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Oscar Madness

In 2003, the big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical “Chicago” took home six Academy Awards including Best Picture. But what you likely don’t know is that there were 27 years' worth of prior attempts to bring the film to life and that those attempts involved a number of famous (and surprising) people.

As part of our ongoing look at What Could Have Been, today we look back at 10 stars who ALMOST brought “Chicago” to the big screen before it ultimately happened.

Predictably, one of the first stars attached to a “Chicago” adaptation had a Broadway background herself. Liza Minnelli, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in “Cabaret,” was an obvious choice considering her track record with “Chicago” choreographer and director Bob Fosse.

But what’s more surprising to learn from this February 1977 New York Magazine item is the director who was planning to team with Minnelli on the project - Martin Scorsese, with whom she had just made “New York, New York.”


That same piece’s rumor about Shirley MacLaine joining the cast turned out to be unfounded, but by October 1980, there was another notable name attached to the project. As you’ll see in the L.A. Herald-Examiner article below, Goldie Hawn was now set to join Minnelli as the murderous team of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly:


The project lay dormant for several years (as they often do in Hollywood), but a smash Broadway revival in 1996 sparked new interest. By April 1997, Army Archerd reported in Variety that Goldie Hawn was officially signed to the film, but with Minnelli now out. Plus, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell suddenly surfaced as potential castmates:

Two months later in June, there was more momentum for the project when Madonna was confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter and Miramax announced that the project had gotten the green light:


One year later in June 1998, Miramax reported in Screen International that the production would shoot in London and hoped for John Travolta and Rupert Everett to come on board:

But as had happened before, things started to fall apart again. By February 1999, Rosie was out as the prison’s Matron Mama Morton, with Kathy Bates poised to take the role instead. However, The Hollywood Reporter revealed another big change: Goldie Hawn was no longer attached, and Nicole Kidman would take the lead:


All images courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library

That casting change would prove to be short-lived, however, and Kidman would go on to make her singing and dancing debut in 2001 with “Moulin Rouge” instead.

By the time the film version of “Chicago” came to life in 2002, the entire major cast had changed and now featured Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly. But it seemed to work out for the best, as evidenced in this memorable moment.


How would you cast "Chicago" today if you had the chance? Tell us in the comments below:

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