Auditions and Casting
Relationships on the Set
Actors on Their Roles
Applause and Awards
MOULIN ROUGE (2001)
Set in 1899, "Moulin Rouge" is an exuberant musical that tells the story of Christian (Ewan McGregor), a penniless young writer who falls in love with Satine (Nicole Kidman), the most famous courtesan of a Paris gentleman's club. Although Satine has taught herself never to fall in love, she opens her heart to Christian as they prepare to put on a theatrical production for the Moulin Rouge. However, Satine is pursued relentlessly by a wealthy Duke, whose financial support of the Moulin Rouge depends upon her submission. This is a beautiful love story with stirring musical numbers, stellar performances, and a dramatic storyline that lifts the spirit and touches the soul deeply. An outstanding visual masterpiece!
This film is rated PG-13 for sexual content.
Auditions and Casting
Nicole Kidman's real-life experience on the stage helped her land the
role of Satine. She recalls: "Baz [Luhrmann] came and saw me in 'The Blue Room' in New York and sent me a
dozen red roses
and on the card he said, "She sings, she dances"... After the
performance [he] said, 'Call me, I think I have a great character for you.'
... And he said, 'Please meet me!' And so I thought, 'When a man sends you 12 red roses, what are you going to do?' ...So I called him and I
auditioned and he said, 'You've got to come and sing for me.'"
Kidman continues: "So I met him and he showed me this incredible book of all the photographs and sketches and ideas that he had for the film, but there was no script. They were still writing it,
but I was in from that point on. I mean, I auditioned for it and had to sing and do all these crazy, weird things that Baz makes you do.
... And then I went and sang for him, which was terrifying. There was no script, he just gives you an idea."
Kidman adds that Luhrmann "didn't need to sell [her the script] that much! As an actor, I've known him, because we've both come from
Australia, and I've seen his work from stage productions through to his films 'Strictly Ballroom' and 'Romeo + Juliet.'"
Luhrmann auditioned a large number of actors for the movie. Catherine Zeta-Jones was a close contender for Kidman's role.
Luhrmann originally considered actor Heath Ledger for the role of Christian. The director still has the footage of
Ledger and Kidman in their audition together. Although Lurhman was eager to use Ledger and have an all-Australian cast,
in the end he decided Ledger was just too young: "Before I knew that Ewan could sing, Heath was so very close to getting it.
I've got these fabulous scenes on tape of Heath and Nicole Kidman rolling around on the floor in New York. I think the
rest of the world is pretty much onto Heath by now, but this was three years ago when he had done just about nothing.
He's got this incredibly paradoxical mixture of being a boy and a man. But in the end, he was only 19."
"Moulin Rouge" gave actress Nicole Kidman her first chance to sing for a movie. Kidman
remarks on preparing to sing for the musical: "When I was seventeen, I was in a band in Australia, on weekends, and we didn’t do so well! My mother started me singing when I was
little, just around the piano with carols and hymns and stuff, and she’d say, 'I wish you’d do a musical.' So this is the first time I’ve ever sung on film and
singing in front of people is far harder than acting in front of people. Singing the love songs helps though, because viscerally it is so immediate. I use
music as an actor. In my trailer I listen to songs to get in the right mood for a scene or sometimes I’ll ask the director to play certain jazz or classical music
depending on what is right for the character. This was about using the music in the scene and singing and acting. For this, I learned to read music and
did scales and then threw it out of the window because Baz said, ‘no, I want it to come from your heart.'"
To prepare for her role, director Baz Luhrmann had Kidman watch old-time musicals: "Baz made me watch all the great musicals,
studying Rita Hayworth and Marilyn and Cyd Charisse and Ginger and Marlene, and I have the utmost respect for them all now. I used to love
Katharine Hepburn but now although I still do, my hat goes off to these other women who could sing and dance and act -- they were phenomenal. It
also opened up a whole new door for me because before, my parents liked musicals and I thought, ‘oh yeah, right’ but now I’ve watched a lot and I
appreciate the talent it takes to make a great musical. I love them now."
In addition, Kidman had to take workshops on music and dance on and off for a year:
"We have a dance teacher, Mr. Cha-cha! I did ballet as a kid, so I had that under my belt, but there was a lot of different, other stuff that
we had to learn. It's been fun. It's been a lot of work."
Kidman and co-star Ewan McGregor had to rehearse singing and dancing together, as Kidman recalls: "I flew back a month early and
we’d have dance lessons each day, Ewan and me doing salsa or mambo, and then we’d go to our singing class and then our two hours with Baz
doing improv so it was like being at drama school! You have to give Baz six months prior to shooting, where he will not let you work for anyone else,
and I was also determined to do my own dancing and trapeze stuff because I didn’t want anyone doing my stunts. At one point I was 70 feet up in the
air on a trapeze for two days singing to men in top hats below and that was cool! But I called up Baz prior to starting and said, ‘I think you are
going to have to recast, you’ve made a big mistake, there is no way my voice will be ready so I can pull this off’. But he said, ‘I know you can do it’
and if he hadn’t pushed me forward, I would have pulled out."
Recalling the preparations for the musical, McGregor remarks: "When I went to Australia, we did an initial
two-week workshop and then I went back for four months of rehearsals." The work was carried out at Luhrmann's
magnificent villa in Sydney: "It's a huge house. There would be the wardrobe department and design department
downstairs and we were upstairs singing at 4 p.m., then off to dance at 5 p.m. and then rehearsing at 7 p.m. It was like being back at drama school."
Andrew Ross, who coached both Kidman and McGregor in voice, says of McGregor: "He said he'd love to record an album.
He loves singing -- it's as big a part of Ewan as acting is." Ross believes that McGregor has what it takes to be "the next David Bowie...
Ewan walked in the door, and it was like there was a sign above his head saying, 'Rock [icon]! ...And as soon as he opened his mouth,
he just blew me away...He's capable of doing extraordinary things with his voice...
He loves traditional Scottish folk music, but he could do anything - a rock album, a pop album. Knowing Ewan, and his inventive persona, he
could create a completely new breed of music."
Luhrmann agrees, musing that McGregor "could be the Frank Sinatra of this new period."
Rock star Elton John "had to approve the song ['Your Song'] for Ewan. He said, 'Oh... he's a real singer!'"
On the time-consuming shoot, Kidman remarks: "As Baz says, when you’re an actor it’s like being in a circus in a weird way, particularly
making 'Moulin Rouge.' We’d work weird hours so I’d have the kids out there all the time and all my family. I took it for granted, like it was normal, and
then my father was in the trailer once and said, ‘this is weird’ when he saw me in these glamorous costumes cooking tuna melt for my kids! That’s
the thing about being a working mother though. Luckily I have two kids who are very tolerant. They would love to come on the set because it was such a
spectacle for them and Isabella knows all the songs. It’ll be great for them to look back in about ten years time and have those memories, I think."
In addition, Kidman suffered two broken ribs and an injured knee during the shoot. As for the broken rib, Kidman recalls:
"I had never broken a bone before, so it was sort of a shock. I was doing lifts. I do a lot of lifts in the movie, ballet lifts and stuff, and doing it over and over again over a
period of a couple of months... I was being thrown and caught around here. And being caught there over and over again... There's another whole sequence that I do with a
whole bunch of dancers and I think it was just over a period of time... I had the ribs and the knee happen
at different times, thank God! They waited for my ribs to heal but with my knee, I had to just keep shooting because George Lucas was waiting, and
that was tough. 'Star Wars' was moving into our studio so they were kicking us out. I felt like one of those athletes training for the Olympics, knowing
I would have to push through. It was like being a footballer."
During the shoot, McGregor discovered his artistic side and, like his character Christian, turned his hand to writing:
"I had a typewriter in my trailer, so I wrote a lot of nonsense...But I do write a wee bit of poetry now and then...
My poems are in a book in my house. And there they will remain."
Mention of Australia rekindles happy memories for McGregor, who says he had a "fabulous time" making the musical:
"The challenge was to do a full-on musical like they used to do in the Forties and Fifties, and yes, I sing and
dance in the film. I just love it. I play a penniless poet who leaves England during the industrial revolution to become a
Bohemian in Paris around the time of Toulous Lautrec..."
The soundstage for "Moulin Rouge" was used for "Star Wars: Episode II," and Lurhmann's crew barely finished the shoot when
George Lucas' crew came in. McGregor, who stars in both movies, admits he was devastated when the "Star Wars" crew simply
swept away the nightclub settings from "Moulin Rouge" to make way for its own sets on the same Sydney, Australia soundstage:
"It was awful. I resent 'Star Wars' for that. The set could have been put up somewhere else and used as a club or
something. It was that fabulous."
Relationships On and Off the Set
Of her co-star, Ewan McGregor, Kidman has nothing but praise. In addition,
she muses: "He'll end up with a Top 10 hit, believe me. I can actually see him giving up acting and becoming a rock star. He's totally,
completely suited to it, so don't be surprised if he does."
On working with director Baz Luhrmann, Kidman remarks: "I flourish with people like that.
I don't work well with people that are more, 'Weeell, we'll see what happens.' I love it when people are so obsessed with what they're doing, and
Baz is obsessed."
Having worked with Luhrmann before in "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet," actor John Leguizamo remarks of the intense
director: "It makes a big difference working with a director the second time. It's nice to be asked back to the party! Baz is extremely inventive,
extremely collaborative, so confident in his ability; there is no insecurity, which allows for total freedom. A lot of directors get insecure of you make
suggestions and that make the actors insecure. But Baz was an actor once and knows how to really talk to actors, he really knows how to make a scene
work and to push people's buttons, and how to move the camera and make a scene really exciting. He's on top of both those things, and he's an auteur,
like Spike Lee. They create their own vision."
McGregor calls John Leguizamo "a fantastic actor."
The Actors on Their Roles
On Satine, Nicole Kidman remarks: "She is a high-class prostitute, ultimately. I love the arc of
someone who has lived a life but has never fallen in love. I think that is a very interesting arc because with Ewan’s character you have an idealist who
has never been in love and desperately wants to be and with her you have someone who has seen it all and done it all and says 'No, I can’t fall in love.'
I saw her as very tragic, a kept woman in a gilded cage. There’s something very beautiful about playing that in a tragic love story. Of course, I’d
love to do a love story in which I get to live but the classic arc of the woman who finally gets to meet the person she’s waited for her whole life but
she’s dying at the same time, it’s the classic combination and a great arc for an actress to play."
On the story of "Moulin Rouge", Kidman was
"so glad because I’ve never made a love story before and I’ve made one that I’m really proud of. The message of the film is that no matter what your
experience is, no matter what your past, no matter what goes on in your life, there is always the hope of falling in love if you stay open to that. I’m still a
romantic and a great believer, I suppose, in destiny and that there is a soul mate out there for every one of us. I’m determined to keep believing. I love
the message of the film, which is that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
Kidman adds: "I think Baz actually describes it best, obviously, because he conceived it. It's a musical, but it mixes all the different eras...
Yeah, we're certainly not saying, 'OK, we are making a period drama here.' I mean, we're taking all sorts of things and playing with them and twisting them.
We're not saying, 'Well, they didn't move like that then.' I'm doing things in a corset that no woman would ever have done in the 1890s! ... [I]t's a love story. I really see it as a celebration of love, which sounds really corny! But somehow, because of Baz's sense of humor,
he's able to balance it all and we just ha[d] so much fun doing it!"
In another interview, Kidman remarks: "I think the 'Moulin Rouge' represents a world in which Christian, which is played by
Ewan McGregor, comes to discover. He wants to be a bohemian, he wants to discover life. And so it represents the underworld. He comes into
this world and gets absorbed into its crazy, wild, fantastical atmosphere. And he meets this girl, who is a courtesan, and falls in love with her and
convinces her that it's all right to fall in love with him."
To prepare for his role as painter Toulouse Lautrec, John Leguizamo
studied about the artist's life: "I've read a lot of biographies of Lautrec…he was the product of first cousins and very wealthy, but he had a lot
defects, so his parents stopped having children after him. He was born a dwarf with an enlarged tongue, so spoke with a lisp, he drooled a lot, he had big sinus
problems and he was a decadent little man who loved attention. He loved to be noticed. He found a way through partying; he loved to drink and he
drank himself to death. He died of syphilis and absinthe poisoning."
Applause, Awards and Aftermath
Shortly before the Cannes premiere, Nicole Kidman's separation from then-husband Tom Cruise became public.
As a result, Kidman recalls that attending the "Moulin Rouge" premieres and publicity events became
somewhat stressful: "My hands [were] shaking and I [was] nervous. I’ve always been a
very cards-on-the-table person and I’m used to being able to talk about all parts of my life very openly and freely,
but I suppose it is about ‘The Show Must Go On’, and it’s about being professional and supporting Baz and the film.
And I’m glad it’s a film I [was] excited about. I [was] excited to go to Cannes and sit and talk about this film but it’s
strange because it [was] the best and worst time in my life coming together."
Behind the Scenes and Candid Photos
Premiere and Awards Photos
1. Bob Goen, Interview with Nicole Kidman, Entertainment Tonight (April 23, 2001); "Talk Wide Open: Interview with Nicole Kidman," Urban Cinefile (May 10, 2001) (hereinafter "Urban Cinefile").
2. Goen, supra.
4. Stephen Rebello, "All That Baz," Movieline (July 2001).
5. Urban Cinefile, supra.
7. Goen, supra.
8. Urban Cinefile, supra.
9. Film Review (November 2000) (hereinafter "Film Review").
10. Megan Turner and Caroline Peal, "Ewan Rocks in 'Rouge'," New York Post (May 31, 2001).
12. Urban Cinefile, supra.
14. The Daily Record quoted in Ananova (May 2, 2001).
15. Film Review, supra.
16. Jeff Jensen, "First Tango in Paris," Entertainment Weekly (May 25, 2001).
17. Guardian Unlimited (November 28, 2000).
18. Urban Cinefile, supra.
20. Film Review, supra.
21. Urban Cinefile, supra.
23. Goen, supra.
25. Urban Cinefile, supra.