Romance and music in Paris! The jukebox musical Moulin Rouge, which film critic Roger Ebert once compared to “being trapped on an elevator with the circus,” hit theaters on May 18, 2001.
The 2001 film, directed and co-written by Baz Luhrmann, begins with English writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) telling the story of his lover Satine (Nicole Kidman) who passed away. Christian recounts his move to Paris in 1899 to live the Bohemian lifestyle, where he met Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) and his troupe of performers. The young writer soon fell for Satine, the star of the Moulin Rouge cabaret. But the jealous Duke of Monroth (Richard Roxburgh) wanted the actress for himself and threatened to kill Christian. Although the love story ends in tragedy, the heartbroken Englishman writes it all down, vowing to keep Satine in his heart forever.
The film was a commercial success, making $179.2 million on a $50 million budget. It received eight Academy Award nominations in 2002, including Best Picture, winning for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design. A Broadway musical version of the film opened in July 2019. The adaptation won ten Tony Awards, including Best New Musical, in 2021.
While speaking at a 2020 Variety press event for the musical, Luhrmann commented on why Moulin Rouge had become more relevant than ever.
“Overwhelmingly, the theme of the show is about the bohemian ideal,” the Great Gatsby director explained. “Now that’s said in a comic way — ‘Truth, beauty, freedom and love’ — but I think, even particularly in the world we are in now … people have no creative work. Things are bad. Shakespeare knew things were bad when you had to close theaters. And so I think about young [people], the ideals and the idea of creative ideals and fighting to put on a show and tell a story that has a point to it: That means something that uplifts the spirit.”
Kidman, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Moulin Rouge in 2002, went to see the musical adaptation in 2019. The Dead Calm actress posed with Karen Olivo, who originated the role of Satine on Broadway, at the theater. “Two sparkling diamonds in one night,” the musical’s official Instagram account captioned a photo of the two actresses.
Sixteen years after Moulin Rouge hit theaters, McGregor and Kidman reminisced about their experience during a 2017 conversation with Variety.
“I just remember you having this exquisite voice and me going, ‘I’m never going to be able to hit these notes,’” Kidman told her former costar. The Star Wars alum contested the statement at the time, arguing, “No, that’s not true. We were all in the same boat.” He spoke fondly about how collaborative the film was, saying, “All those workshops we did, we’d work on a scene and then a week later the work that we’d done on it as actors would have been incorporated in the writing. And that never happens. That’s very rare.”
The Rabbit Hole actress agreed. “It’s just gorgeous. It’s such a great thing to share. I always say this: when you get to share something like that together, it’s yours forever. It’s something we all created together and it bonds you in a very particular way, doesn’t it,” she said.
Scroll down to see where McGregor, Kidman and the rest of the Moulin Rouge cast is now: