Rob Marshall was originally considered by Miramax to direct the screen version of the smash Broadway play "Rent". When he arrived for his interview, he told Miramax he wanted to talk about "Chicago" instead and proposed the "musical in Roxie's mind" concept. Miramax loved the idea and put "Rent" on the back burner, finally making Rent three years later.
The 1996 smash Broadway revival renewed interest, and new names became leading candidates for starring roles, including Goldie Hawn and Madonna. Nicholas Hytner was brought in as director, and he had Wendy Wasserstein re-write Larry Gelbart's script. The project again went on hold when Madonna withdrew and Nicole Kidman chose to do Moulin Rouge! instead.
The director wanted Catherine Zeta-Jones to wear her natural long hair in the movie, but she insisted on the short bob. She explained to People magazine that she didn't want her hair to fall over her face and give people a reason to doubt that she did all the dancing herself.
Adapted from a 1975 musical play directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, whose other credits include the films Cabaret, Lenny and All That Jazz. The stage musical "Chicago" premiered at the 46th Street Theatre (now known as the Richard Rodgers Theatre) in New York on May 12, 1975 and ran for 936 performances. Its opening night cast included Jerry Orbach as Billy Flynn, Chita Rivera as Velma Kelly (Rivera later played Roxie Hart in a 1990s London production and also has a bit part in this film), Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart and Barney Martin as Amos Hart. A 1996 Broadway revival of the musical was even more successful and is still running as of this date (Oct. 2008).
The music heard after Roxie faints, and proclaims that she is pregnant, is the music for the number "Me And My Baby", from the stage musical, originally included in the script.
Became Miramax's highest grossing film when its domestic box office hit $171,000,000.
During the song "Cell Block Tango" Hunyak speaks in Hungarian, but the actress is Russian and her accent makes the speech very difficult to understand even for native speakers of Hungarian.
The original production of "Chicago" opened at the 46th Street Theater on June 3, 1975, ran for 936 performances and was nominated for the 1976 Tony Awards for the Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score.
Producer Martin Richards approached Catherine Zeta-Jones about appearing in this film version of the play after being wowed by her renditions of carols at a family Christmas party in Bermuda (her and husband Michael Douglas' home). Richards approached her for the role of Roxie Hart but Zeta-Jones, though not familiar at all with the original show, did know that the character of Velma Kelly sang the song "All That Jazz"; she only wanted to play that role because she wanted to sing that song.
The translated speech by Hunyak is: "What am I doing here? They say my famous tenant held down my husband and I chopped his head off. But it's not true. I am innocent. I don't know why Uncle Sam says I did it. I tried to explain at the police station but they didn't understand." The original, in Hungarian: "Mit keresek én itt? Azt mondják, a híres lakóm lefogta a férjem, én meg lecsaptam a fejét. De nem igaz. Én ártatlan vagyok. Nem tudom, miért mondja Uncle Sam, hogy én tettem. Próbáltam a rendõrségen megmagyarázni, de nem értették meg."
Kathy Bates was director Rob Marshall's first choice to play Matron Mama Morton, but she was scheduled to film About Schmidt. Coincidentally, Queen Latifah (who played the role) was nominated for an Oscar for her performance, as was Bates in the same category for the aforementioned film.
Charlize Theron had initially secured the role of Roxie Hart while Nicholas Hytner was attached as director. When Hytner withdrew and Rob Marshall took over, Theron had to audition again and lost the lead to Renée Zellweger.
Richard Gere took tap dance lessons for three months. His tap dance scene was shot in half a day.
All of the musical numbers in the film except Roxie, Mister Cellophane and Razzle Dazzle are introduced by the bandleader (Taye Diggs).
The song "Class" was filmed but not used because it could not fit into the "show-within-Roxie's-mind" concept. It is included as an extra on the DVD release.
When the film rights were originally bought by producer Martin Richards in the 1970s, Bob Fosse was to be involved with the film project, and Goldie Hawn, Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra were announced as the stars; but Fosse's death in 1987 ended that attempt at a film version.
Miramax became involved in a new attempt to film the musical in 1994, and Larry Gelbart was brought in to work on a script, eventually turning out seven drafts while directors Milos Forman, Herbert Ross and Baz Luhrmann turned down the project.
This was the first feature film to have its soundtrack recorded using Sony's Direct Stream Digital process and released on the multi-channel SACD format.
When mama introduces Billy Flynn for the first time, the "All I Care About is Love" dancers slowly appear behind her. There were no CGI effects involved, it was simply a scrim. In fact, the only CGI effects throughout the movie are from "erasing" the harnesses on Christine Baranski (Mary Sunshine) and on some of the reporters during the end of the "We Both Reached for the Gun" number.
The 1996 smash revival of the 1975 musical was one of the very few instances of a Broadway revival that was far more successful than the original. It was still running as of May, 2008. Given the long, difficult history of bringing the show to the screen, many believe that if the Broadway musical had not been so successful in its 1996 revival, the 2002 film would never have been made.
In the scene in prison where Billy Flynn is passing by the bars, Hunyak starts speaking in Hungarian but the final sentence is in Russian. She says, "Help, help me, please."
During the Cell Block Tango, each girl does an imitation of their crime, each in session using a red silk bandanna to imitate where the blood would have been. However, when Hunyak is speaking, she pulls out a white bandanna, not a red one, indicating that, she is, in fact, innocent.
Mandy Moore auditioned for the role of Kitty Baxter but was passed over because the producers felt she was too young.
The musical numbers "My Own Best Friend" and "Me and My Baby" were originally written into the script, but were removed at the last minute. "My Own Best Friend" was to have taken place when Roxie and Velma are put in solitary confinement after getting into a cat fight.
There are several differences between the film and stage versions that presented challenges in bringing the project to the screen. A significant difference is the portrayal of reporter Mary Sunshine (played in the film by Christine Baranski). In the stage version, Mary Sunshine is played by a very convincing female impersonator who appears to be a large, matronly woman. He sings falsetto, and the audience is not aware that he is a man until the second act, after a line to the effect of "Things are not always what they appear to be!" and someone pulls off the wig and dress, revealing the truth about Mary Sunshine.
Named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the "Best 25 Movie Musicals of All Time"
Throughout the movie Billy Flynn calls John C. Reilly's character (Amos) "Andy" - a reference to the radio show "Amos 'n' Andy", which later became a TV series Amos 'n' Andy.
The 1996 stage revival of 'Chicago' has passed its 5500th performance and was the sixth longest running show on Broadway as of January, 2010.
"Lucky Lindy" was a nickname given to Charles Lindbergh.
Rob Marshall had previously been hired by the producers to direct the TV version (Annie (1999) (TV)) of the play "Annie"; he had not wanted to direct that earlier film, preferring only to do choreography, but was persuaded to do both. That film's success resulted in his getting the job to direct this film.
A long battle took place between the agents of Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones over billing on the movie poster. In the end, "diagonal billing" was settled upon - as depending on which way you read it (top to bottom or left to right), both appear to get top billing.
The movie was named as one of "The 20 Most Overrated Movies of All Time" by Premiere.
The 1975 stage musical was itself an adaptation of a 1926 non-musical play. That version opened at the Music Box Theatre in New York December 30, 1926 and ran for 172 performances. The opening night cast included Francine Larrimore as Roxie Hart, Juliette Crosby as Velma Kelly, Edward Ellis as Billy Flynn, Charles Halton as Amos Hart and Robert Barrat, Charles Bickford and Ferike Boros.
The Broadway musical production of "Chicago" opened at the 46th Street Theatre (now the Richard Rodgers Theatre) on June 3, 1975 starring Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera (who had a cameo in the film), and Jerry Orbach in the principal roles. During a vacation, Liza Minnelli played Roxie Hart. There were many replacements during the original run, including Ann Reinking as Roxie Hart. The show ran for 936 performances. The original non-musical play "Chicago" opened at the Music Box Theater on December 30, 1926 and ran for five months. The musical version had even more success as a revival, opening again at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on November 14, 1996. It has moved to various other theatres, and as of this writing (May 2008), is still running.
The original Broadway non-musical play was previously filmed twice: first as the silent film Chicago (1927) and later as Roxie Hart (1942) starring Ginger Rogers.
The play "Chicago" was Maurine Dallas Watkins' retelling of two very public murder trials that occurred in Chicago in 1924, those of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. Watkins had been a reporter for the Chicago Tribune (real life Mary Sunshine) and later wrote a play based on her coverage.