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Moulin Rouge! is a 2001 Australian/American/British musical-romantic drama film by Baz Luhrmann. Following the Red Curtain Cinema principles, the film is based on the Orphean myth and on Giuseppe Verdi's opera La Traviata. It tells the story of a young Britishmarker poet/writer, Christian (Ewan McGregor), who falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rougemarker, cabaret actress and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman). It uses the musical setting of the Montmartre Quartermarker of Parismarker, Francemarker. The film was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, and won two: for art direction and costume design. It was the first musical nominated for best picture in 22 years. It was filmed at Fox Studiosmarker in Sydneymarker, Australia.


In 1899, a young Britishmarker writer, Christian (Ewan McGregor), moves to the Montmartremarker district of Parismarker with few possessions beyond his typewriter to try to establish himself in the Bohemian culture. By luck, he encounters a musical troupe led by Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) that is attempting to present a new play for Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent), the owner of the cabaret, the Moulin Rougemarker. Christian's writing helps to finalize the show, entitled "Spectacular Spectacular", and the troupe take Christian to the cabaret to present the work itself to its star courtesan, Satine (Nicole Kidman), in private to win her favour. However, the same night, Zidler has arranged for Satine to spend the night with the wealthy Duke of Monroth (Richard Roxburgh) who is looking to invest in the cabaret. Through miscommunication, Satine mistakes Christian for the Duke, and the two depart to her private chambers. She begins to seduce him despite his insistence he is only there to present his script, but the two slowly realize they have fallen in love with each other. The Duke returns, and discovers Christian and Satine in a compromising position. Satine quickly states that Christian is only there to present a play. With the help of the troupe, Satine, and Zidler, Christian quickly improvises a new plot to "Spectacular Spectacular" as a thinly-covered veil of their current situation, with an evil maharajah attempting to woo the love of an Indianmarker courtesan who is actually in love with a poor sitar player. The Duke, unable to see through the show's meaning, agrees to finance the show, but on the condition that he is the only one allowed to see Satine. Unfortunately for the Duke, Satine and Christian continuously make up excuses as to why he can't see her.

Over the next several weeks, the entire Moulin Rouge troupe prepares for the show as the club is turned into a theater. Christian and Satine attempt to evade the Duke to keep their love alive by pretending to be practicing their lines as well as the "secret song" that the sitar player and courtesan share, but the Duke insists that he can watch. On a day that the Duke has invited Satine to his place for the evening, Satine insists that she must practice her lines with Christian, and they depart. Later Nini Legs-In-The-Air (Caroline O'Connor), a jealous courtesan, points out to the Duke that the play is obviously a metaphor for Christian, Satine, and the Duke. The Duke takes drastic steps to make sure that Christian and Satine are separated, demanding that Zidler let Satine spend the night with him. That night, Satine refuses the Duke's advances; the enraged Duke threatens to rape Satine. She is saved by another dancer, Chocolat, and then flees to Christian; the two plan to run away together. The Duke reports this to Zidler, and states that unless Satine is his, he will have Christian killed. Zidler tells Satine to break it off with Christian because she is dying from consumption. Satine sadly makes her way back to Christian's loft and claims that she wants the Duke's wealth more than Christian's love. Heartbroken, Christian follows Satine back to the Moulin Rouge and calls for her, only to be beaten by two men and refused entry.

On the opening night of "Spectacular Spectacular", Toulouse tries to remind Christian of the Bohemian way of life — truth, beauty, freedom, and love — and that he truly loves Satine as she does him, but Christian is too depressed to listen. As the show starts, Christian approaches Satine, trying to pay her for the sex that she had freely given to him with her heart, but Satine tries to send him away, fearing that the Duke's bodyguard will kill him. Suddenly, the two find themselves in the spotlight on stage, momentarily confusing the performers and audience. Zidler quickly improvises, stating that Christian is the sitar player in disguise and trying to make the show go on, but Christian walks off stage. As he leaves the theater, Toulouse-Lautrec shouts from the rafters "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." Satine realizes what she has done and sings the "secret song", showing Christian that she truly loves him. Christian rejoins her on stage and joins her in singing the song, angering the Duke. The Duke's bodyguard attempts to kill Christian, but the courtesans and Bohemians stop him; the Duke then tries to finish the job himself, only to be stopped by Zidler, who disarms the Duke so true love can prevail. The lovers finish their song to a standing ovation; the Duke storms away from the Moulin Rouge. As the performers get ready for taking a bow, Satine finally succumbs to her illness, and dies in Christian's arms. A year later, with the Moulin Rouge having closed down, Christian, still mournful over her loss, decides to write the story of the love shared between himself and Satine, which was her dying wish.



When asked about his inspiration for Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann remarked:

There was also a play within the film, "Spectacular Spectacular". which itself may have been based on an ancient Sanskrit play, The Little Clay Cart. In addition to the Indian influence, Luhrmann has revealed in the DVD's voice-over commentary that he drew from the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus was a musical genius far surpassing anyone in his world; the filmmakers chose to replicate this by using songs from the mid-to-late 20th century, many decades after the film's 1899 setting. In this way, Christian would appear to the other characters to be a brilliant musician and writer.


Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Renée Zellweger, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Uma Thurman, Sharleen Spiteri, Courtney Love, Hilary Swank, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, Winona Ryder, Patricia Arquette, Naomi Watts, Gwen Stefani, Kate Beckinsale, and Catherine Zeta-Jones were all contenders for the part of Satine; Nicole Kidman received the role. Heath Ledger, Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sam Worthington, Christian Bale, Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scott Speedman, and Russell Crowe were all considered for the part of Christian; Ewan McGregor was chosen for the role.

Production on the film began in November 1999 and was completed in May 2000, with a budget of $52.5 million. Filming generally went smoothly, with the only major problem occurring when Kidman injured her ribs while filming one of the more complicated dance sequences. The production also overran in its shooting schedule and had to be out of the Fox Studios in Sydneymarker to make way for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (in which McGregor also starred). This necessitated some pick-up shots being filmed in Madridmarker.

In the liner notes to the film's Special Edition DVD, Luhrmann writes that "[the] whole stylistic premise has been to decode what the Moulin Rouge was to the audiences of 1899 and express that same thrill and excitement in a way to which contemporary movie-goers can relate." With that in mind, the film takes well-known popular music, mostly drawn from the MTV Generation, and anachronizes it into a tale set in a turn-of-the-century Parismarker cabaret. The movie also features editing that several critics compared to a music video, involving swirling camera motion, loud music, dancing, and frenetic cutting. Some of the songs sampled include "Chamma Chamma" from the Hindi movie China Gate, Queen's "The Show Must Go On" (arranged in operatic format), David Bowie's rendition of Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy," "Lady Marmalade" by LaBelle (the Christina Aguilera/P!nk/Mýa/Lil’ Kim cover commissioned for the film), Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and "Material Girl," Elton John's "Your Song," the titular number of "The Sound of Music," "Roxanne" by The Police (in a tango format, composed by Mariano Mores), and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana, a song rarely used in films. The film uses so much popular music that it took Luhrmann almost two years to secure all the rights to the songs.


Release and reception

Originally set for release on Christmas 2000 as a high profile Oscar contender, 20th Century Fox eventually moved the release to the following spring so director Baz Luhrmann would have more time during post production. The film premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival on May 9 — making it the festival's opening title. A limited release on May 18, 2001 in the United States followed, and the film was released to theaters across the United States on June 1, 2001.

The film was an instant success in limited release, grossing $185,095 in only two theaters on opening weekend. Representatives from the studio said that many audiences even burst into applause during the screenings. The numbers continued to increase over the Memorial Day weekend, with the film making $254,098. When it expanded into over 2500 theaters, it made $14.2 million in its first weekend of wide release. The film eventually grossed over $57 million in the United States. It had a brief re-release in October 2001 for Oscar consideration, with Luhrmann stating that his intent was to get Kidman and McGregor nominated.

The movie was even more successful internationally. It broke box office records in Australia where it was given a rare theatrical re-release at the end of 2001, and found a stable audience in almost every country. It eventually made over $120 million internationally, resulting in over $177 million worldwide.

Awards and honors

Academy Awards record
1. Best Costume Design
2. Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
Golden Globe Awards record
1. Best Picture - Musical or Comedy
2. Best Actress - Musical or Comedy
(Nicole Kidman)
3. Best Original Score
BAFTA Awards record
1. Best Supporting Actor
(Jim Broadbent)
2. Best Film Music
(Craig Armstrong)
3. Best Sound
The film was selected by the National Board of Review as the best film of 2001. After that, it picked up six Golden Globe nominations including Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy (for Nicole Kidman), Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy (for Ewan McGregor), Best Original Score (for Craig Armstrong), Best Director (for Baz Luhrmann) and Best Song ("Come What May"). It won three including the coveted Best Picture trophy. A few weeks later, it received 13 nominations at the BAFTA Awards, making it the most nominated film of the year for that ceremony. It took home three, including Best Supporting Actor for Jim Broadbent.

When Oscar nominations were announced, the film received eight nominations including Best Actress in a Leading Role (Nicole Kidman) and Best Picture. The film was not nominated for Best Director (Baz Luhrmann); commenting on this during the Oscar ceremony, host Whoopi Goldberg remarked, "I guess Moulin Rouge! just directed itself." It took home two Oscars when the winners were announced for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction; subsequently many proponents of the film claimed that it had been unjustly snubbed at the Academy Awards.

"Come What May" (the only original song in the film) was disqualified from nomination for an Oscar because it was originally written (but unused) for Luhrmann's previous film William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet and not written expressly for Moulin Rouge!

American Film Institute recognition

Award wins

Award nominations


Songs sung in the film:
  • "Nature Boy" – Toulouse
  • "The Sound of Music/Children of the Revolution" – Christian, The Bohemians, and the Green Fairy
  • "Zidler's Rap (The Can-Can)" – Zidler, Moulin Rouge Dancers, and Patrons
  • "Sparkling Diamonds" – Satine and Moulin Rouge Dancers
  • "Rhythm of the Night" – Moulin Rouge Dancer
  • "Your Song" – Christian
  • "The Pitch (Spectacular Spectacular)" – Zidler, Christian, Satine, The Duke, and Bohemians
  • "One Day I'll Fly Away" – Satine
  • "Elephant Love Medley" – Christian and Satine
  • "Gorecki" – Satine
  • "Like a Virgin" – Zidler, The Duke, and Chorus Boys
  • "Come What May" – Christian, Satine, and Cast of Spectacular Spectacular
  • "El Tango de Roxanne" – The Argentine, Christian, Satine, and Moulin Rouge Dancers
  • "Fool to Believe" – Satine and Zidler
  • "The Show Must Go On" – Zidler, Satine, and Moulin Rouge Stagehands
  • "Hindi Sad Diamonds" – Cast of Spectacular Spectacular
  • "Come What May (Reprise)" – Satine and Christian
  • "Coup D’état (Finale)" – Cast of Spectacular Spectacular
  • "Nature Boy (Reprise)" – Toulouse

The following is a partial list of songs featured in the film along with the artist that popularized them.

Elephant Love Medley:

Two soundtrack albums were released, with the second coming after the first one's massive success. The first volume featured the smash hit single "Lady Marmalade", performed by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mýa and Pink. The first soundtrack, Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film, was released in May 2001, with the second Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film, Vol. 2 following in 2002.

Stage adaptation

For a while in 2002/2003, there was vast speculation on the possibility of a stage musical based on Moulin Rouge!, possibly in Las Vegas, but there have been no public talks in the years since. Some sources claimed in 2006 that the director, Baz Luhrmann, had approached the leads of the film (Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor) to star in the potential stage version.


  • Ozzy Osbourne was originally going to play an alternate version of "The Green Fairy", which was an old sitar playing man. His voice is still used for the guttural scream when the fairy turns evil.


  1. IMDB Trivia for 'Moulin Rouge!'

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