That Time Nicole Kidman Almost Starred in Chicago Instead of Moulin Rouge

Welcome to Thirstory, where we whet your appetite with pages from the Interview archive that were almost too hot to print. This week, we’re doing the can-can in Gay Paree as we unpack our corsetry and cabaret finery with our May 2001 cover star, Nicole Kidman, on the 20th anniversary of Moulin Rouge! 


If the idea of a Moulin Rouge! soundtrack without the iconic quintet of Missy Elliott, Mýa, Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, and P!nk on “Lady Marmalade” is too grim to bear, just imagine the movie without its titular star, Nicole Kidman. For this magazine’s May 2001 edition, the Aussie actress sat down with Baz Luhrmann, the film’s co-writer and director. During their conversation, Luhrmann reminded her that before she officially signed on to the cast, Kidman was also considering a role in Rob Marshall’s Chicago. Luhrmann told Kidman, “There was a time when I thought I might lose you to Chicago. But you chose Moulin Rouge!

But the heart knows what it wants. Kidman rejected the role of Roxie Hart (which eventually went to Renée Zellweger) to become the corset-wearing chanteuse, Satine, in Luhrmann’s Parisian-set cabareta decision that skyrocketed her into a new stratosphere of superstardom and earned her her first Academy Award nod. 

Kidman had no regrets about her decision, and gushed to Luhrmann about the strenuous but gratifying experience of shooting the film: “I remember finishing [Moulin Rouge!] and being more exhausted than I’ve ever been in my life,” she said. “I was pushing myself beyond what I’d probably be willing to ever do again because it was so much fun and because we believed in it.”

Diamonds may be Satine’s best friend, but Kidman still holds Luhrmann dear to her heart. To commemorate the film’s anniversary this week, the iconic beauty tagged the director in a glowing Instagram post to commemorate the two-decade milestone, writing, “To be reminded just how beloved this film is by so many of you is so deeply touching to me. When we were making this film, we hoped it would be something special and groundbreaking, but it’s far exceeded what I dreamed of.”