Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 12:56 GMT
Phantom campaign for Crawford
Michael Crawford: The original star of Phantom of the Opera
Michael Crawford, who starred in Phantom of the Opera to great critical acclaim is set to lose the film role to another actor - although not if his supporters have anything to do with it.
A group calling itself the Michael Crawford Phantom Movie Campaign has taken out a two-page advertisement in the film industry newspaper Daily Variety urging the stage musical's creator Lord Lloyd Webber to cast the versatile British star in the film version of the musical.
Spanish actor Antonio Banderas has been hotly tipped for the film role. He even gave his preparation for the role as the reason for pulling out of a film about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, last summer.
Banderas cut his musical teeth in the Hollywood version of Evita, which also spurned the British singer Elaine Paige in the main role in favour of the bigger box office draw of Madonna.
Julie Andrews lost out to Audrey Hepburn in the 1964 film version of My Fair Lady, despite Andrews' Broadway success in the role and Hepburn's lack of vocal ability.
The advertisement supporting Crawford stresses that the actor's 1,300 stage performances in the role have taken $80m at theatre box offices and urges Lord Lloyd Webber to "show the courage of your original conviction" by casting Crawford".
It reads: "Phantom is poised potentially to make or break the musical film genre. Will you take it to new heights or bury it?"
But a spokeswoman for Warner Bros, which owns the film rights, has denied that any stars have yet been hired and said the film is "still in development".
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