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 sixth file of posts. Playbill On-Line thanks all those who took the time to write.
Michael Crawford, Michael Crawford, MICHAEL CRAWFORD!!!! He is THE true and the most mesmerizing actor I have ever seen! He has a great voice, a terrific actor, and he puts all of his heart and his soul into the role. I guess from other people's opinion.... A LOT of them would agree with me. It would really be a crime for them to cast Travolta or Banderas. Yes, Banderas was good in Evita, but we're looking for the person that created the legendary role. It would mean so much for "Phantom" fans to cast Michael Crawford as the lead. And it would bring joy to many people for him to be back and play the role in the show where he belongs.
From Carla M. Rea:
I had the good fortune to see three different productions of Phantom of the Opera with three different actors in the lead role. One of them was Michael Crawford. I thought that he was pretty good, but I thought Robert Guillaume (of Benson fame) is a much better choice. His acting is far superior to Mr. Crawford's interpretation of the role. He is also a surprisingly good singer! My vote is Robert Guillaume!
From Steve Culver, Salisbury, MD:
I don't really care who plays the role of the Phantom in the movie version as long as they do a good job of it. True, Michael Crawford originated the role, but his Phantom sounds like a romantic hero. Remember Erik is an insane murderer. When I saw Davis Gaines on Broadway, he was a much darker Phantom than Crawford. He played Erik with a decidedly schizophrenic edge. By the end of the show I felt sorry for him - but I also wanted Christine to get the hell away from him because he was unstable to say the least. Remember THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is a thriller, NOT a love story.
The only man who can make The Phantom of the Opera movie into a classic film is Michael Crawford. He is the superb actor, with movie experience, who originated the role in the theatre. He won the Tony for this role, and every major award for Broadway theatre. He received such rave reviews that every actor who followed him in the role is directed to do it the way Michael Crawford did.
From Patricia Hatch :
I believe that Michael Crawford should be the actor that Warner Brothers chooses to portray Erik in the movie version of Phantom of the Opera. Mr. Crawford created the role of the Phantom for London and Broadway. He should be given the opportunity to continue his performance on the motion picture screen. No other actor knows the soul of Erik like Michael Crawford.
While there are many musical actors who could give the Phantom role the justice it deserves, I would favor Michael Crawford in the part. Hollywood appears to want a "star" in the role, and while not as famous as Mr. Banderas or Mr. Travolta, Mr. Crawford does have film experience. Also, since he created the role on stage, he is well known for the part. Musical film history tends to show that movies made with the stars who first made the roles famous usually do better at the box office then those films who have replaced the original stars with "name" actors.
Right off the bat, I think that the Phantom should be played by a man who has played the role in the theatre, preferably on Broadway. These men have enough experience, and are obviously good enough because they were on Broadway. My top choice is Michael Crawford, because he originated the role, and no one can match his musical talent and acting ability. My second choice is Davis Gaines, because, next to Crawford, he is the Best Phantom that I have ever seen.
WHO THE PHANTOM? Easy question. Crawford.
His creation of the character for the musical, along with Prince's directorial vision, is what saved the musical from being mediocre. Neither Banderas or Travolta have anywhere near the voice and training to do the role justice -- unless you're just interested in initial box office draw. Of course you can still use pop stars for the big box office. As Raoul & Christine and other characters. Crawford has his own following and seems to acquire new adoring fans with each wide exposure. Don't underplay the power of word of mouth! Runner up to Crawford -- Placido Domingo. Both men are "mature" but hell they'll be under make-up and/or mask the whole movie anyway. Viewers who know these men won't care. Viewers who don't know them won't be able to tell their ages anyway. Not that the role or script really call for a hot young hunk! Play up the other characters and cast them with hot hunks and spice girls with voices.
WHO THE DIRECTOR? Even with Crawford, this is the critical issue. The libretto of the musical is too weak to support a big screen version. It would need a lot of reworking and/OR a director who knew how to do with a camera what's lacking in dialogue and plot. e.g. lots of background on the Phantom and Christine whose characters as written by ALW won't do well on screen. He'd either be viewed as a lovesick, whining neurotic or an outright psychotic (he's both, but at least on a symbolic and subconscious level a whole lot more, like mythical . . . archetypal, if portrayed as Crawford managed to do). Christine's character would appear just plain stupid or retarded if you don't show something in her past to support her falling for the bull with which the Phantom seduces her.
My first choice for director would be Zeffirelli; he's done screen musicals and of course opera on stage and screen. Second choice would be Baz Luhrman. I'd have to think long and hard for others. Maybe Jonathan Demme, no musicals but I believe he's done some music videos that showed talent. Parker did a good job with Evita, adding to Prince's inspirations with his cinematography. Maybe Prince himself, tho his track record for conversions to screen isn't great. This is not an easy question. Great with symbolic material is Wim Wenders, but there's nothing to indicate he'd be able to handle a musical or something with pop appeal. But them I'm sure Lord Andrew would retain enough control to take care of those concerns!
From D Powell:
Casting Antonio Banderas as the phantom of the opera would be the worst move in the history of film musicals since Barbra Streisand got the lead in "Hello Dolly!" The motivation in both cases is the same; to offer the public a "name" to draw them into the theatre with no regard for the character or the story being told. Streisand's only sin was that she was far too young to play Dolly. Antonio's will be that he is totally wrong for the part.
The role of the phantom demands great sensitivity on the part of the actor who dons the mask. Remember that this character is a murderer - but that he kills for love. The part has to be portrayed in such a manner that the audience is aware of the horror of his acts but can still feel sorrow for the tragic circumstances that drive him. There is only one actor who can bring this character to the screen, and he is tony-winner Michael Crawford.
Warner Brothers and the Really Useful Group would do well to remember that while Streisand was badly cast in "Hello, Dolly!" (which most people remember as a bomb!); she was perfectly cast, bringing her Broadway triumph to the screen, in "Funny Girl." For that role, she won the Oscar. Oh, that Mr. Crawford is given the same chance!
From Linda (firstname.lastname@example.org):
My two sentences worth on why Michael Crawford should be the uncontested OBVIOUS choice for the Phantom:
When he performed the original stage production, it was an immeasurable success. People who are not theatre goers were familiar with his production; those living in non-theatre cities, at least had the original cast CD and still immediately upon hearing mention of the musical, automatically begin to rave about how his voice made the musical the success it has become and assume he will be in the movie.
A movie of this musical should primarily fit the purpose of providing future generations an opportunity to see this masterpiece done in its truest form, not just some whimsical Hollywood hype.
For the purpose of box office draw, Banderas, or another movie actor, could be cast in the part of Raoul, a character whose face appears much more often in a flattering manner on screen. I think fans who come to see Banderas would enjoy it much more if they could see him on stage as the dashing count. And then allow the theatre purists to enjoy Crawford's legendary performance as the Phantom.
From: Nancy Piscitello (email@example.com):
I cast my vote for Michael Crawford, the original London, Broadway and Los Angeles Phantom.
Although I never saw him perform the role live, everytime I have seen excerpts from any of the productions he has appeared in, his performance has always moved me. The role of the Phantom just seems to be tailored-made for Michael Crawford, and since he has pretty much perfected the role, I see no reason why he should not be allowed to repeat his award-winning performance on film.
From Melinda Thackery:
I have tried to visualize anyone else playing the role of Phantom. Too many images (visual and vocal) of Crawford playing the role and too much time has passed for someone else to satisfactorily and safely (career wise) assume the role. The man breathes the role and is passionate about playing him. He has defined the role both visually and vocally for the audience - we know him - we have seen him honored for his portrayal. His timing of body movements, his style of enunciation, inflection and tone of his voice are too distinct. Isn't the Phantom character suppose to be an older man whose face has been covered by a mask from childhood to manhood, The man would be very pale. Have Crawford play the Phantom and Banderas play the man (Raoul) who wins Christine in the end.
From Sue Southern:
Michael Crawford IS The Phantom of the Opera. He created the role and has set the standard for all of the actors who have followed him. Attend one of his concerts, you will not think he is too old then.
From: Rita J Gann (firstname.lastname@example.org):
There is only one Phantom, whether movie or live theater - Michael Crawford. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the script but Michael Crawford fine tuned the role and the music. I can't even imagine why Antonio Banderas is being considered for the part. Sure, he's not bad to look at. But the Phantom role requires more than a sultry, handsome face. The portrayer of Erik, Phantom Of The Opera, must not only be able to sing Webber's beautiful music but to make the audience feel compassion, almost against their will, for the pitiful creature in love with the young opera singer. Banderas should stick to putting his mark on the front of the bad guys shirt...I don't he will make it as a singer.
I have no desire to see anyone in the role of Phantom, but Michael Crawford. I missed seeing him on stage, but have seen his performances on tape. The character was developed by him and due to this portrayal, POTO became the hit it is today. The world will always remember any play by the way it is portrayed on film. Why shouldn't it be immortalized by the best?
in my mind michael crawford is the greatest phantom. he is the original. no one else can act or sing this part like him.
From Claudia Albert:
The only person who should play the part of the Phantom is Michael Crawford. Every night in London, New York and Los Angeles he proved himself. I've seen performances in all three places with different actors, and Crawford is THE BEST!! In addition to his stage performances as Phantom, he has shown his special emotion and ability to play the Phantom every time he performs "Music of the Night" on television or on stage.
From Linda Borregales:
I would just like to say that I think the only person for the role is MICHAEL CRAWFORD. He is the first and only real Phantom in my heart. He is an exceptional actor, on stage and screen and I feel he is more than qualified to take part in the film. He also has a tremendous voice, but that goes without saying! I was very disappointed to here that he was not chosen. I hope they reconsider.
From Dale Crawford:
Without question, Michael Crawford should play the Phantom in the movie version of Phantom of the Opera.
Simply put, Mr. Crawford defined the role-such that all other actors playing the role now emulate him. Mr. Banderas, while a fine actor, possesses no eloquence in speaking English, due to his thick accent. Clarity of speech is essential for a role that is centered on the character's voice.
In the past ten years, Warner Brothers has made an industry of destroying the entertainment value of their films by casting "names" in the lead roles. Even superstar Madonna, while critically accepted, could not turn Evita into the blockbuster that Warner Brothers hoped for. Only a stroke of luck gave them Michael Keaton as Batman in 1989.
Warner Brothers is the undisputed title holder in the category of "Most Oblivious to the Reality that Motion Pictures are ART, not Committee Decisions." For once, it would be nice to see them make a decision that supported the desires of the actual ticket-buying fans that they target for their movies. Only then can Phantom of the Opera be as powerful and successful on film as it is on stage.
From Paul Nuccio:
Michael Crawford, Michael Crawford, Michael Crawford. How can a man with a prominent Spanish accent, like Antonio, do justice to the role of a seductive Frenchman? He can't, especially if he could never pass as an Angel of Music...
From Kelly Crawford (no relation):
I think Michael Crawford should reprise his role as the Phantom in the movie version. No one knows this role better than him. He made it what it is today. Ask anyone that has played the role on stage and they will tell you that they try and copy as much of what he did as they can. He makes you feel the pain of the Phantom like no other person. All he has to do is sing one of the songs from this play and you can literally see the transformation into the Phantom. He is amazing and if Warner Bros. would cast him I honestly think this movie could win awards. After all, he won a Tony for his performance. Why mess with perfection?
From Steve Flogerzi:
With out a doubt Michael Crawford!!! He opened the Play in London, Broadway, and Los Angeles, all to huge audiences. He is the only actor to have ever won a Tony for this part. Right now Michael is on a 35 city tour of the USA if you can get tickets go hear and see for yourselves his voice and actions. After seeing and hearing there will be no question that he is the best to play this part. Warner Exec's you will be making a big FINANCIAL mistake if you cast anyone other to this role, this movie will be flop without him and it will bring in more dollars that Titanic with him.
From Nora Lou Wilson:
I firmly believe that only one performer was born to play the role, and that is the man who created the characterization for the musical - Michael Crawford. I have not seen a Warner Brothers movie or television show since they first pursued John Travolta for the role, and I will certainly continue my personal boycott if they should stupidly cast someone other than Crawford for this part, especially if they choose Antonio Banderas! Thank you for allowing this forum.
I would like to request that you put in a good word for Michael Crawford to play the Phantom. He was excellent in the play and his voice is magnificent. I believe he best exemplifies the Phantom, young or old. Mr. Crawford is just the right age to play the part, as he was ten years ago. Anyone younger cast for the part would be out of character for the Phantom. Thanks for listening.
From Carol Atkins, Hanover, Mass.
In my honest opinion, the ONLY choice for the POTO, is the man who created the role in London, Broadway, & Los Angeles, that man being--MICHAEL CRAWFORD!!!! It's absolutely ludicrous to even think of putting anyone else in that role. Antonio Banderas--I DON'T THINK SO!! Maybe, as the part of Raoul, but not Erik!!
Michael Crawford has more sensuality & sex-appeal in his baby finger than Banderas has in his whole body! Mr. Crawford did radio broadcast on the BBC in London, which gave him the experience to use his voice in any manner he wishes. Plus, HIS BODY LANGUAGE-----WOW!!!! And the gracefulness of his hands--DOUBLE WOW!!!!!
My choice for the Phantom is Michael Crawford. He does not play the role, he becomes the Phantom of the Opera. Every movement, every note is that of the Phantom. (Almost wants to make one find the grave of the real Erik, to make sure he is truly dead.) Plus I never had the privilege of seeing Mr. Crawford perform the role live; therefore, all of these feeling of the Phantom came across to me from the cd and some photos. It is true Mr. Crawford does not have the name like Banderas, but when you put Crawford and POTO together everyone knows who/what you are talking about.
Other problems that the big wigs find with someone like Mr. Crawford, they want a film star. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Michael Crawford has been in quite a few films. (Including those of Hello Dolly and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.) He's to old. Well wasn't the Phantom supposed to be much older than Christine.(More than 5-10 years.) Plus Mr. Crawford has a loyal phan following, and there is no point to paying attention to what the actor looks like, because the Phantom is covered by make-up, wigs, and a mask. Man of La Mancha is one of my favorite musicals. (After POTO, of course.) When I found out that Richard Kiley wasn't in the film, I decided not to rent the movie, and from what I have been hearing I am kind of glad I did not. I do not want to ruin the perfect picture I have of Don Quixote in my mind by a mediocre movie. So why then do Warner Brothers and Andrew Lloyd Webber want to do this with POTO? As I keep saying: Why fix something, that is not broken?