Writer-director Baz Luhrmann’s distinct, grandiose style of filmmaking was never more loved by critics than with 2001’s Moulin Rouge!, the first musical to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 10 years (paving the way for Chicago’s Best Picture win the following year). But making musicals popular again in Hollywood was a long and painful process. Here are 15 things you might not know about the bawdy hit.
1. BAZ LUHRMANN’S FATHER DIED ON THE FIRST DAY OF FILMING.
Before he passed away, Baz Luhrmann's dying father—a former gas station and movie theater owner—told his son to focus on the film. When Luhrmann thought about giving up during its hectic production, he remembered his father’s words.
2. NICOLE KIDMAN BROKE A RIB DURING FILMING. TWICE!
After fracturing her rib the first time, Nicole Kidman broke it again trying to fit into a corset. She fell down a flight of stairs dancing in heels at three in the morning, and had to film the part where Satine says “A real actress” in a wheelchair. The injuries reportedly cost her the lead in David Fincher's Panic Room.
3. JOHN LEGUIZAMO NEEDED PHYSICAL THERAPY AFTER SHOOTING.
To play the diminutive Toulouse-Lautrec, John Leguizamo was required to walk on his knees in special leg braces with his feet and lower legs removed through special effects. He also wore amputee prostheses, which caused his legs to go numb. In 2005, four years after the film's release, Leguizamo told TV Guide that while his knees had recovered, "It's my lower back that’s still compressed." Fortunately, the filmmakers "got me a great physical therapist who saved my spine."
4. STAR WARS FORCED MOULIN ROUGE! OUT OF AUSTRALIA.
Shooting at Fox's Sydney studio was not just geographically convenient for Australians Luhrmann and Kidman, but also for Ewan McGregor, who followed up Moulin Rouge! with Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which was scheduled to shoot in the same studios. But when Luhrmann and the cast and crew ran out of time, George Lucas’ producer made it clear that the film's studio time was up, leading Luhrmann to finishing filming some pick-up shots in Madrid.
5. LEONARDO DICAPRIO WANTED TO PLAY CHRISTIAN, BUT HE COULDN’T SING.
Baz Luhrmann and Leonardo DiCaprio had a forged a strong relationship on the set of 1996's Romeo + Juliet, and the actor wanted in on Moulin Rouge! So he auditioned, despite the fact that, according to DiCaprio, "I have a pretty atrocious voice ... But we had a friendly thing where it was me and him and a piano player, and we tried to sing a song together. It didn’t go too well. I think it was ‘Lean on Me,’ and when I hit the high note, he just turned to me ... ‘Yes, D, I don’t know if this conversation should continue.'"
6. HEATH LEDGER AND JAKE GYLLENHAAL WERE BOTH CONSIDERED FOR CHRISTIAN.
7. COURTNEY LOVE AUDITIONED TO PLAY SATINE.
Though she didn’t get the part, Luhrmann needed her approval to obtain the rights to use Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in the movie, a song rarely licensed to TV or film. She agreed, for $125,000.
8. MARILYN MANSON WAS TAKEN OUT OF THE MOVIE.
Luhrmann hired Marilyn Manson to sing “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which made Love very angry as she and Manson had a longstanding feud. She evoked the performer approval clause in her contract, forcing production to find an unknown band to re-record the song six days before the movie’s opening.
9. MOST OF OZZY OSBOURNE’S PART WAS TAKEN OUT, TOO (BUT HE IS IN THE FILM.)
In an early draft, Ozzy Osbourne was meant to play the Green Fairy, armed with a giant sitar. Eventually, a gentler version—with Kylie Minogue’s voice—took over that role, but when her eyes turn red and she screams, that's Ozzy Osbourne.
10. ONLY THE ROLLING STONES AND CAT STEVENS SAID "NO."
It took two years to clear all of the music for the movie. Amazingly, while Luhrmann managed to get yesses from the likes of Paul McCartney, Madonna, and Elton John, only two artists wouldn't agree to let their music be used: one was The Rolling Stones, the other was Cat Stevens, who would not allow his “Father and Son” to be used in the film because its sexual subject matter goes against his Muslim beliefs. Christian was supposed to sing the tune while he argued with his father about going to Paris to follow his dreams (it was changed to “Nature Boy”). Some songs that were taken out of the script after rewrites were Fifth Dimension's "Up, Up and Away" and 10cc's "I'm Not in Love.”
11. “COME WHAT MAY” WAS ORIGINALLY PENNED FOR ROMEO + JULIET.
Though David Baerwald's "Come What May" was the only original song to appear in Moulin Rouge!, because it had originally been written for Romeo + Juliet, it was ineligible for Oscar consideration.
12. NICOLE KIDMAN'S NECKLACE WAS THE MOST EXPENSIVE PIECE OF JEWELRY EVER MADE FOR A MOVIE.
Jeweler Stefano Canturi made the necklace, which was valued at $3 million. The necklace, which features 1308 diamonds and a 2.5-carat sapphire clasp, had a “stunt double” for a scene in which The Duke yanks the necklace off of Satine’s neck.
13. SOME HISTORICAL INACCURACIES WERE MADE TO KEEP THE PG-13 RATING.
The actual dancers of the real Moulin Rouge revealed their privates underneath their can-can skirts. Erotic illustrations inspired by the Kama Sutra were only able to be viewed in the background in order to avoid an R rating.
14. IT WAS BASED ON THE MYTH OF ORPHEUS.
Luhrmann and his writing partner Craig Pearce began brainstorming Moulin Rouge! with the Greek myth of Orpheus in mind. In the story, Orpheus failed to bring his beloved Eurydice back from the dead after disobeying the Gods by turning back to make sure Eurydice was still with him during their escape from the Underworld. In Moulin Rouge!, Christian is Orpheus, trying to save the dying Satine by getting her to escape the Duke and the Moulin Rouge.
15. OSCAR WILDE WAS INITIALLY GOING TO MAKE A CAMEO.
Before realizing that they had to narrow their scope to just the Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann and Pearce wrote scenes exploring more of Paris's Montmartre neighborhood. Excised from the final draft was a scene in which Christian, Satine, and Toulouse-Lautrec go to the estate of the German aristocrat Count von Groovy and participate in an absinthe- and opium-fueled orgy with Isadora Duncan, Sarah Bernhardt, and Oscar Wilde. Count von Groovy is a nickname that Luhrmann acquired while directing La Bohème at the Sydney Opera House in 1990.