The casting has been rumored for years, but on March 7, at a Bombay, India, press conference, Andrew Lloyd Webber finally revealed that film actor Antonio Banderas has been tentatively selected to play the title role in a film version of The Phantom of the Opera.
Until now, the British composer has been silent on the subject of Banderas. Back on Aug. 18, 1998, a spokesman for Banderas' agent, Emmanuel Nunez, told Playbill On-Line that Banderas had been signed for the role. Nunez's office said he inked the contract Aug. 14, 1998. A couple years ago, some Phantom fans unhappy about the Banderas casting launched an online and print campaign to stop it.
Banderas' other film credits include The Mambo Kings and Desperado.
Shekhar Kupur will direct the film, said Lloyd Webber. At the same press conference, Lloyd Webber revealed that he and Kupar would co-produce a new, Indian-themed musical.
* Only a week after the West End plans for Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical, The Beautiful Game, were announced, the British composer revealed plans for another show, inspired by Indian films and set in Bombay.
Lloyd Webber will produce a new work by Indian composer A.R. Rehman, confirmed Lloyd Webber spokesman Peter Brown. Rehman scored the music for a musical number in a Indian film in which locals are seen singing and dancing on top of a speeding train. Lloyd Webber said he had been inspired by the song, at a March 7 news conference in Bombay.
"I saw the song and was excited about the tune, the dancing and the locals," he commented, adding that he was a big fan of the massive Bombay film industry, known colloquially as "Bollywood."
The new musical, as yet untitled, will be co-produced with film director Shekhar Kapur and premiere in London's West End.
The Beautiful Game, the long-awaited collaboration between Andrew Lloyd Webber and playwright-comedian-novelist Ben Elton, will receive its world premiere Sept. 19, previews from Aug. 29, at the West End's Cambridge Theatre.
Reports in the press last year speculated that the football musical was inspired by a BBC television documentary about Bobby Sands, the IRA hunger-striker who starved to death in the Maze prison in 1981, and the Belfast-based Star of Sea amateur football club, which he played for as a teenager in the late 1960s. Sands was a defender for the non-sectarian club before the Troubles tore the team apart.
Lloyd Webber and Elton have always denied this. The germs of the idea, they say, is based in truth, taking a lead from a 1969 Northern Irish football team whose potential was never full realized due to the outbreak of the Troubles.
The Beautiful Game centres around a group of Belfast teenagers, all members of a local soccer team, and their friends, set against the backdrop of the Troubles. According to the press statement, however, the characters are entirely fictional and the setting is not a political statement but rather "a metaphor for conflict across the world."
Lloyd Webber has composed the music for The Beautiful Game with book and lyrics by Elton. Lloyd Webber is well known for his many musicals, including Cats, Starlight Express, Phantom of the Opera and Whistle Down the Wind, all continuing long runs in the West End. Elton started his career as a stand-up comedian but has gone on to great success as a novelist, scriptwriter and playwright. He created the Blackadder television series and his plays include Blast from the Past and the Olivier Award-winning Popcorn, both based on his own comic novels.
The Beautiful Game will be choreographed by Meryl Tankard and directed by Robert Carsen. Tankard was a soloist and guest artist with the Pina Bausch Tanztheater, where she created many roles. She subsequently formed her own dance company in Australia and toured internationally. Carsen is an international opera and theatre director who originally trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
The Beautiful Game will be produced by Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatre Company. Casting details have not yet been confirmed. For further information, contact the Cambridge box office on 011-44-207-494 5080.