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Characters / Phantom of the Paradise

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Character sheet for the film Phantom of the Paradise.

    Winslow Leach / The Phantom
"Never sing my music again! My music is for Phoenix; only she can sing it. Anyone else who tries dies!"
Played by: William Finley

A struggling young musician/songwriter, Winslow is introduced making a futile attempt to advertise his talents by playing at one of Swan's clubs... during the intermission. Doubly unfortunately, Swan overhears him playing, and orders his music stolen so that he can use it to open the Paradise; when Winslow tries to protest this, he's promptly framed for drug dealing and given a life sentence in Sing Sing, where he remains — up until he happens to hear his cantata playing on the radio. Following a rage-fueled escape and a traumatic scarring, Winslow finally makes his way to the Paradise, taking on the identity of the Phantom to take revenge on Swan.

  • Adorkable: Comes across this way with his thick glasses and naïve personality, though early on we also see he has a darker side.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: Winslow loses his right eye in the record-press accident that disfigures him, and the right eye on his Phantom mask is covered with smoked glass while his eye is often pointedly shown through the left eyehole. This is consistent in the movie itself, but promotional materials often show the Phantom glaring at the viewer through the right eye-hole in his mask.
  • And I Must Scream: Swan's would-be fate for Winslow. He bricks Winslow into his tiny basement studio and because Winslow signed the contract and cannot die he would be trapped there forever.
  • Animal Motifs: Winslow Leach's name is ironic considering that the success of the Paradise is dependent on Swan leeching from Leach's work.
    • The Phantom's mask is also reminiscent of a stylized Owl, or similar Bird of Prey, making the Love Triangle very avian themed.
  • Anti-Hero: Unscrupulous, at least once he becomes the Phantom. Quite apart from his various attacks on the Juicy Fruits and Beef, he also garrotes an innocent spotlight operator so that Phoenix will be properly lit.
  • Artistic Stimulation: Swan gets him hooked on all kinds of drugs after they work out their agreement, mainly to make him more compliant and easier to manipulate.
  • Berserk Button: He flies into a rage at even the suggestion that the Juicy Fruits should sing Faust instead of him; he eventually decides that Phoenix is perfect for the role - and escalates to killing anyone who tries to stop her.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Winslow was generally pretty shy and retiring before becoming the Phantom— with the possible exception of his Berserk Button. After his imprisonment and disfiguration, though...
  • Break the Cutie: The music business is so nasty that it turns innocent, wide-eyed Winslow into the murderous Phantom.
  • Cheap Costume: Most of Winslow's costume was stolen from the Paradise's wardrobe.
  • Darth Vader Clone: Despite this movie coming out four years before A New Hope, The Phantom fits this trope perfectly, with black costume, helmet and heavy breathing.
  • Disguised in Drag: In a particularly desperate attempt to interview Swan regarding his music, Winslow dresses up as one of the auditioning actresses and sneaks into Swanage. It doesn't work, and only nets Winslow a thrashing from Swan's bodyguards.
  • Dumb Struck: Due to the injuries to his throat, Winslow can only communicate in short, gasping noises— until Swan fits him with a portable voice synthesizer.
  • Enemy Mine: More than prepared to cooperate with Swan if his music is played to his specifications. Not that Swan's interested in upholding his end of the bargain.
  • Immortality Inducer: His contract and his life will continue for as long as Swan lives.
  • Lovable Nerd: At the beginning of the film, he's a shy and geeky fellow with a gentle voice. Sadly, it doesn't last.
  • Never Found the Body: After tumbling into the river, Winslow is presumed dead, which is why Phoenix doesn't believe he's the phantom.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: His whole motivation towards Swan.
  • Stalker with a Crush: To Phoenix.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: You couldn't blame him for going after Swan.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Starts the movie as a soft-voiced dork and becomes a monstrous looking and sounding murderer and saboteur capable of breaking through a brick wall backed by a steel door.
  • Trauma Conga Line: In the first half-hour of the film alone, he's ripped off by Swan, beaten up by Swan's bodyguards, framed for drug dealing, imprisoned at Sing Sing, where his teeth are pulled and replaced with steel prosthetics. Oh, and his escape ends with his face and vocal chords being crushed by a record press... which was set up to produce his own music. After that, getting shot in the leg and falling into the East River seems positively gentle by comparison.

"You know how I abhor perfection in anyone but myself."
Played by: Paul Williams

Evil CEO and producer of Death Records, Swan is an expert at making hit records and exploiting his musicians for all they're worth. Arrogant, narcissistic, and always looking for a chance to drum up publicity, Swan has recently finished building the monumental Paradise concert hall, and is looking for the right music to open it with.

  • Affably Evil: Swan, fitting his name and role as being the head of a Record Company that destroys everyone it touches.
  • Animal Motifs: Swan is as regal and luxurious as the implicit cultural implications given by his name. As well as resembling an inversion of the ugly duckling tale seeing as he becomes more and more monstrous, from a personality perspective, as the movie goes on. Swans are also known to be much more vicious than their appearance lets on.
  • Been There, Shaped History: The opening narration states that "He brought the blues to England. He brought Liverpool to America. His band, the Juicy Fruits, single-handedly kicked off the nostalgia wave of the Seventies."
  • Beneath the Mask : Swan wears a mask during public appearances, because any recording image will show his true face.
  • Big Fancy House: Swanage.
  • The Caligula: Swan loves making spur-of-the-moment decisions, often having stars hired, fired, reassigned, assassinated or subjected to Fates Worse Than To Death on the briefest of whims.
  • Casting Couch: Swan has orgies with auditioning actresses; however, it seems that the girls don't end up getting hired this way, and are only asked to come back for the sex.
  • Complete Immortality: Is indestructible and immortal as long as he fulfills his contract.
  • Deal with the Devil: Talks both Winslow and Phoenix into accepting these kinds of bargains: Winslow's contract keeps him immortal for as long as Swan lives, so he can continue writing music for Death Records without being put on a suicide watch; Phoenix's contract gives Swan full ownership of her voice upon her demise. It's also revealed that Swan himself accepted a literal deal with the Devil when he was younger, giving up his soul in exchange for eternal youth.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Charming, well-mannered, and repugnant in every sense of the word.
  • Glamour Failure: Swan's eternal youth doesn't extend to photographs and recordings; as a result, he keeps up The Masquerade and his own reputation for mystery by having visiting journalists deprived of their cameras.
  • Immortality Inducer: As long as the tape of his Faustian Bargain remains intact, he cannot die.
  • Lack of Empathy: Swan seems more annoyed than horrified by the Phantom's car bomb, and pays little attention to the screams of people killed or injured in the explosion. Furthermore, he regards the on-stage assassinations of Beef and Phoenix as an ideal means of drumming up publicity.
  • Magically Binding Contract: The contracts that he, Winslow and Phoenix sign.
  • Manipulative Bastard: He lays the charm on thick and heavy to get the Phantom and Phoenix on his side, but he's just using them for his own selfish aims.
  • Soul Jar: The original film recording of his Deal with the Devil, which secures his immortality.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: To the extent that prisons accept his funding for allegedly charitable projects.
  • Villainous Breakdown: When Winslow destroys the film, he loses both his charm and his cool, ultimately attempting to murder Phoenix on stage.
  • Vocal Dissonance: On tape, Swan's normally mellifluous voice sounds warped and aged- an early hint as to his true nature.

"I'll do anything you want; I owe you everything. Just give me that crowd again."
Played by: Jessica Harper

A young singer with hopes of becoming a star. Prior to his imprisonment, Winslow met her at the auditions for Faust and realized she would be perfect for the lead in his cantata- ultimately going so far as to kill anybody who opposed her rise to stardom. Unfortunately Swan, despising her perfection, has her demoted to back up singer. However, she finally gets her chance to sing after Beef dies... and finds that she's prepared to do anything to earn the crowd's applause once again.

  • Animal Motifs: Phoenix's name highlights her character arc. This comes to the fore with Beef being burnt to a crisp before she symbolically rises from the ashes of his failure. She's also the only named character who survives, mirroring the phoenix's status as immortal.
  • Aside Glance: While singing "Special To Me", Phoenix repeatedly stares into the camera, holding her gaze even when turning away. One almost gets the feeling she's flirting with it.
  • Casting Couch: Phoenix refuses to take part in Swan's audition orgies, which gets her thrown out.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Once he realises her potential, Swan gleefully seduces her in the hope of taking her voice for his own.
  • The Ingenue : The character doesn't have much agency, only her desire to sing and her role as a motivator for Winslow.
  • Naïve Everygirl: Generally doesn't seem to be too savvy about how the music business works. She's totally shocked to learn that she's expected to submit to Casting Couch tactics, compared to other auditionees, who know the drill and are jaded about the whole process.
  • Nice Hat: Her fedora in the audition scene (which was a hat actually owned by Jessica Harper).
  • The Smurfette Principle: The only female protagonist in the film.

"I have been in this business a long time, and if I don't wanna do the show it's not because I've got stage fright. It's cause some creature from beyond doesn't want me to do the show!"
Played by: Gerrit Graham, Raymond Louis Kennedy (singing voice)

A musician brought in to sing Winslow's cantata, after Phoenix was deemed "too perfect". Like most of Swan's musicians, Beef is hooked on drugs, although it seems that this time they didn't have to get him addicted themselves. He is narcissistic, superstitious and has the ability to turn either his manliness or girliness Up to Eleven at will.

  • Ambiguously Bi : While his flamboyant manner, queeny speaking voice and flirtation (with Philbin, of all people) assert him as firmly gay, he also pinches the butt of the dancing girl onstage (although that might have been a part of the performance).
  • Animal Motifs: Beef's name stands out among these; he's the only one named after a dead animal and the first one to die.
  • Artistic Stimulation: Takes basically any substance you can name. His first instinct when he gets scared is to snort huge amounts of cocaine.
  • Bury Your Gays : Has the most spectacular death in the film.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: First time we see him he is wearing practicly pure sparkles, and then during "Life At Last" he has a silver rhinestone belt and is covered in gold flakes.
    • His makeup is also pretty sparkly at times.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: His debut show in The Paradise has The Juicy Fruits pretending to collect body parts from the crowd and building Beef in this way.
  • Functional Addict: A speed freak. Has a memorable line when being gaslighted.
  • Gold Makes Everything Shiny: His gold jacket, matching pants and matching shoes.
  • Macho Camp: When he wants to be.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Beef attempts to ditch the show after Winslow threatens to kill him if he performs, which ended up avoided thanks to Philbin.
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: Beef's deep rough singing voice is very different from his effeminate speaking voice.
  • Singing in the Shower: Winslow stalks Beef while the latter is in the washroom, singing one of his songs.

    The Juicy Fruits / The Beach Bums / The Undeads
"I've gotta get out of here!"
Played by: Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor and Peter Elbling

Swan's band, answering to the names of Archie, Jeffrey and Harold. Swan constantly reforms their band's look and name to match current trends, reusing them as leads and backup singers wherever necessary - partly to save money, but mainly to capitalize on their sheer malleability, as "Upholstery" demonstrated.

  • Break the Cutie: All, to some degree, but mostly Harold.
  • Butt-Monkey: Out of all the characters, only Winslow outdoes them in terms of sheer bad luck. Not only does Harold end up getting strongarmed by Philbin during "Upholstery," the three of them only narrowly escape death when the Phantom detonates a bomb on the Paradise stage— narrowly, in that Archie's seen wearing a cast on his arm afterwards; then Swan demotes them to backup singers, publicly denouncing them as "a reflection of the past"; then Beef gets murdered right in front of them, causing Archie to faint in terror; finally, Phoenix upstages the entire production, leaving them apparently out of work.
    • After the bomb, in addition to Archie's arm cast, Jeffrey sports a fingersplint and Harold has a neck brace and arm cast.
  • Dope Slap: Harold gets one of these from Archie after trying to leave the "Upholstery" dress rehearsal.
  • Force Feeding: Harold is force-fed a handful of uppers by Philbin after being caught trying the back out of a rehearsal.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Their makeup as The Undeads is half-way between German Expressionism and Kiss.
  • Metal Scream: During his stint as the leader of the Undeads in "Somebody Super Like You", Harold lets rip a few of these.
  • Minor Character, Major Song: They don't have much do with the story, but sing three songs, including the opening number, "Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye", which lays out the film's themes.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Harold attempts to back out of a rehearsal after sensing something wrong about the performance, though he eventually admits that his nervousness was due to a "ticking" he heard from somewhere nearby.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Their first two bands are built on this.
  • Rock Trio: The specifics of their act change throughout the film, though.
  • Spoken Word in Music: In the Juicy Fruits number "Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye".
  • Surfer Dude: The "Beach Bums" persona.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Each member sings lead on one of their three songs, while the other two provide backup.

"You see Swan sittin' in that box up there? Well he doesn't show it or anything, but right now he's thinking "Why isn't Harold in the car?" Now, if he comes down here, do you really want me to tell him that it's not in the stars for you to ride off the stage in this car, Harold?"
Played by: George Memmoli

Swan's right hand man, Philbin's job encompasses a number of fields, including scounting for talent, managing bands, directing the actors and singers on the Paradise set, and enforcing Swan's orders.

  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Justified; Philbin enforces drug use among Swan's musicians, both to keep them going during long performances, and to keep them from getting too rebellious.
  • Attempted Rape: Philbin to Phoenix during her "audition." Thankfully, she gets away.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Has one of his former students "broken" by Swan— all because she tried to take her career in a different direction. Ironically, Swan considers this treatment practically gentle.
  • The Dragon: Anyone wanting to deal with Swan has to go through Philbin first, and he's also the one Swan sends out to make deals, like with Winslow at the start of the film.
  • Fat Bastard: Rotund, and totally lacking any moral standards, other than doing what Swan wants him to.
  • The Svengali: As Swan's talent scout, he spends a lot of time acting as this kind of mentor to up-and-coming stars. At the beginning of the film, he's introduced by complaining to Swan about how one of these stars has slipped the leash.
    You know, it just seems like yesterday I found Annette in that church choir. I got her singin' lessons, I taught her how to dress, I got her her first club job, and I paid of a columnist— he did a beautiful story on her; I told her who to be nice to, who to fuck, fed her the drugs to get her through the road tours... I made her record a hit! Then I sold her to you; you made her the biggest thing in rock. So now what does she do? She fires us, cancels her Vegas date, and she wants to give free concerts to starving Gook orphans. She was more than a piece to me! She was the light of my life! Now she's gone. Beat We sued her. We couldn't lose, we had her in an ironclad contract; it was a lock, it was over, it was closed. I even bribed the judge! He ruled against us, said we couldn't sign anyone to a life contract. He said we were a disgrace to the profession. A disgrace, he said! I was the one who made her the money-grubbing whore that she was, and he calls me a disgrace!


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