Cast & Crew
On a January night in 1920s Chicago, Velma Kelly is arrested at the Onyx Club for murdering her husband and dancing-partner sister, who were having an affair. That same night, aspiring performer Roxie Hart begins an affair with furniture salesman Fred Casely, after Fred promises to introduce her to the club's manager. A month later, Fred has had enough of Roxie and callously tells her he does not know the manager, she has no talent and they are through. When Roxie loudly protests, Fred pushes and threatens her, prompting her to grab a gun and shoot him three times. By the time the police arrive, Roxie has convinced her gullible husband Amos that the dead man was an intruder. Amos tells the police that he arrived home from his job at a garage and shot a burglar to protect his sleeping wife. However, when Amos learns that the dead man is Fred, who sold them their furniture, he knows Roxie has lied and lashes out at her, revealing everything. The police immediately arrest the defiant Roxie, and as she is taken away, Assistant District Attorney Harrison tells her that she has committed a hanging offense. Now frightened, Roxie is taken to the women's prison where she is held on "murderesses' row" with several other women accused of killing their lovers or husbands. Roxie's spirits are temporarily revived by meeting the shrewish Velma, but she quickly learns that life in jail will be miserable unless she has money to bribe the prison matron, Mama Morton. Roxie learns how to advance herself, and although Velma remains hostile, Mama advises that she could use all of the publicity she has gotten not only to win her case, but fulfill her dream of going on the stage. For one hundred dollars, Mama says she will call criminal lawyer Billy Flynn, who has never lost a case. The still-loyal Amos goes to see Billy in his swank office, but has to admit that he can only raise $2,000 of Billy's $5,000 fee. The high-living, greedy Billy initially refuses, then decides to take the case anyway, figuring he can raise the rest by auctioning off Roxie's personal belongings through an intense publicity campaign. Velma is incensed that Billy, who is also her lawyer, would take the case and disgusted when she sees the change in Roxie that Billy has effected. Following Roxie's arraignment, Billy tells eager reporters at a press conference on the courthouse steps, that Roxie, who now sports marcelled, light blonde hair, admits to shooting Fred, but it was self-defense: they both reached for the gun at the same time. Giving Roxie a fabricated background as an orphaned Southern belle reared in a convent school, Billy tells the press that her innocence was corrupted in Chicago by a combination of liquor and jazz. He tries to orchestrate Roxie's remarks, but Roxie, who has decided to heed Velma's warning that Billy is only out for himself, blurts out "I bet ya wanta know why I shot the bastard." Reporter Mary Sunshine and the others love the tale that she and Billy concoct, and soon Roxie is headline news, pushing Velma's story to the back pages. Everyone in Chicago seems to be enchanted by the innocent-looking Roxie, and the auction of her belongings brings in enough money to cover Billy's fee and ensure Roxie a comfortable existence in jail. One night, Hawaiian pineapple heiress Kitty Baxter kills her lover and two women when she finds them in bed together. Seeing the press and Billy swarm around the snarling Kitty as she is brought into jail, Roxie feels her fame slipping away and feigns a collapse. When Mary Sunshine and Billy rush to her, Roxie shyly says she hopes the fall did not hurt "the baby." Now a media darling again, Roxie tells the press that she is now only interested in protecting her unborn child. Velma is enraged by Roxie's publicity, especially as Billy has lost interest in her own case, and complains to Mama, who tells her that she needs to play up to Roxie. Although Velma initially refuses to do that, she soon relents and asks Roxie if she would like to take over her sister's part in her act. No longer impressed by Velma, Roxie coldly turns her down. Preparing for the start of her trial, Roxie objects to the demure-looking dress that Billy wants her to wear in court. The two argue over who is in charge and Roxie fires Billy, confident that her fame will get her acquitted without his help. A short time later, Katalin Hunyak, the only innocent woman on murderesses' row, loses her last conviction appeal and is hanged, the first woman executed in Chicago in forty-seven years. Frightened now, Roxie gets Billy back on her case and promises to do whatever he wants to win. Despite Harrison's best efforts, Billy dazzles the jurors and the judge with his tactics during Roxie's trial. While Roxie sweetly knits baby clothes, Amos takes the stand and admits that he has started divorce proceedings against her because he is not the father of her unborn child. Billy seizes the moment to make the befuddled Amos believe that he is the father, and after testifying, Amos embraces the misty-eyed Roxie and says that he wants to take her back. When Roxie takes the stand, she coyly raises her skirt to the all-male jury and testifies that she killed Fred in self-defense after she tried to break off their affair and he threatened her. Meanwhile, as Velma and Mama listen to Mary Sunshine's radio broadcast of the trial, Velma seethes and Mama says that Roxie has abandoned all of her friends. They both brighten, though, when Mama shows her that she has Roxie's diary in her possession. In court the next day, Velma is called by Harrison as a surprise rebuttal witness. During her testimony, she reads pages from Roxie's diary that state she deliberately shot Fred and would do it again. Now faced with seemingly damning testimony, Billy cross-examines Velma and makes her admit that Harrison got her testimony in exchange for dropping all charges against her. Billy then suggests that Harrison concocted the phony diary pages to falsely convict Roxie. The jury quickly finds Roxie not guilty, but immediately after the verdict is read, shots ring out on the courthouse steps as a woman shoots her attorney dead. The reporters rush away, leaving the perplexed Roxie to ask what went wrong. Billy, who reveals that he arranged for the diary testimony, shrugs and tells her "this is Chicago" before leaving. Once alone with Roxie, Amos asks her to reconcile with him for the sake of the baby, but she turns him down, snarling that there was no baby and with all of her publicity, she will soon be a star. Over the next few weeks, Roxie tries to get a nightclub job but has no luck. After an unsuccessful audition at the Onyx, Velma grudgingly admits to her that she has talent and suggests that they team up because one "jazz killer" is nothing anymore, while the two of them together would be sensational. Roxie is reluctant at first, because she hates Velma, but Velma assures her that there is only one business in which that is not a problem. A short time later, Roxie and Velma are headliners at the Chicago Club, much to the delight of Billy, Mama and everyone else in Chicago.
John C. Reilly
Sean Wayne Doyle
Stacy Clark Baisley
Mary Ann Lamb
Darius De Haas
Gina R. Alfano
Kevin Patrick Allen
R. C. Baral
K. C. Capek
Richard P. Cirincione
Judi Cooper Sealy
J. John Corbett
Karen G. Fairbank Esq.
Robert W. Faison
Bruce [l.] Fowler
Susan Shin George
Best Costume Design
Best Costume Design
Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actress
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
It all began with two sensational real-life murder trials in the Windy City in 1924. Both Beulah May Annan and Belva Gaertner were married women tried for murdering their lovers and acquitted, even though evidence pointed to guilt in each case. The attendant publicity turned the two women into notorious Jazz Age celebrities. Maurine Dallas Watkins, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, covered the notorious trials and their aftermath in a series of sensational columns that inspired her to write the play Chicago. The show made it to Broadway in the 1926-27 season and was chosen by influential critic Burns Mantle as one of the season's Top Ten plays. Watkins would write other plays and eventually become a successful Hollywood screenwriter.
In Watkins' play, Annan became the character Roxie Hart, and Gaertner (who attended the play's opening in Chicago in 1927) was Velma Kelly. The story elements that would become so familiar in the Kander and Ebb musical were already in place in Watkins' original script, beginning with the setup described by the playwright as "A man, a woman, liquor and a gun." The smooth-talking defense lawyer (Billy Flynn in the play) and the media attention that he helped fan into a frenzy were also taken from life. The fictional character of Flynn was considered to be a composite of two actual lawyers, William Scott Stewart and W.W. O'Brien.
Thomas H. Pauly, whose 1997 book Chicago includes not only Watkins' play but her original columns, comments that the play "offers a bracing reminder that lurid crimes were as aggressively commercialized 70 years ago as they are today. Her comic depiction of a woman groping towards liberation and the future foregrounds pressures women still face, but it is downright uncanny in its anticipation of today's news-as-entertainment culture."
The first film version of Chicago was a silent produced by Cecil B. DeMille and directed by Frank Urson, with Phyllis Haver as Roxie Hart, Julia Faye as Velma Kelly, Victor Varconi as Roxie's husband Amos and Robert Edeson as Billy Flynn. Reports of the day had it that DeMille himself directed much of the film (including 11 days of retakes), but theater owner Sid Grauman convinced him that he shouldn't take directorial credit for this story of "loose living" so soon after directing The King of Kings (1927), a film about Christ. This version of Chicago was unavailable for many years but has been restored and seen again in recent times, including on DVD and at a sellout screening in San Francisco in 2006. Reviewing the restored film on Cineaste.com, critic Thomas Doherty called it "the real deal: a shimmering Jazz Age window into the Jazz Age."
Chicago was remade as "Roxie Hart" in 1942, with direction by William A. Wellman and Ginger Rogers in the title role. The emphasis in this case was on comedy, and Roxie is innocent of murder in this version since it's her no-good husband who shoots the guy and lets her take the blame. Adolphe Menjou plays Billy Flynn, and others in the cast include Phil Silvers, William Frawley and Spring Byington. Roxie has jailhouse rivals as in the musical, but none are as formidable as the musical's Velma Kelly.
For some years director/choreographer Bob Fosse and his wife, dancer/singer/actress Gwen Verdon, had wanted to adapt Chicago as a stage musical, and they acquired the rights from author Watkins' estate in 1969. Fosse enlisted the aid of tunesmiths John Kander and Fred Ebb, and together they visualized and constructed the show as a series of vaudeville turns. Each major character would perform in the style of a headliner of the era: Roxie as Helen Morgan, Velma as Texas Guinan, Billy as Ted Lewis, and the prison matron Mama Morton as Sophie Tucker. Standout songs in the Kander/Ebb score include "All That Jazz," "Razzle Dazzle," "My Own Best Friend," "Me and My Baby," "Cell Block Tango," "Mr. Cellophane" and "Nowadays."
The original Broadway production of Chicago, with Fosse directing and choreographing, opened in 1975 at New York's 46th Street Theatre and ran for 936 performances. Verdon was cast as Roxie, with Chita Rivera as Velma, Jerry Orbach as Billy, Mary McCarty as Mama Morton and Barney Martin as Amos. A production in London's West End would follow in 1979 and run for 600 performances. The Broadway edition, judged by some critics to be overly cynical and critical of American culture, was overshadowed by the opening of Michael Bennett's A Chorus Line, which dominated at the box office and the Tony Awards.
Ironically, a re-imagined and streamlined 1996 Broadway revival of Chicago became a huge hit with critics and audiences, arriving during an era in which audiences were more jaded, and social phenomena including the O.J. Simpson trial had made the idea of accused-criminal-as-celebrity more acceptable. The revival continues its run today after having set several records including recovering its initial costs faster than any other musical in history; longest-running musical revival; and more Tony Awards (six) than any other Broadway revival. (South Pacific would break that record with seven wins in 2008.) Among the Chicago Tony wins were those for Best Revival, Best Musical Actress (Bebe Neuwirth as Velma), Best Musical Actor (James Naughton as Billy), Best Direction of a Musical (Walter Bobbie) and Best Choreography (Ann Reinking). Fosse had failed to win the last two awards for the original, but Reinking acknowledged that her choreography for the revival was "in the style of Bob Fosse."
The revised version of Chicago also proved a big winner in London, where it opened in 1997 and played for almost 15 years. Like the Broadway revival, it pulled many well-known celebrities into its cast during the lengthy run. The musical has had 10 major tours in the U.S. alone, with numerous international touring companies. There have been several cast recordings including those from the New York and London productions as well as those featuring Austrian and Dutch casts.
There had been talk of a movie version of Chicago since Liza Minnelli had filled in for an ailing Gwen Verdon in the role of Roxie for six weeks during the Broadway run. By 1977 Minnelli was saying publicly that Chicago would be her next film, with Martin Scorsese or Milos Forman as her preferred director. (Bob Fosse, who had scored such a success as Minnelli's director in 1972's Cabaret, was on record that, after the failure of his 1969 movie of Sweet Charity, he preferred not to direct film versions of musicals he had staged on Broadway.) Goldie Hawn was mentioned as Minnelli's costar, and speculation about this pairing intensified after the two appeared together in the 1980 CBS-TV special Goldie & Liza Together and performed a full-out version of "All That Jazz" as their finale. But nothing materialized for the Hawn/Minnelli combo.
In 1979 Chicago inspired another movie when Bob Fosse made All That Jazz, a fictionalized account of his struggles in bringing the musical to the Broadway stage, which culminated in his suffering a near-fatal heart attack. Fred Ebb has said that, later in life, Fosse reconsidered taking on Chicago as a film project and was at work on a concept when he died of another heart attack in 1987.
Nicholas Hytner and Wendy Wasserstein wrote a screenplay for the proposed film musical, as did Larry Gelbart. But Mirimax, which owned the movie rights, was dissatisfied with every attempt to combine the vaudeville approach of the stage production with the more realistic demands of film. Enter Rob Marshall, then best known as director of an Emmy Award-winning television adaptation of the Broadway musical Annie. Marshall had the idea of presenting the musical numbers of Chicago in a stylized way as they might be imagined in the mind of the character Roxie, and filming the rest of the action in a grittier, more down-to-earth manner. Studio executives bought the concept, and Oscar-winning screenwriter Bill Condon (1998's Gods and Monsters) wrote a new script.
By now, Madonna and Charlize Theron had been mentioned as possible female stars of a screen version, and possibilities for the role of Billy included John Travolta, Kevin Spacey, John Cusack, Steve Martin and Hugh Jackman.
When the film was finally cast, performers not primarily known for work in musicals were chosen as its stars, including Renée Zellweger as Roxie, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma, Richard Gere as Billy and John C. Reilly as Amos. Queen Latifah, cast as Mama Morton, was a well-established singer of hip-hop, jazz and blues standards as well as an actress. Also in the cast are Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs, Lucy Liu and, in a cameo as a prostitute, the musical's original Velma, Chita Rivera. The revelation of the group is Zeta-Jones. Drawing upon her musical-comedy roots as a young hoofer in Wales and England, she delivers a sizzling performance that won her an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress (although she is top-billed in the credits).
In addition to the Best Picture award (the first musical winner since 1968's Oliver! in that category), other Oscars went to John Myhre and Gordon Sim for Art Direction; Colleen Atwood for Costume Design; Martin Walsh for Film Editing; and Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella and David Lee for Sound Mixing. Additional nominations went to Zellweger as Best Actress, Reilly as Supporting Actor, Latifah as Supporting Actress, Marshall as Director, Condon for Adapted Screenplay, Dion Beebe for Cinematography and John Kander and Fred Ebb for Best Original Song - "I Move On," a new tune sung over the end credits by Zeta-Jones and Zellweger. The successful soundtrack album for Chicago, which reached No. 2 on Billboard charts, won a 2004 Grammy Award for Best Compilation Album.
Chicago earned a slew of other awards, much critical acclaim and impressive box-office receipts, becoming at that time the highest-grossing live-action film musical with earnings of $306 million worldwide. Its success is considered partly responsible for paving the way for subsequent Broadway-to-Hollywood musical adaptations including Marshall's recent Into the Woods (2014).
By Roger Fristoe
Chicago: The Movie and Lyrics - CHICAGO: The Movie and Lyrics
"I was fifteen when I first saw Chicago on the New York state," writes Oscar®-nominated director Rob Marshall in the book's introduction. "After seeing the performance, I listened to the album over and over and loved this musical more than words can convey. For me, Chicago was Broadway. So it's a dream come true for me that I've come full circle, going from that little kid, the 15-year-old at the stage door, to directing this movie. Please forgive me for believing it's destiny."
With screenwriter Bill Condon's sparking script, highlighted by the lyrics of the Kander & Ebb songs and over 180 photographs, Chicago: The Movie and Lyrics documents the film's production with interviews with the star cast (Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, and others). Special sections on the production highlight the costume design, set production, special effects, and the evolution and choreography of the dance numbers from the stage to the screen.
A special section of the book, "Chicago: Real to Reel," traces the history of Chicago from its real-life origins in the courtroom antics of the jazz murderessess to the original 1920's Broadway comedy and its 1970's incarnation as a highly acclaimed musical, while another provides historical information on vaudeville and its era.
Chicago: The Movie and Lyrics is currently available from most major book store chains and specialty book shops everywhere.
Chicago: The Movie and Lyrics - CHICAGO: The Movie and Lyrics
The film has no opening credits. After the Miramax Films name and logo appears, the next screen is an extreme closeup of Renée Zellweger's eye, which dissolves into the letter C in a marquee lighting rendition of Chicago. The action begins as Taye Diggs, who portrays the "Bandleader," recites the dancer's count "5-6-7-8," a trademark phrase of Bob Fosse, director and choreographer of the successful 1975 Broadway musical play on which the film is based. The dialogue ends as it started, with Diggs repeating "5-6-7-8." The exit music then begins as the title re-appears.
Following the director, screenwriter and producers' credits, the names of the principal cast appear, on individual screens, in the following order: Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Colm Feore, Christine Baranski, Dominic West, Mýa Harrison, Deidre Goodwin, Denise Faye, Ekaterina Chtchelkanova [and] Susan Misner. As the actors' names appear, clips of their scenes from the film are shown. Following a number of additional principal production credits, the cast and character names are presented, listed in order of appearance. The remaining credits roll after the cast.
After the song and soundtrack credits, the following statements appear: "Richard Gere's singing and dancing performed by Richard Gere; Renée Zellweger's singing and dancing performed by Renée Zellweger; Catherine Zeta-Jones' singing and dancing performed by Catherine Zeta-Jones." Danny Elfman is credited onscreen twice, first with "Original score and music by," then again with "Original score and music written and produced by." There is an onscreen dedication in the end credits that reads "Dedicated to Bob Fosse, Gwen Verdon and Robert Fryer." Fosse died in 1987; Verdon, who starred as "Roxie Hart" in her long-time collaborator and ex-husband Fosse's musical, died in 2000 and Fryer, who produced the show on stage, died in 1987. Special thanks are also given to a number of individuals and institutions, including the City of Toronto, where the film was shot. Acknowledgment is also given to F.I.L.M. Archives and Getty Images for stock footage that was used in the black and white montage of Roxie's publicity campaign.
After Chicago's Los Angeles premiere on December 10, 2002, its first public showing took place on 19 December at the Camelot Theater in Palm Springs, CA, as an early "kickoff" event for the January 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. The film opened in limited release in the UK on December 26, 2002, and opened on fifty-five screens in New York, Los Angeles and selected North American cities on December 27, 2002, in order to qualify for Academy Award consideration. The number of screens on which the film was shown increased to seventy-seven on January 3, 2003, with additional screens added on successive Fridays until the picture was released widely throughout North America on 7 February 2003.
Development of the film version of Chicago, which co-starred Chita Rivera (who had a brief role in the film as prison inmate "Nickie") as "Velma Kelly" and Jerry Orbach as "Billy Flynn," began shortly after the opening of the critically and commercially successful Broadway show on June 3, 1975. The following information about the production was obtained from press information, news items in Hollywood trade publications and feature articles in various newspapers and magazines:
The earliest news item found on a possible film adaptation of the musical was September 18, 1975, when Liza Minnelli, who had recently filled in for Verdon in the Broadway production, and had earlier won an Oscar for her performance in the 1972, Fosse-directed adaptation of Cabaret, mentioned in an interview that she would appear in the screen adaptation of Chicago. Other news items in the late 1970s indicated that Shirley MacLaine, who starred in Fosse's first film as a director, the 1969 adaptation of the Broadway musical Sweet Charity, might co-star with Minnelli, and that Martin Scorsese, who had directed Minnelli in the film musical New York, New York in 1977, would direct. Verdon was mentioned in some news items at that time as the possible choreographer of the film.
In 1979, it was announced that Martin Richards, head of Producer Circle Co. was to produce the film, partnered with Allan Carr, who had produced the musical box office hit Grease in 1978. At that time, Broadway and Hollywood writers-composers Betty Comden and Adolph Green were mentioned as possible screenwriters for the film, which would have eight new songs, and was to begin production in January 1980. Throughout 1979, additional news items mentioned that Fryer would co-produce the film version of Chicago on a $10,000,000 budget, along with Richards and his partner, Mary Lea Johnson, and Carr. In 1979, according to George Christy's "The Great Life" column in Hollywood Reporter, Frank Sinatra was named as a possible choice to play Flynn. Several news items in 1979 noted that Minnelli was set to play Velma, co-starring with Goldie Hawn as Roxie. Other actors mentioned in 1979 as potential cast members included Valerie Perrine, Ann Miller and Nancy Walker, in unspecified roles.
In January 1981, a Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Carr had hoped to shoot the film in Chicago, with interiors to be completed in Los Angeles and prison scenes to be shot in Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. According to news articles in 1980 and 1981, at one time, Hawn wanted to produce, or co-produce, the film. A May 7, 1980 Hollywood Reporter news item mentioned that Ralph Burns, who had recently won an Oscar for scoring All That Jazz, was to score Chicago. Other news items in 1982 indicate that Arthur Laurents was to write the script, and that William Friedkin was to direct. Broadway director Nicholas Hytner was mentioned as the director in May 1988. A June 1, 1988 Daily Variety article also noted that Kathy Bates was being sought for the role of "Matron Mama Morton."
Although some news items throughout the 1970s indicated that Fosse had decided not to direct the film adaptation of Chicago, some suggested that he was still considering the project but felt that he did not have the right "hook" for the production. Later feature articles speculated that Fosse gave up in frustration over the lengthy development stage of the project and instead turned his attention to directing the semi-autobiographical All That Jazz. That film, with a title derived from Chicago's most famous song, incorporates backstage scenes of the protagonist, a Fosse-like character, directing and choreographing a Broadway musical suggestive of Chicago.
Although Carr, who died in 1999, was no longer mentioned as affiliated with the production after the mid-1980s, it is unclear at which point he left the project. Miramax head Harvey Weinstein became actively involved as a co-producer with Richards in late 1994, according to contemporary news items. Directors variously reported as being sought for the project throughout the 1990s include Baz Luhrmann, Milo¿ Forman, Alan Parker, David Fincher, Robert Iscove and Sam Mendes. Rob Marshall was signed as the film's director in early 2001. Marshall, who made his feature film debut with Chicago, had previously worked on the stage and had directed the television adaptation of the musical Annie in 1999.
In the mid-1990s, writer Larry Gelbart was hired to write a screenplay for the film, although playwright Wendy Wasserstein was also mentioned in Hollywood trade papers as writing a draft of the script. Several news items and columns, such as Liz Smith's syndicated columns, suggested that Gelbart's screenplay was not considered "hot" enough by Hytner, who was again connected to the project. Although Gelbart disputed the accusations, the adaptation assignment eventually went to Bill Condon, the only screenwriter credited on the film. Gelbart was listed on numerous Hollywood Reporter "in development" and "preproduction" charts and both Gelbart and Wasserstein were listed on the initial Daily Variety production chart, but the extent of their contributions to the completed film has not been determined.
As late as the late-1990s, Hawn, who was still frequently mentioned in connection with the film, was said to be set for the lead. From 1994 through 1999, Madonna was mentioned in many news items and feature articles as being "set" for the project in the role of Velma. A February 2, 1999 Hollywood Reporter "in development" chart listed the film as starring Madonna and Hawn, with a script by Gelbart, and indicated that it was to be shot in London. Various other actresses were mentioned to be wanted for, or under consideration for, starring roles in the film. According to Liz Smith columns in the late 1990s, Barbra Streisand was offered the role of Velma by Weinstein but turned it down. As stated in news items in the late 1990s, 2000 and 2001, a number of other actresses were under consideration for the leads, among them Bette Midler, Nicole Kidman, Toni Collette, Michelle Pfeiffer, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Britney Spears, Charlize Theron, Pam Grier and Bebe Neuwirth, who starred as Velma in the 1996 Broadway revival of the play. According to a September 2002 New York Times feature article on the film, Marshall worked with as many as ten actresses before selecting Zellweger for Roxie in August 2001.
Other casting notices in trade publications included Rosie O'Donnell for the role of Mama Morton, and again mentioned Bates as a contender for the role. Names mentioned in news items for the role of Billy included John Travolta, Robert De Niro, Kevin Spacey, Kevin Kline and Hugh Jackman. Names mentioned for the role of Amos Hart included Joel Grey, who also appeared in the 1996 revival, and Nathan Lane. According to a March 19, 2003 New York Times article, singer Janet Jackson was, at one time, sought to write additional songs for the film.
Rehearsals began for the film in the fall of 2001. According to a January 2003 interview with Marshall printed in the Los Angeles Daily News, the director said that rehearsals lasted for approximately six weeks, after which the cast recorded their songs. Principal photography began in Toronto, Canada on December 12, 2001 [some sources list 10 Dec]. Although the film continued to appear on Hollywood Reporter production charts through late April 2002, Marshall stated in the interview that the film had a sixty-day production schedule. A few exteriors for the film were also shot in Chicago. According to a January 17, 2003 article in Entertainment Weekly, the film's final production cost was $45 million.
In interviews, Marshall and Condon stated that they did not want the film to imitate Fosse's stage production, but wanted to retain its essence while opening it up and modernizing it. The stage production, which was subtitled "A Musical Vaudeville," was characterized by sparse sets and largely black and white costumes, whereas the film has numerous lavish sets and costumes. Most of the film's musical numbers are ironic, fantasy representations of what is happening in the story, or in Roxie's imagination. Many of the juxtapositions of fantasy and reality are cinematic interpretations of Fosse's stage presentation, which used different levels and sections of the proscenium to present opposing dialogue and situations.
Most of the film's numbers are announced by the Bandleader, as if he is introducing a vaudeville act. Shots of an audience, often applauding appreciatively or laughing at what is being presented, are frequently intercut with the musical numbers. The film's songs are also intercut with short scenes and quick shots of what is being said or developed in the main storyline. For example, as the Cell Block Tango number is presented, each of the women on Murderesses' Row sings and dances a description of her crime, with the dancing periodically interrupted by a brief scene of the character in jail, verbally describing what happened.
One of the most unusual numbers juxtaposes shots of Roxie and Billy talking to reporters after her arraignment, with a musical number featuring Billy as a ventriloquist and Roxie as his dummy. As the number develops, Billy is shown as a puppet master, directing the actions of Roxie, "Mary Sunshine" and the other reporters, who are all on strings. The puppet master theme was developed by Marshall for the film.
Another noteworthy number in the film is "Razzle Dazzle" sung by Gere and staged by Marshall, who also choreographed the film, in a circus-like atmosphere. Several feature articles about the film noted that staging of the "Razzle Dazzle" number and the subsequent trial sequence were inspired by the 1995 O. J. Simpson murder trial, in which Simpson's primary attorney, Johnnie Cochran, turned potentially damning evidence against the prosecution to win an acquittal for his client.
Although most of the songs from the Broadway musical were included in the film, a notable exception was the number "Class," sung by Mama Morton and Velma in the Broadway production. The number was shot for the film, but cut from the release after previews. According to an Los Angeles Times article on January 3, 2003, after judging audience reaction to the number, Marshall felt that the lengthy song interfered with the rhythm of the courtroom sequence. However, several reviews mentioned the song as an unfortunate omission. Other songs from the Broadway production not in the film were: "A Little Bit of Good," "My Own Best Friend," "I Know a Girl" and "When Velma Takes the Stand." Another feature of the stage show that was changed for the film was the character of Mary Sunshine. In the Broadway version, near the end of Roxie's trial, Mary Sunshine is revealed to be a man in drag. This does not happen in the film, and some sources have speculated that the filmmakers did not feel it was necessary because exposing a "drag queen" was not as shocking to contemporary audiences as it was in 1975.
The ballad "I Move On" was written especially for the film by John Kander and Fred Ebb. The music for "Tap Dance" was written for the film by Perry Cavari. Two old songs credited onscreen were "Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)" written by Fred Fisher in 1922 and "Raisin' the Roof," written in 1927 with music by Jimmy McHugh and words by Dorothy Fields. "Raisin' the Roof" was heard on a phonograph in the scene when "Fred Casely" is shot. Although "Chicago" was not in the film, melodic phrases from the song May have been incorporated into the soundtrack.
The Maurine Dallas Watkins play Chicago, on which the Broadway musical and subsequent film were based, was inspired by two actual murder trials that took place in 1920s Chicago, while Watkins worked as reporter for the Chicago Tribune, giving a "feminine perspective" to crime stories. According to a January 2003 Chicago Tribune article reprinted in Los Angeles Times, the case of Beulah Annan, who shot her lover, Harry Kelstedt, inspired the Roxie Hart story. Annan had a publicity-loving attorney named W. W. O'Brien and claimed that she and her lover both reached for the gun at the same time. She also (falsely) claimed to have been pregnant. Her headline news trial ended in an acquittal. The other inspiration for Watkins' play was the case of Belva Gaertner, who shot her lover, Walter Law. Gaertner, similar to Velma Kelly in the film, claimed she had consumed too much gin to remember what happened, even though she was found holding the murder weapon and had Law's blood on her clothes.
Watkins' play was the basis of a 1928 silent film entitled Chicago, produced by DeMille Pictures, directed by Frank Urson and starring Phyllis Haver as Roxie, Eugene Pallette as "Fred Casely," May Robson as Mama and Robert Edeson as Flynn. The 1942 Twentieth Century-Fox production of Roxie Hart was also based on the Watkins play. That film was directed by William Wellman and starred Ginger Rogers as Roxie, Adolphe Menjou as Flynn and George Montgomery as "Homer Howard," a character created for the production. In the 1942 film, told in flashback, Roxie does not kill anyone but admits to murder for the publicity. At the end of the film, it is revealed that Roxie married Homer and became a housewife and mother of his six children.
Fosse's original Broadway production of the musical Chicago was revived in 1996, with long-time Fosse collaborator Ann Reinking choreographing the production in Fosse's style and starring as Roxie, along with Neuwirth as Velma, James Naughton as Flynn and Joel Grey as Amos. The Broadway revival spawned a number of road company and foreign productions, including a 1998 London production staged by Mendes, that have run for several years and, according to several articles, helped to spur renewed interest in a film adaptation. Dancers Deidre Goodwin, Denise Faye and Sebastian LaCause also appeared in the 1996 production.
In addition to being selected by AFI as one of the top ten films of 2002, Chicago won six Academy Awards: Best Picture, Supporting Actress, Zeta-Jones; Art Direction, John Myhre and Gordon Sim; Film Editor, Martin Walsh; Costume Design, Colleen Atwood; and Sound, Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella and David Lee. Academy Award nominations also went to Marshall for Direction; Zellweger for Best Actress; Queen Latifah for Best Supporting Actress; Reilly for Best Supporting Actor; Kander and Ebb for Song ("I Move On"), Dion Beebe for Cinematography and Condon for Best Adapted Screenplay. Zeta-Jones won an award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role from BAFTA, and the film won a BAFTA for Achievement in Sound.
The film won three Golden Globe Awards: for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy; Best Actress-Musical or Comedy, Zellweger, and Best Actor-Musical or Comedy, Gere. The film also garnered five additional Golden Globe nominations: for Best Actress-Musical or Comedy, Zeta-Jones; Best Supporting Actress, Queen Latifah; Best Supporting Actor, Reilly; Best Director, Marshall and Best Adapted Screenplay, Condon. Marshall won the DGA award for Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film directing, and the film's producers won the PGA's Darryl Zanuck Producer of the Year Award. The film garnered three SAG awards: Best Ensemble Cast, Best Actress (Zellweger) and Best Supporting Actress (Zeta-Jones). Gere received a nomination from SAG for Best Lead Actor in a Movie, and Queen Latifah was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress award. Chicago was also nominated by The Broadcast Film Critics Association for Best Film and was named as one of the Top Ten Films of 2002 by the New York Times and named Best Film of the year by the New York Film Critics, who also named Marshall Breakthrough Director of the year.
Nominated for the 2002 award for Best Adapted Screenplay by the Writer's Guild of America (WGA).
Voted one of the 10 best films of 2002 by the American Film Institute (AFI).
Winner of the 2002 award for Best Directorial Debut from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.
Winner of the 2002 award for Best Picture by the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association.
Winner of the 2002 award for Best Picture by the Producer's Guild of America (PGA).
Winner of the 2002 award for Excellence in Period/Fantasy Costume Design for Film by the Costume Designers Guild (CDG).
Winner of the 2002 Best Director award by the Director's Guild of America (DGA).
Winner of the 2002 Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature - Comedy or Musical, from the American Cinema Editors (ACE).
Winner of the 2002 Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing for Music in a Musical Feature Film by the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE).
Winner of three 2002 Screen Actor's Guild awards (SAG), including Best Actress (Renee Zellweger), Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Zeta Jones), and Best Ensemble Cast. Also nominated for Best Actor (Richard Gere) and Best Supporting Actress (Queen Latifah).
Winner of two 2002 awards by the Broadcast Film Critics Association including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Zeta-Jones).
Winner of two 2002 awards by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Zeta Jones).
Released in United States February 2003
Released in United States May 2002
Released in United States on Video August 19, 2003
Released in United States Winter December 27, 2002
Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (Opening Night) February 6-16, 2003.
Shown at Cannes Film Festival (market) May 15-26, 2002.
Based on the 1975 Kander & Ebb/Bob Fosse Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn had three predecessors: the 1942 film "Roxie Hart," starring Ginger Rogers, a 1927 silent film titled "Chicago" and, finally, the original play by Maurine Dallas Watkins.
Goldie Hawn was previously attached to play the role of Roxie Hart.
Kevin Spacey was previously attached to play the role of Billy Flynn.
Nicholas Hytner was previously attached to direct with a script by Wendy Wasserstein.
Nicole Kidman was previously attached to play the role of Roxie Hart.
Miramax Films optioned the rights to the Kander, Ebb and Fosse musical in 1994 from producer Marty Richards.
Feature directorial debut for stage director Rob Marshall.
Released in United States February 2003 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (Opening Night) February 6-16, 2003.)
Released in United States May 2002 (Shown at Cannes Film Festival (market) May 15-26, 2002.)
Released in United States on Video August 19, 2003
Released in United States Winter December 27, 2002