, and the Phantom of the Opera movie DESERVES him! With Warlow heading the cast, this movie WOULD be a hit!
I would like to cast my vote for the one, the only, the true Phantom:
He is the only logical person to play the Phantom in the movie.
From Christine A.:
I, along with these numerous others, definitely would choose Michael Crawford. He is the "slightly older man" which the Phantom should be. Time and time again, he has proved the best man for the job (in London, New York City, and L.A.). From the time he first got the role, there was speculation as to whether he could pull it off. However, his amazing vocal range, incredible emotional depth, and ability to become a character won him instant acclaim. Fortunately, Andrew Lloyd Webber had seen it and so did the theatre audience. A movie audience will see it too. For the role of Phantom, you can't just be good looking (he wears a mask anyway) or just "be popular". You need an experienced, accomplished actor/singer who will throw his heart and soul into the role. Preferably, a performer from the stage. Banderas would make an interesting Raoul though (I agree with Randolph) -- a Spanish flair with a playboy image. Perfect. In conclusion, I once again cast my vote for the role of Phantom to go to Michael Crawford.
From Dorothy Moran:
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to register my most emphatic vote for Michael Crawford to play the role he originated...the Phantom. I have seen POTO 4 times and enjoyed each presentation. However, only one Phantom thrilled me from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. He was superb; head and shoulders above any of the other 3 worthy Phantoms. There is no doubt that Michael Crawford MUST play Phantom of the Opera.
From Meghan Farrell:
I just went to a page that had some info on the movie and I was almost sickened to read that the company making the movie is considering hiring Antonio Banderas(of all people) to play the Phantom. In my humble opinion,no one but Michael Crawford can play the Phantom to the degree that the fans want. He is who I heard as the Phantom first,who I have on CD as the Phantom and who I saw in concert singing "Music of the Night." He is the only one who can play that "loathsome gargoyle" well enough to bring me to tears.(And any who know me know that it is rare for me to come to tears over much.)
It certainly appears that Broadway (or West End) and Hollywood are at cross purposes! My vote for the Phantom would go to either Michael Crawford, Mandy Patinkin, or Colm Wilkinson, in no specific order. Though there are many gentlemen who have played the Phantom well, Crawford is best known as he is the role's originator. In addition, he has some film experience. Wilkinson has also played the role well and his celebrity has been further increased by "Les Miserables," though he hasn't appeared in TV or in the movies. Patinkin, to my knowledge, has not played the role on stage but he possesses the high tenor voice needed for the Phantom and has had a more visible career in film and TV than either Crawford or Wilkinson. I believe any of these three men would be a way to meld the talent necessary for the role of the Phantom with the needs of Hollywood to get a "name" actor. As for the other actors who have been considered, John Travolta and Antonio Banderas, yes, they're certainly more famous and they have some singing talent, but I think that the role of the Phantom is too demanding for them.
I consider myself to be especially fortunate as to have seen MICHAEL CRAWFORD play the role of Erik on Broadway 3 times in 13 days! Only one of those times did I have pre-purchased tickets; the other two times, I and three friends waited outside of the theater for STANDING ROOM places. If Warner wants a "star" to draw box-office, then they should know this about Michael Crawford's "box-office appeal". The usual way to obtain STANDING ROOM places for POTO is to appear at the box office when it opens on the day of the performance and be lucky enough to get tickets for the 28 available places. When Michael was in POTO in NYC, if you appeared at the box office at 10:00 AM (opening time) you were too late for STANDING ROOM. How late? How about 8 hours too late!!! Yes, after going to the box office first at 10:00 AM and then at 6:00 AM, we were not successful until we arrived at 2:00 AM !!! And upon arrival at 2:00AM, we were quickly joined by other folks so that by 3:00 AM all available STANDING ROOM places were sold out! We were met by a mother and daughter who flew up by plane from Miami, Fla and a fellow who flew in from Australia. We were like a bunch of groupies waiting for tickets to a rock concert. Michael Crawford IS the Phantom - we saw several replacements and understudies and no one had the sex appeal and energy he brought to the character. He can be easily compared to Yul Brynner in The King and I! Michael Crawford or no ONE!
Who is Tony Banderas? Practically never heard of him, isn't he married to somebody equally uninteresting? Michael Crawford IS the Phantom for anyone who has seen him perform or heard the original album. The character of Eric is not a callow youth, he is a man of maturity who has been around and suffered greatly, and it will take a man of strength and maturity to make the role come alive and be believable. There is probably a whole generation of movie patrons like myself who would love to find a good movie to go to again, who are not interested in seeing another pretty Hollywood face on a no-talent, so-called actor ruining what might have been an engrossing story. Yes it is the young people who support the movie industry these days, but I believe it is largely because there is nothing of interest being produced for the rest of us to spend our money on. And surprise, surprise--we're the ones with the really deep pockets! Come on, Hollywood. We grew up with movies, give us something we can enjoy again!
From Charlotte Benefiel:
I vote for Michael Crawford to be cast in the "Phantom of the Opera" movie. I just saw him perform (for the first time) in concert and his rendition of songs from that film just blew me away. A relative told me he was great actor and singer--now I believe her!
From E Blackwell:
Anthony Warlow (Melbourne Phantom) would be excellent in the role. He has one of the best voices there is (Fischer-Dieskau is a little too old for the role!). He is also great at vocal characterization. He appearances have also shown him to be an accomplished actor - perfect for the role!
From Gene Fleet:
God Bless America to God Save the Queen!
Who entertained Royalty from The Queen Mother to Princess Diana with their performance as the Phantom?
Who entertained United States Presidents at Presidential Inaugural Balls?
Who raised $25,000 for ONE PAIR OF TICKETS for his final performance in Los Angeles as The Phantom of the Opera?
MICHAEL CRAWFORD, that's who!