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 ninth file of posts. Playbill On-Line thanks all those who took the time to write.
From Carol Vincent:
I would say Brad Little but as he is occupied with the POTO tour for a long time that is unlikely. So I will go with Davis Gaines, who will photograph very well on screen and he has a great voice and is a good actor. He knows how to play Eric with the emotion required for the role and received good reviews. Michael Crawford is too old for the part and Antonio is too dark and has a heavy spanish accent. Who ever heard of a Spanish Eric? Eric is French. Of course the other problem with Antonio is that he cannot sing at all and Eric requires a voice that can go very high and that is actually good. Either you are a singer or you're not, no training can change that and Antonio is NOT a singer. He was fine for Che because he looked the part and it requires absolutely no singing talent whatsoever. He would have to be dubbed if anything. They may as well cast him and ruin the movie and be unfaithful to the show because just the thought of Hollywood stepping into musical theater where they do not belong is enough of a nightmare. It could never be good anyhow. They ruin at least 90% of all musicals when they make into movies and this will not be the exception. And it will ruin the chance of anyone who has not seen it on stage of ever doing so because they will think it is as awful as the movie will be. I will never go see it and hopefully all Phantom fans will see that it fails!!
Michael Crawford was by far the best Phantom so far and there is no way anyone could be better in the future. Please accept this a vote for Michael in the new Warner Bros. movie.
From Lea Sheler:
Of course Michael Crawford.... He was the original, and the one whom many of us fondly refer to as THE Phantom....many hundreds of people own a copy of the original cast recording, and hear that as how the phantom really is...and ultimately what all other performing Phantoms are compared to. Why should we give the role to an unexperienced stage actor and singer in comparison to Crawford....Crawford CLEARLY should without question be cast as the phantom, I'm sure many a Phantom fan would more quickly and enthusiastically drag as many people with them as they could to see Crawford on that big huge screen and look forward to purchasing it on video, than if Banderas were to be cast, many of us would probably not even go to see it, with fear of seeing our favorite show ruined by poor casting.
The choice is simple. Michael Crawford. It is ridiculous that "he's too old". In EVERY SINGLE version of POTO that I've read or seen, including the original book by Gaston Leroux on which this musical is based the Phantom has been about 50 or older. And, if, for some reason, he is unavailable, choose one of the other dozens of actors who have played Erik on the stage. Some of them must have prior experience on screen. As for the role of Christine, find someone who doesn't squeak on the high notes and has a good charisma with the Phantom actor. As for the role of Raoul, there's where I wouldn't mind a big name. It would be funny to see his part mutilated.
From Genie Stelnicki:
I understand that you are conducting a poll regarding the casting of the upcoming Phantom of the Opera film. I have heard that the producers wish to cast a younger more famous man than Mr. Michael Crawford. It is a mistake. The lure of the Phantom character is not in his physique but in his soul. No one has sung the role with more soul and passion than Michael Crawford. He has been universally acclaimed by critics, celebrities, and the public at large. The original cast recording has sold millions of copies. Every single person who has seen the stage version of The Phantom of the Opera, whether the original production or not, hears Michael Crawford's voice through the recording. He was born to sing that role. Please record my vote and forward it to the producers before they make a wretched error.
From Barbara Morrow:
Having seen Phantom 190 times, 118 with Michael Crawford my choice for playing Phantom in the movie is of course Michael Crawford. Michael IS the Phantom; no one else can do it!
From TAMMY HAGLER:
I would like to see Michael Crawford cast as The Phantom. When the role was created, it was made for him. He has the same style and grace that he had years ago when he first started playing Phantom. I am tired of hearing that he is not a big enough name to star as the lead. Since this is supposedly just ALW's play on the big screen, then it is only right and proper to have an actual "Phantom" star as the leading role.
From Maria Lew-Ong:
I like to vote for Michael Crawford as the Phantom of the Opera. He created the role and won awards for the role. I was first introduced to the show, from hearing the cd. This was January of 1997. I adored Michael's voice and felt entranced by it! I could feel Michael's pain and anguish through that cd. Of course, I cried in the end after hearing it. After the music was over, I couldn't wait to see Michael perform POTO. However, I discovered that he didn't play the role for several years. I was very disappointed to have miss his performance. But then through the internet, I heard that he was promised the role of the Phantom in a movie. I was ecstatic and overwhelmed with joy. However, that was short-lived, because I heard that John Travolta was considered the role. Then later this year, I heard that Antonio Bandares was given the role. I just couldn't figure out, why these men were chosen, when there was Michael Crawford!! He can act and sing this role with his eyes shut!! Please let my dream to see Michael perform POTO come true!!
"Can You Hear The People...Scream?" To ignore the genius of MICHAEL CRAWFORD and cast anyone else as "The Phantom of the Opera" would be as logical as ignoring all the Cardinals of Rome and making a Southern Baptist Pope! He alone can make those songs take flight. Still waiting after all these years, $$$ in hand Mr. Semel!
From Regina McCullough:
When Michael Crawford opened in London, New York and Los Angeles as Phantom, he was lauded as the performance of a generation in theatre. Who else but Michael Crawford can bring that same magic to the screen?
From Jennifer Montfort:
My first choice for the role of the Phantom would have to be Mr. Davis Gaines. I was lucky enough to have seen him perform the role on Broadway, and it was truly one of the best theater experiences of my life. He's an amazing talent, with a wonderful acting ability and a voice that is so strong, powerful, and mesmerizing. However, since the powers that be seem to think (wrongly) that they need a big name for the movie, it probably isn't going to happen... Instead, I choose Michael Crawford. Not only is his the name most people associate with Phantom ("Isn't he the guy who played the Phantom?"), but he created the role, and wonderfully so. This is HIS role, it's what he's best known for, and it's what he can still do, better than ever. Some of the arguments against him are completely unfounded. "He's too old." Not true, the character in the original Leroux novel was around 50 years old. Mr. Crawford looks better than ever, and physically has the body of a man much younger than his age. His most recent acting role was in the highly physical "EFX", which he pulled off perfectly. I'm sorry, but the idea of a Phantom with a Spanish accent just doesn't appeal to me. Also, the Phantom is supposed to have an "unearthly" voice, that of an angel. Sorry, but Che in Evita is a completely different role vocally, and who's to say Banderas could handle it? Many actors have said that it's one of the most challenging parts they've had vocally. And they're professional singers. Finally, Crawford knows the character, and is comfortable with it, who can bring is across better than he can on film? Wake up Lord Lloyd-Webber, money's great, but I distinctly remember a quote something like "There will be no messing with this one." I wonder what would happen if we practiced what we preached?
From Lee Randolph:
Please cast my vote for Michael Crawford! I was never able to see him as the Phantom on stage, and now I may lose my opportunity. I watched him on KCET perform and have been a fan ever since.
From Mary Jayne Kitchens:
Michael Crawford is the Phantom of the Opera! Michael Crawford should appear as the Phantom in the upcoming movie. His voice is the voice of the Phantom! He is truly a legend, and it would be a great injustice to cast anyone else in the role of the Phantom.
Michael Crawford is the ONLY choice for this role. When Twentieth Century Fox brought The King and I to the big screen did they consider Gary Cooper for the role? NO! As for the age issue, my Mom saw Yul Brenner in his initiation of the role and the in his last run of the show and to this day feels that NO ONE can fill that role. The same is true for Michael Crawford, the Phantom that he creates is magic and the one that should be brought to the screen.
From Chrissy Horner:
The role of Phantom should go to MICHAEL CRAWFORD! If Warner Brothers or anyone else has any doubt of this, all they have to do is attend one of Michael's concerts - touring the US throughout the summer. Listen to him sing "Music Of The Night" and you will see why no other person on earth could play the role of Phantom except MICHAEL CRAWFORD!
Obviously, Michael Crawford better get the part . Antonio Banderas has no singing voice.
From Shirley Donaghue:
Michael Crawford is the Phantom, and the only one who can make this movie a great success. Don't deprive the public the opportunity to see this awesome performance by Michael Crawford.
Well, I've never seen ANY Phantoms in the role, but, from what I've heard Franc D'Ambrosio should be cast, San Fran should share, It's not fair, because Everyone's seen Crawford, everyone's heard Crawford in the OLC (In the OLC he is absolutely horrid! But, he didn't have much practice then...) Everyone knows what Crawford Sounds like... We only see Franc in Godfather III and hear him in the sounds of that Soundtrack, Christmas on Broadway, and They Call the Wind Maria, There's my vote....
From Gina Macri:
The magnificent voice I hear every time I listen to Phantom and the enrapturement I feel in the story only belongs to the portrayal of Erik by Michael Crawford. Let everyone share in this magic-cast him in the film.
From Nancy Piscitello:
I cast my vote for Michael Crawford, the original London, Broadway and Los Angeles Phantom. Although I never saw him perform the role live, every time 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.
If it must be a Movie Version, then by all means cast the most qualified actor/singer/performer in the role as "The Phantom", Michael Crawford and in the role of "Raoul" cast the more visible, younger actor /performer Antonio Banderas. However one other possibility should be considered, rather than a movie, why not preserve the original stage production on film for countless generations to come, to enjoy, using Michael Crawford as the Phantom and if you must an actor such as Antonio Banderas as "Raoul" and perhaps, just perhaps, Dale Christian as "Christine", in this way you could stay with a winning combination.
From Cheryl 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!
Mr. Crawford should be the Phantom in the movie version because he originated the role and is a lot more qualified to sing the role than John Travolta or Antonio Banderas. Perhaps he is not a huge film star, but he is not that old and in my opinion he still sounds great! Andrew Lloyd Webber should listen to what the fans want instead of going for the big money and a big name for the movie.
From Jeffrey L. Walker:
Right off the bat: I think Michael Crawford should recreate the role of Erik the Phantom in the film of PTO. Whereas he's not a name to open a movie necessarily, he does have a HUGE following not just in the U.S. but the U. K. and internationally -- which is often an important factor at the movie box office. What about Michael being cast as the Phantom and cast ALL the other roles with big stars! Antonio as Raoul, Glenn Close as the aging diva, and maybe even a NEW discovery as Christine! I believe this film has huge potential to be the gothic-romantic movie musical of all time! Michael C. would be their anchor and assure (most) of the fans would be happy; the other stars would help the box office name appeal. Let's all just pray the director doesn't flush the whole thing down the crapper! Isn't it interesting that the movie studio who wanted anyone but Rex Harrison (Cary Grant, et al) to play Henry Higgins in the film of "My Fair Lady," and everyone but Robert Preston to play Harold Hill in "The Music Man" film, is once again pushing for "box office names" rather than the original leading men. Yes, times have changed drastically since the "Golden Age" of Broadway and the time when big-budget movie musicals were the norm. But as most of us who are responding to this poll know, most movie musicals either don't work with strictly "movie stars" in the leads or suffer in hindsight. (Not to mention the film of "Annie" which had a dream cast and was a big bomb and many other examples.)
From Frances DeGrey:
I would like to cast my vote for Michael Crawford doing the role of the Phantom if a movie is made. For many of us he is the only acceptable choice. When I recently saw him on tour performing the songs from Phantom, Mr. Crawford seemed to become that character so completely, it stunned the audience - it was tremendous, and this was on a bare (more or less) stage with no special effects, no change of costume or make-up, just the raw power of the voice and the body language. Casting any other performer would be theatrical sacrilege.
From John Guillette:
Antonio Banderas played Che very well but he is no Phantom. Michael Crawford is the obvious choice here. Crawford has an amazing presence and he plays the role with such great personality. He can be both frightening and child-like. Perhaps Banderas could play another role, maybe say...Raoul (or has that part been given to Travolta - Ha!) There is only one other person I would not object to playing the Phantom, and that is Davis Gaines. Gaines has played the role more than even Crawford has and his voice is incredible. Here's a thought...who will be playing Christine? Perhaps a movie should not be made at all. Though I'd rather see them make a film than Phantom 2.
From Jean Cousins:
First, let me say that, vocal ability and thick Cuban accent aside, I believe that Antonio Banderas has the capability to give a tremendously sexy and passionate performance as the Phantom (I have a feeling that after the premiere of his performance as a certain other character in a mask and cape, many others will come to agree with that statement). BUT . . . Although I liked his performance in Evita, I do not think his voice is quite "angelic" enough to convince anyone that he is the "Angel of Music." Considering that a major part of this story is that the Phantom has a voice that is as mesmerizingly beautiful as his face is ugly, it would be an enormous mistake to underestimate the importance of this particular factor, and to think that if an actor acts well enough and has a big enough name and/or screen presence it won't matter that his voice is substandard. I realize that there are ways around this, but I for one am always disgusted when I learn that an actor's voice has been dubbed in a movie musical, and I've never been able to understand why they don't simply cast someone with the necessary vocal ability in the first place. I will never be convinced that finding an actor/singer with both the necessary acting ability *and* vocal talent and *training* to carry the part on film is an impossible task. Especially in regards to this movie. While Michael Crawford is not my favorite actor ever to play the role (that would be Thomas James O'Leary, who currently makes the character his own every night on Broadway and decidedly did *not* simply carbon copy Crawford's original performance, as many of Crawford's fans claim), he does have the voice, the acting talent, and the film experience necessary to successfully bring this version of the character from stage to screen. I do not believe his current age is a factor, and is in fact a powerfully weak argument, considering that Gaston Leroux's Phantom was actually well into his fifties when this story took place. If any concessions are going to be made to the script, I think increasing the age of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom would be easier to accept than changing his nationality to Cuban in order to facilitate Banderas' all too noticeable accent. Besides, underneath the mask and all of that makeup, it's not as if Crawford's "maturity" will actually show through. I do not believe that Crawford is the only actor to be able to pull this off, but as former stage Phantoms go, I do believe that he is the only one who will be given any kind of realistic consideration by the movie's producers. If it's a choice between Banderas, or any other big name film actor that I can think of for that matter, and Michael Crawford, I think the powers that be would do this movie a great disservice not to choose the latter. Add to that the fact that I, like many other fans of this musical, still regret never having had the opportunity to see Crawford perform as the Phantom on stage, and for that reason alone would love to be able to see his performance captured on film. How's that for "at least two sentences?"
From Elaine Massung:
While I'm sure there are other great stage Phantoms, Michael Crawford has the voice that most people are familiar with. He knows the character, deserves the role, and is the only Phantom I'd pay to see at the movie theater.
From Lois Orris:
There is only one choice for playing the phantom - Michael Crawford! His singing is so moving, so touching, so great - nobody else could ever do justice to this role which is his alone. He IS the phantom - why don't they pick him and get on with it - nobody else wants these other people to play HIS role - they would ruin it while he would make it unforgettable!
NO QUESTION- Brad Little. Current (?) or former Music Box Tour Phantom. I am a huge Phantom phan, and have seen the show 5 times. Brad is the best I have seen as of yet, and all though I have not seen M. Crawford in person, I have seen film of him. But I would not mind seeing him get it, since he is the one and only original Phantom. I know one thing-- It should DEFINITELY be someone who has done the musical, because they know what it is to be the phantom, not some movie actor....
Greetings... no other person should be the phantom for the film version by Michael Crawford..... age mean nothing... and this man is timeless in that role!!
From Debby Cowles:
The role should go to Michael Crawford, the creator of the role. He has proven his abilities on both stage and screen and his name is synonymous with the role. Even those that are not regular theatre goers know that Michael Crawford originated the role of 'Phantom'. Let's not see the mistake of past musical movies repeated by casting a non-musical performer in the lead. The quality of the performance should be more than enough to sell movie tickets.
From Erin Matheson:
My first choice would be without question, Michael Crawford. Having seen so many fans cast their vote for him already, I can't see how you could NOT consider him. He has the charisma, the mind to play the part. He IS the Phantom. The only other contender who comes close would be Anthony Warlow. If you are looking for someone younger and sexier, (I am presuming this since you have considered Banderas) and with an absolutely divine voice, Warlow has it. In reality, he is classically trained, his voice has far more power and presence than Banderas, who, although being able to smoulder as well as carry a tune as Che, does not have the depth of tone to play Erik. Warlow has it.
From Marie A. Roberge:
The ONLY choice is Michael Crawford. I fell in love with him just from watching his recent PBS special and regret that I didn't discover him sooner so that I could have seen him on stage as the Phantom. Give those of us who didn't see the Broadway play a chance to see Michael Crawford reprise his Tony-award winning role. It only makes good sense (cents!) to use the performer who has already proved he can do it!