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?
Owing to the huge response, we have created this twenty-seventh file of posts. Playbill On-Line thanks all those who took the time to write. From Marnie Kersten:
Coming from a Canadian point of view, Colm Wilkinson was a phenomenal Phantom for many years in Toronto. He is a fine actor and an amazing singer as he has shown in his portrayal as many of Broadway's best leading men. Give him a chance. He'd do a great job.
The Tony Award winner, Michael Crawford, should play Erik in the Phantom movie. Michael Crawford is an outstanding singer and actor. It would be down right foolish for Warner Brothers to cast anyone else. And frankly, I'll boycott the movie if Antonio Banderas gets the part.
From Lynn M. Penegor:
I am writing in support of Michael Crawford as the appropriate person to be cast in the role of the Phantom for the upcoming movie. I can't imagine anyone else in the part, and feel that he has proven himself over the years in his other movie and stage roles. I can honestly state that if he is not cast in the role of Phantom, I will not be going to see the movie.
From Jim Menke:
We have been following the Phantom poll closely and are quite frankly appalled that people would suggest Colm Wilkinson for the film. We saw him 5 times during the period he played the role in Toronto. At the beginning of the run he was a decent Phantom (he sang it magnificently but acted it without passion). He sings it wonderfully on the Canadian cast album, but the Phantom is much more than just a wonderful voice. As the run progressed, his playing turned into gross caricature. He still sang it beautifully, but when we saw him just before he left the show, you were so glad Christine went with Raoul that you wanted to cheer as they left. There was never any sympathy for Mr. Wilkinson's Phantom. It was obvious he didn't really understand the part when in the curtain call he would always do a tap dance making the final picture of the Phantom a joke.If there were a film of Les Miz, no one else could play Jean Valjean as magnificently as Mr. Wilkinson. That is a part he understands, but HE IS NOT THE PHANTOM. Give us the man who in concert can make an audience see the Phantom even without make up, mask and costume - M. Crawford.
From Madeline Thompson:
Personally, I am not too thrilled about Antonio Banderas being the phantom in the movie musical. It's nothing against Mr. Banderas personally, but I am disillusioned of Hollywood when it comes to movie musicals. Hollywood sacrifices art for revenue and I can understand that to a point, but there is a limit. Phantom of the Opera is a good musical and failure can easily happen if they are not careful. Antonio Banderas is an excellent actor and a pretty good singer, but you need more than a pretty good singer to carry of the role. On the other hand, I do not think Michael Crawford is suitable for this role, not anymore. He did an excellent job when he was the phantom, but I believe he has passed his prime. There are so many excellent actors and singers who are unknowns but who can play the part supremely well, if only Hollywood took a chance. I'm sure they don't want another "Evita," but that is a whole different story.
From Gail Fore:
I think Michael Crawford should play the Phantom in the upcoming movie. He is the Phantom!!
From Kevin Dawson :
Everybody's a casting director. (Me too.) It's great that Michael Crawford has so many fans insisting that he star in the film version of "Phantom." At least nobody's screaming for Tom Cruise.
I think it's a mistake, though, automatically to assume that because an actor originated a part on stage he or she is the ideal choice to play the film role. Virtually all the great Broadway stars got a crack at movies and the results were invariably disappointing. I'm sure Carol Channing, having lost the "Dolly" film role, had hoped that "Skidoo" would turn out to be her "Mary Poppins"; the film was a disaster. (Even if Channing had gotten to be the film Dolly, the movie would have fared no better than it did. Movie musicals were out of style in 1969, and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" proved that Carol Channing simply was not cinematic; her Oscar nomination was obviously what game shows used to call a consolation prize. I think Lucille Ball should have been Dolly, with Art Carney as Vandergelder.) Gwen Verdon is wonderful in the movie of "Damn Yankees," but I bet movie audiences would have preferred Marilyn Monroe. When Ellen Greene reprised her stage role of Audrey in the 1986 "Little Shop of Horrors," critics asked, "Why didn't they get Madonna?" Rosalind Russell, though no Merman, is actually better in "Gypsy" (it's too bad Judy Garland couldn't have been trusted with the role of Mama Rose) than she was in her own signature role of "Auntie Mame," because she made the mistake of giving her stage performance--that was the director's fault, too--which was too broad for film.
(It works the other way too. It's difficult to imagine creatures of the camera like Gable, Garbo, Grant, Crawford [Joan, not Michael], Wayne, Monroe--or Cruise, for that matter--appearing in a stage play. Still, a number of actors, it must be said, had no trouble shifting from stage to screen and back again.)
Often when a film is made of a play, it takes a different approach to the material. Liza Minnelli wouldn't have fit in the original stage version of "Cabaret," even though the composers wrote it for her. The 1972 movie turned Sally Bowles into a neurotic American waif similar to Pookie Adams (the role Liza played in "The Sterile Cuckoo," which has a plot not unlike the screenplay of "Cabaret" if you took out the German background.)
In some cases, of course, a star seems inextricably identified to one role and vice versa: Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins, Yul Brynner as the King of Siam, Robert Preston as Harold Hill. Each of these men very successfully played his part on film (although personally I think Harrison walked through his performance; if Audrey Hepburn had to star in "My Fair Lady," Peter O'Toole would have been a better match for her). But it doesn't seem to matter so much who's behind the "Phantom" mask; the show continues to play to packed houses without M. Crawford.
Who, then, do I think should be the film Phantom? I have to admit, after making you read all the above, that I haven't any particular preference. Crawford would suit me just fine. Or how about Kevin Kline? (He's whom I would want to play Sweeney Todd on film.) If "Evita" is any indication, I don't think Antonio Banderas could handle the singing. There's always Bette Midler; that would be a switch! I know: do the movie animated and skip the whole problem. (But who to do the voice?)
From Phia the THIRD:
I completely, undeniably, unbearably, desperately, eagerly want Michael Crawford to play Phantom. I have not yet seen the musical, but I've read both the book and libretto as well as heard the OLC. Now, just because I heard him first didn't mean much to me-(to tell you the truth when I first heard him I thought 'huh? He's the phantom?' But then I realized how perfect he was for him, his wide ranging voice that sweeps you away . . . I've heard a few others sing certain songs (Colm Wilkinson 'the PHantom of the opera'- which I winced through though I like him in Les Mis). Even the way he moves(as I saw in MC in Concert), the intensity of his voice . . . .
which could be both sweet and seductive as well as harsh and cruel . . It especially means so much to me because the movie is the only way my mom'll let me see POTO and I wish for the perfect someone to be him . .. and I've found, as have others, that Michael Crawford fits the role to perfection.
Phans of Michael Crawford and The Phantom Of The Opera have waited for years with fistfuls of dollars, pounds, and yen for a permanent record of that hugely successful musical. Unlike Barnum, which was filmed on stage, there was only a promise that the film would one day be made, starring Michael Crawford. It has been postponed year after year because of the continued success of the touring companies throughout the world. Lord Weber is no fool. He doesn't want even a mediocre film competing with the stage production. And now there is talk that the film is finally going to be made. And who is to star in it? Who is to play the "Angel Of Music"? John Travolta or Antonio Banderas!!! Neither of these Hollywood Hunks can sing. Hasn't anyone noticed? It's a publicity joke. Right? Wait until Antonio's fans find out that he will be ugly, even gruesome, in the role. They won't see his pretty face or rippling muscles. And what is even worse, the movie has all this singing!!! Operatic stuff.!! Yeeccchh!!! The word will spread and they will lose interest. And Michael Crawford fans will boycott the movie and continue flying to distant cities, staying in expensive hotels, and paying $50, $60, and more to hear Michael in concert. Banderas won his fame by getting Melanie Griffith pregnant. Michael Crawford won his enormous popularity by playing the Phantom.
From Veda Howell:
My vote for the star of Phantom would be Colm Wilkinson. He is in my opinion a universe above anyone else, in voice, acting ability and capturing the essence of the Phantom.
From Sherry Rothe:
I'm a big fan of both Antonio Banderas and John Travolta, each of whom has been considered for the role of the Phantom. And they each would no doubt bring something special to the role.
But here's my question. If Michael Crawford himself is ready, willing, and able to do it, why on earth would the producers, directors, and anyone else in a position to influence the decision, even think twice about it?
Too old? I beg your pardon. Too infirm? Look again. Too unknown? Well, WHOEVER does the part will be wearing a MASK, for criminy's sake...the character, the Phantom, will be the box-office draw, regardless of whose mug is behind the mask.
If Mr. Crawford reprises on film the character he created on stage, I promise to buy ticket after ticket after ticket. I may quit work altogether if it interferes with my movie-going!
From Mark Malachesky:
Personally I hope Phantom never makes it to the big screen. However, if it must, it should only be as documentation for Michael Crawfords legendary performance. For those who say he's too old -- Who is gonna be able to tell behind the mask/makeup? As Crawford showed us in the theatre, what the Phantom is about is body language. Crawford will have that till the day he dies. And for those who say his voice is going? IT'S A MOVIE? Its just a matter of a week in a recording studio, not eight shows a week for 6 months. And as Madonna showed us in Evita, recording engineers can work miracles in making people sound better than they do. I don't believe Phantom would take well to the big screen at all, but let it be with Crawford if it's going to be anyone!
From Lady Macbeth:
I believe Peter Karrie should play the role. I saw him last September after having seen 5 other men play the role and he was the best. The *way* he sang the word 'be' in "Music of the Night" was *sublime*. Peter brings such an elegance to the character that I have not seen in other actors. But I would be happy if most any actor that has played the part in the theatre were cast. I really detest casting a certain person just because they are a 'name'. Give the part to someone who has *lived* with the role, and who is not out only for the money. Cast someone who knows a thing or two about art! (Of course, Peter is the best candidate!)
It is quite obvious from reading all the updated polls that Michael Crawford is the people's choice for the movie role he so knowingly deserves. Has Sir Andrew forgotten what brought people to that play after the critics claimed its doom? Well those of us who were fortunate enough to see Michael Crawford in the role clearly know he made it the success it is today. I have seen the Phantom 13 times. 12 on Broadway and once in Hartford, Conn. I have seen several different Phantoms and was lucky enough to have seen Michael Crawford twice on Broadway. Nobody will be able to portray the Phantom with Michael's majesty, voice and charm. Lloyd Weber is making a big mistake. What would make me want to see the movie 13 more times or buy the DVD(when available)? Michael Crawford.........Everybody associates Michael with the Phantom and he certainly has the power to make the movie the success attributed to the play he so rightfully deserves.
Mr. Weber is a talent I certainly admire and have seen most of his plays and own several of his CD's. But he will certainly go down on my list of top musical genius' worthy of mine and others' future attention. Mr. Weber put that big ego aside and remember the people along the way that helped make you the success you are today. When it's the Phantom it's Michael Crawford-the one and only!!!!!
From Gary Silverman:
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA CASTINGI don't think banderas brings the right flair to the part. Mandy Patinkin would hands down be genius in the part, but based on financial realities stands almost no chance of being cast.radical casting and perhaps a great performance with great singing could emerge from will smith.
From Tina Burbank:
My name is Tina Burbank, and I'm a member of a fan club for Antonio BAnderas and let me tell you, even we had a good laugh when we heard he might play the Phantom. His voice isn't classical!!! He was awesome in Evita cause it's a ROCK opera but he doesn't have the voice at all for the Phantom! I don't really know who should play the Phantom cause I don't know the play too well, but I've heard Michael Crawford sing and damn!!!!!!!! I think all the woman in the room melted! Now that is a classic voice!!!!! plus, I've read some awesome stuff about him on this page so I say put him in the movie if he wants.
From Nicola Waters:
Phantom of The Opera belongs on stage, not on screen. A film could never capture the essence of Phantom of The Opera, and it is an utter disgrace that Andrew Lloyd Webber ever allowed this to happen; it's a desperate attempt on his part to make more money.
I am one of the organizers of the No film of Phantom Campaign; I would like to invite anyone interested in this subject to visit our website-
As far as casting goes, well, if they go ahead and make a film (which I sincerely pray they won't), then obviously the Phantom should be played by one of the excellent stage actors who have done the role over the years. My choice would be either Peter Cousens or Grant Norman, by far the best Phantoms I've ever seen.
The idea of casting Antonio Banderas is patently ludicrous; the Phantom has the voice of 'an angel', and Banderas can barely hold a tune! He is also a pretty feeble actor. In fact the whole idea of anyone casting Banderas is so ridiculous that I find it utterly incredible that it's even being considered.
From Barbara Morrow:
I voted about a week or so ago with just two sentences. After reading all the people's thoughts who have written in, I feel I must add some more. This question, to me, is of great importance. I have been a fan of Michael starting with my first viewing of Phantom in l989. This man is incredible and quite a genius. Since that time I have seen Phantom 190 times with 18 different Phantoms. However, NONE can touch Michael's portrayal of the Phantom! I saw Michael over 100 times as the Phantom and gloried in each viewing of it. He is sublime. I know EVERY nuance of his performance and it is Michael's soul we see on stage. He encompasses the person who is Erik. There is no other person who projects who the Phantom really is. He performance on stage was breathtaking, incredible, mesmerizing and spellbinding. I believe that the movie would not be as viable a venture unless Michael were the star. True, he is not a WorldWide "NAME", however most people who have EVER heard of the Phantom, know that Michael Crawford is the ultimate Phantom. His performance is exquisite! It is breathtaking! It is unbelievable! It is heartrending! It is perfect! Those who are thinking of others for the role seem to me to have lost their mind - to money! So you want Banderes - what about Raoul - he would be perfect, or even Dicaprio, if you need a "NAME". However, a classic movie, in the vein of GONE WITH THE WIND would be made ONLY IF Michael Crawford were indeed THE PHANTOM. Millions would go to see it again and again, as I have the stage play. He is THE PHANTOM incarnate! Let us see Michael Crawford, starring in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera!
From Virginia Wegman:
I vote for COLM WILKINSON to play the Phantom. Every day I listen to the CD of the Toronto performance. He is an outstanding actor and a fantastic singer. He not only sings the role he vocally performs the role. No one else can compare.
Michael Crawford is the Phantom and should play him in the movie. Age should not matter with the makeup and mask and such. Michael has such a great voice, he is the only one who should play the Phantom.
How can anyone actually think of not casting Michael Crawford as the Phantom?! As about a million people have pointed out, he CREATED the role. Many may argue that Lloyd Weber has the right to cast anyone he chooses because it is HIS musical. But the role is nothing in the hands of the wrong actor. Michael Crawford worked his particular magic on the role, making Erik one of the most memorable characters of theatre. To cast anyone else would be an insult to the role -- and to the actor himself. Should he fail in his attempt to bring the Phantom to life on the big screen, he will be hopelessly ridiculed and taunted by all those who know and love the musical. So Michael Crawford is not "commercial" enough to attract masses of people. So what? If people flock to the movie theatres just because a big name stars, then they truly do not understand or appreciate the musical. And that would be the death of a truly great work of art.
Michael Crawford must play the Phantom! Antonio Banderas would be a wonderful Raoul, but the Phantom must not be a young man. I saw it with two young capable actors in the role and the play suffered for it. Crawford's pain was heartfelt and weighty with having lived with this deformity for years. a younger "pretty" Phantom is just a bore. Betty Buckley should do Carlotta -no opinion on the Christine.
From STEPHEN GOLDEN:
You can tell that most of the responders to this poll are theatre fans. They're not focusing on the movie going public. You need big name movie stars to sell a movie like this. A few possibilities I think likely:
John Travolta - in which case, you've got to cast Olivia Newton-John as Christine!
Gerard Depardieu - he's French and the older audience love him.
Mel Gibson - heck, they let him sing in Pocahontas!
Jeremy Irons/Anthony Hopkins - well, they'd get the critic's vote
Kevin Spacey - he's a hot item in Hollywood these days
or you could go for the slightly younger Phantom...
Mathew Broderick - and why not cast Sarah Jessica Parker as Christine?
Leonardo Di Caprio
but if the film producers do want to stay theatrical ( I'm betting they won't - and they'll dub the voices ), then I think they'll have to cast Carol Channing as the Phantom. Let's face it, they owe her another movie!
I hold the highest of esteem for those interested in finding a person to play the phantom in the movie. The memory of hearing, seeing and sensing the danger of the phantom as Michael Crawford on Broadway makes me want to see a phantom who can understand the part feel the emotion and make you (a viewer) feel that emotion. Someone whom played the phantom on the Broadway productions would be acceptable but I won't forget Michael's dramatic phantom.
From Marianne Olsen:
Anyone who was lucky enough to see Michael Crawford in Phantom either in new york los angeles or london knows what passion and dedication he has to the roll. any "big" hollywood star could not or would not give of himself to the roll as Michael has and still does when he talk of the play or sings Music of the Night.
From Matthew Fleming:
I have a different choice for the role of Phantom... Mandy Patinkin. Crawford is excellent in the role- on stage. Colm Wilkinson is also amazing, but made a much better Valjean and should stay away from the role of Phantom. Antonio Banderas was wonderful in Evita, but casting him in Phantom would be a gross mistake. Patinkin is fantastically mysterious, has a beautiful voice and is the persona of the Phantom of the Opera.
From Sue Newey:
Who originated the Phantom? Michael Crawford
Who is synonymous with Phantom? Michael Crawford
Who won the Tony for Phantom? Michael Crawford
From Carin Klabbers:
My vote goes also to Mr. Crawford, although that is not very original I am afraid. Its difficult to come up with reasons that are not already given a few times by others. But in short : Mr. Crawford is an experienced actor, although he is not as "famous" as Mr. Banderas he is also known and appreciated by non Phantom Fans. Mr. Crawford has originated the role of Phantom (although opinions differ if Mr. Wilkinson has not the first appearance on his name) and since then Mr. Crawford's voice has become better trained. Also it would save Warner Brothers money because they would not have to dub Mr. Crawford or mix his artificial to make him sound good. And don't forget the Phans all over the world who would visit the movie several times, and buy it as soon as it comes out of video. If you put Mr. Crawford in you have a basic market of public already. I know this all does not contribute much, but at least I got the opportunity to let you know how a Dutch Phantom Fan thinks about this subject.