Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Phantom of the Opera (2014)? Yeah right!

I found this link on a couple of Phantom fan websites I frequently visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Phantom_of_the_Opera_(adaptations). Basically, someone has put this sentence in the list of Phantom adaptations and it's raised a few eyebrows:

[[Universal Studios}} Steven Spielberg Phantom of the Opera, starring Tom Cruise (December,2014

Ha! I don't believe this for one minute! It's clearly been written by some internet troll who's just trying to wind the fans up, or alternatively it's been written by someone with a serious case of wishful thinking. It's Wikipedia! I love it and it's great for wasting time but anyone can edit the pages and put stuff in. The whole thing is clearly a hoax.

It did get me thinking though because I would love it if a great Phantom adaptation came out. Steven Spielberg wouldn't be the first name to come into my head if someone asked me who I'd like to direct a Phantom film but he is a terrific director and I'm sure he could do a great job. Tom Cruise on the other hand... See, I do actually quite like Tom Cruise as an actor. I think it's kind of a shame that he's probably more well-known for his love life and for following the Scientology cult these days because he's consistently proven that he can act. He was excellent in Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July, Magnolia, Minority Report, Jerry Maguire, The Last Samurai and Tropic Thunder; and he gave a pitch-perfect portrayal of Lestat in Interview with the Vampire. It wouldn't surprise me if someone asked him to do another musical again either. Sure Rock of Ages flopped but his singing in that film is quite impressive for someone who's never sang professionally or had any kind of training before. So, yeah, I think Tom Cruise is talented. But Tom Cruise as Erik? No freaking way! He'd be completely wrong for the role. It's really not suited to him at all! He's just too... American. And he's too short. And he hasn't got the right voice for it either. Erik should have a very beautiful, gentle, seductive yet slightly creepy, theatrical sort of voice. And would Cruise be able to pull off a French or British accent? I'm not going to get worked up about this because I'm sure it's a hoax but casting Tom Cruise as Erik/the Phantom would be like casting Leonardo DiCaprio or Matt Damon or George Clooney as Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, or Russell Crowe as Count Dracula. The latter is actually a genuine rumour that's going around! Don't get me wrong, these men are all talented actors but they just wouldn't be suited to these particular roles.

Because Erik is such a theatrical, over-the-top sort of character when I think of actors who could do a great job playing him I think of those classic horror actors from the past like Vincent Price, or contemporary classically-trained actors with stage experience - like Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch or Michael Fassbender. Although they're all very attractive with some excellent make-up I think they could be amazing Eriks! Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch are both classically-trained, have both done period dramas, have both done Shakespeare and theatre, and are both very talented actors. Either of these two would be my top choices. I don't think Michael Fassbender has classical training or much stage experience but he was awesome in X Men: First Class and Jane Eyre, and even though Prometheus got mixed reviews all the film critics seemed to think he was great in it and one of the best things about it. All three of these men have great voices too : )

Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston

Tom Hiddleston as Cassio in Othello

Benedict Cumberbatch

Michael Fassbender as Rochester in Jane Eyre
Ooh, I think Richard Armitage has the potential to make a great Erik as well. He's done period dramas, he's done Shakespeare and theatre in the past, and after seeing him in North and South and as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood I think he could definitely handle the brooding, mentally unstable side of Erik's character. Another bonus is that he can actually sing and has a great classically-trained voice. He wouldn't need to be dubbed.

Leaving aside my suggestions, any actor who plays Erik has to have a great speaking voice. It would be nice if they had a great singing voice as well but dubbing is fine. They must be tall, not ridiculously tall but tall enough so that they're imposing and have a physical presence. You have to believe that they could be dangerous and capable of violence. Another important factor is they have to be able to act insane. They have to be menacing, they have to be creepy, they have to pull off maniacal laughter. Finally, and this is really important, they have to be able to move the audience. They have to be able to cry and show genuine anguish and emotion. And not just a few tears in their eyes either, they need to do full-on hysterical sobbing!

I know a lot of people are really keen for the Susan Kay Phantom novel to be adapted and I believe Spielberg's production company does actually own the rights to it but I would much rather have a Leroux-based adaptation. I just don't understand the insane amount of love for Kay's book. Yes, the first half is decent and I actually quite like the Rome and Persia sections but everything from when Erik moves into the opera house is just massively disappointing. It's off-canon, Kay completely butchers Christine's character, and the ending is like some 14 year old fangirl's first terrible attempt at fanfiction. I wouldn't be as opposed to a Kay adaptation if it actually ended at the point where Leroux's book begins and was just a prequel to that book but, again, I'd rather have a Leroux-based adaptation. A Kay version would be harder to pull off too because there's a huge amount of settings and Erik ages. You'd need to find at least 2-3 different actors to play the character and you'd need a really good child actor to play Young Erik!

Also, I would definitely rather have a TV adaptation of Leroux's book rather than a film adaptation because listening to the Big Finish radio play adaptation of Leroux's book - which was commissioned by the BBC - has really made me want the BBC to tackle the story and turn into a TV drama. The BBC are usually really good at turning novels into TV dramas and I really think they should do Phantom of the Opera at some point. I'd want it to be filmed on location in Paris and I'd prefer it if they did it as a straightforward period drama but having said that even a modern-day update of the story by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss could be potentially excellent. I'm a huge fan of everything they've done together: Jekyll, Doctor Who, Sherlock. I'd love it if if one of the potential Eriks I mentioned above was cast but I'm not too sure which other actors I'd like to be cast. I think Romola Garai could have made a great Christine about five or six years ago. She's beautiful, she's talented, she's blonde, she's practically the princess of period dramas. At 30 she'd be too old to play the character now though. Christine Daae is supposed to be a very young and innocent girl so an actress playing her would really need to be in her late teens, or in her early twenties at the most. I think it would be best if an unknown actress played her character. I'd like Christine to be blonde too. I don't care if the actress is a natural blonde or not, they can always use a wig. In the vast majority of Phantom adaptations Christine's character is a brunette. The only versions in which I've seen a blonde Christine are the Claude Rains and Charles Dance versions. I think this is probably due to how blondes are stereotyped in this day and age. In 1911, when Gaston Leroux's book was first published, blonde hair was still associated with virtue and purity but now it's associated with the exact opposite. In our time blonde hair is associated with stupidity and sluttishness. I guess film-makers think that by having Christine as a blonde we'll see her as just some dumb blonde girl. Well, someone needs to buck this trend! I have no suggestions for Raoul so I think I'd prefer to see an unknown actor play him. One actor that I would like to see in a Phantom film is Ramin Karimloo starring as The Persian. I really liked Alexander Siddig's Persian in the Big Finish version but someone online suggested that Ramin Karimloo could play the character and I really like that idea. Karimloo lives in Britain and was brought up in Canada but he is actually Persian-born. And his acting is great on the 25th anniversary concert and I definitely think he could do a non-singing role. Actually he has done a couple of non-singing roles. I know he's got a role in some short, indie film called The Rain - which I think comes out in November - and he played a Scientologist in some Ricky Gervais show. Ah well, this is all very unlikely to happen but it's fun to imagine!

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