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Sunday, 8 December, 2002, 17:30 GMT
Gere lauds fun Chicago
Renee Zellweger
The musical was written in the 1920s

Richard Gere is being tipped for an Oscar nomination for his turn in the film version of the hit musical Chicago, but despite the critical acclaim he has revealed that he almost turned down the chance to star in the movie.

Gere, best known for his roles in An Officer And A Gentleman, Internal Affairs and Pretty Woman, admitted he was reluctant to return to the genre, despite having begun his acting career in Broadway musicals.


There have been a lot of very good screen musicals, and also a lot of dreadful ones

Director Rob Marshall
"I wasn't that taken with the stage production of Chicago that I saw," he said, "but my agent was really pushing it."

"I had just done Unfaithful, which was a very serious film, and I thought at least with this role I get the chance to have some fun."

In the film, Gere plays charismatic lawyer Billy Flynn, who turns murderesses Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) into media celebrities in 1920s Chicago.

'Agreed'

Not only does he get to sing some glitzy showstoppers, but also show off his newly-acquired tap-dancing skills.
Richard Gere
Richard Gere was dubious about the role

"I thought, 'Is the film's director, Rob Marshall, going to get me to sing?' I wasn't going to audition for him and eventually I agreed but I said to him, 'OK, but I don't tap dance," Gere said.

"But we had this great teacher who took really good care of us."

The project has taken a long time to reach the screen, originating as a play written in 1926 by journalist Maureen Watkins, and made into a film in 1942 starring Ginger Rogers.

The stage version made its debut in 1975, and has more recently been revived on Broadway and in London, with the likes of Denise Van Outen, Claire Sweeney, Marti Pellow and EastEnders' Michael Greco playing the leads.

A film version has been in the pipeline for years, and was once set to be directed by Nicholas Hytner, with Madonna, Goldie Hawn and Charlize Theron among those tipped to star.

Catherine Zeta Jones
Zeta Jones started her career as a singer and dancer
Instead Broadway veteran Rob Marshall has made his directorial debut on the film and in his version the musical numbers, which play out as figments of Roxie's imagination, remain very much stage-bound.

"This show was created specifically for the theatre, all the songs are presentational, and I wanted the film to reflect that," he said.

"There have been a lot of very good screen musicals, and also a lot of dreadful ones, so it was a high-risk venture for Miramax (who made the film). The project scared them but at the same time they were also quite excited about it."

Chicago received its UK premiere on Sunday and opens in London on 26 December (nationwide 17 January).

See also:

30 Apr 02 | Entertainment
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