The last time famed choreographer and director Rob Marshall convinced a star-studded cast to sing and dance on the big screen, the film received 13 Oscar® nominations. At the end of Oscar night, the film, Chicago, earned six statuettes.
Rob got Richard Gere to tap dance, and now he's working with another impressive cast to capture the glamour and glory of Italian cinema in the '60s. In Rob's latest musical extravaganza, Nine, two-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis plays Guido Contini, a famous Italian film director.
Nine, the film adaptation of a celebrated Broadway musical, is the story of Guido's struggle to write a script for an ill-fated film. As his epic production spins out of control, he turns to the women he adores for inspiration and comfort.
These women include his muse, played by Nicole Kidman; his sultry mistress, played by Penelope Cruz; his long-suffering wife, played by Marion Cotillard; and his mother, played by the legendary Sophia Loren.
Guido is also guided—and misguided—by his costume designer and confidant, played by Judi Dench; a vivacious Vogue writer, played by Kate Hudson; and a prostitute from his past, played by pop superstar Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson.
Today, Daniel and a few of his leading ladies, Nicole, Penelope, Marion and Kate, are reuniting to discuss their visually stunning musical. "We have never had this many Oscar-winning actors on our stage at one time!" Oprah says.
When Daniel first read the script for Nine and discovered he'd have to sing, he says he tried to think of an excuse not to do the film. Then, he spoke to Rob, who convinced him to put his vocals to the test. "[Rob] could charm the birds out of the trees," Daniel says.
Eight weeks before filming began, the entire cast gathered at a London film studio to learn the complicated musical numbers. For the first four weeks of rehearsals, Daniel says he was perpetually amazed and anxious. "I was very intimidated by [the singing], but Rob has an amazing way of making everything seem like it's just going to be second nature," he says. "He manages to provide you with so much support, mostly coming from him, but also from everyone around him."
Daniel is famous for immersing himself in his roles, and he says it's hard at times to say goodbye to a character after the film wraps.
"It's not a supernatural problem. It's more just an affection that you develop for that person," he says. "No matter how long you spend making a film—in this case six, seven or eight months—you never fully explore the life and the world of that character. ... You've gone to all this trouble to try and create a new world, and then you're supposed to just throw it in the bin."
Back home, these characters don't last long. Daniel says his children batter the roles out of him. "They take the mickey out of me from dawn till dusk," he says.
A lot has changed for Nicole since she swung on a trapeze in Moulin Rouge, her first movie musical. In 2006, she married country star Keith Urban. Then, in July 2008, six weeks before Nine rehearsals began, she gave birth to a baby girl, Sunday Rose.
Nicole says she agreed to do Nine so soon after giving birth because she was able to bring her daughter to the set. "It was actually really lovely because I got to get a taste of what I've done my whole life, which is act, then go back to being Sunday Rose's mother," she says.
When Nicole was in her 20s, she adopted two children with her first husband, Tom Cruise. Now, she's 42, and this time around, motherhood is different. "I'm glad that I was able to do it young and old," she says. "I think at this age, so much of my burning ambition has kind of faded."
Nicole says working alongside Daniel helped reignite her love of acting. "I was able to see an actor still love and honor what he does," she says. "That was great to be around because I can get pulled to my family and completely ignore my art, my work."
Penelope has played many tortured women, but for the role of Guido's mistress, this Spanish actress pushed her body to the limit to master the complex choreography. In the film, her character, Carla, performs a sultry dance number that involves ropes.
Penelope says she developed calluses on both of her hands during rehearsals. "But I loved it," she says. "I was walking around showing them to everybody."
"She had the hands of a cage fighter by the end," Daniel says.
The rope routine wasn't Penelope's only challenge. Before this film, the only singing Penelope had done was on her karaoke machine. "I was really terrified," she says. "Then, it's such a beautiful process. We had really, really good teachers. ... I would love to do a musical again."
In 2008, Marion sang her way to Oscar gold in the acclaimed film La Vie en Rose. In Nine, she uses her voice once again to express sadness and suppressed anger. "I love singing," she says. "Because of the emotion that is in your voice, it's hard to lie with your voice."
As a child growing up in France, Marion says she dreamed of acting in an American musical. "I would watch Singin' in the Rain again and again and again," she says. "I was pretty good at doing the choreographies of the whole movie."
More than 30 years later, her dream came true when Rob called her to audition for the role of Guido's wife. "It was unbelievable," she says.
For Marion, dancing posed more of a challenge than the singing. "I thought I could dance, and I actually couldn't," she says. "Fortunately, we had this amazing team of dancers that worked with us. I would dance from the time I would wake up until the time I would go back to bed."
Oscar nominee Kate Hudson's mother, actress Goldie Hawn, passed down a love of dancing to her daughter. So when Rob asked her to audition for Nine, Kate says she jumped at the chance.
"Truly, maybe the best experience for me to date was this movie," she says. "For me, Rob Marshall is like working with a modern-day Bob Fosse. As somebody who dances, I felt like, 'Oh my God, I can't believe I'm going to dance with Rob.' ... It was just truly a phenomenal experience."
Kate says she rehearsed for six weeks to prepare for her showstopping song and dance number, "Cinema Italiano." When it came time to shoot the scene, Kate says she knew the cast and crew so well, she felt comfortable dancing in a white miniskirt and go-go boots. Her mom even came to the set to cheer her on.
Dancing isn't the only passion Goldie passed along to her daughter. Kate says her mother also taught her to live joyfully. "That's a big word in our family. My mom dedicates her life to understanding what that is," she says. "To understand your happiness or what makes you happy in your life is something that we grew up around."
Printed from Oprah.com on Thursday, December 5, 2013