BY Jeremy Kinser
March 07 2011 9:30 AM ET
You’ve worked on some of the most notable stage and film musicals in recent memory.
I’ve been incredibly lucky.
What are your memories of working with Catherine Zeta Jones on Chicago?
Catherine was an old pro. She came from that world, having done musicals in London’s West End. She was there day one in her rehearsal clothes, in her leotard and tights, and was ready to go. She had some very difficult dancing to do. We rehearsed these things as if we were rehearsing Broadway shows. It wasn’t as if she was in a room alone. Everyone was there together. She was just like all those other amazing girls and guys. She put herself in there, was sweating, and questioning it. She was amazing to watch.
But Renee Zellweger didn’t have that background so did she approach it differently?
Renee slowly and methodically chipped away at her performance. She ended up being just as good as Catherine, which was amazing as she’d had no point of reference for how to do something like this. She just watched and learned. She was like the tortoise and the hare, making it to the finish line.
What was your experience working on the film version of Dreamgirls?
Dreamgirls is one of my favorite jobs ever. Often in musicals there will be one person that you’ll mainly deal with and I worked a lot with Jennifer Hudson. Working with Jennifer, who blew the roof off the joint every time she’d sing, was amazing. And Beyoncé has the most spectacular work ethic. What I didn’t realize about pop stars is that their lives are booked two years in advance. She had interviews and concerts and was busy all the time but always knew what she was doing. She practiced on her own all the time. She was such a pro and such a joy to be with. Jennifer was primarily a singer so she had no real experience with moving, but she just worked so hard and was soon holding her own with Beyoncé.
Hairspray looks like it was a lot of fun to work on.
I’m currently working on Catch Me If You Can with Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, who wrote the music for Hairspray and are two of my dearest friends in the world. Hairspray was a joyous experience because I got to work with those two guys. And it’s not such a bad thing to be in the rehearsal room with John Travolta, having a good time with him. John and I would have these sit-downs on breaks from rehearsals. He loves to dance and the whole world of musicals and I loved spending time with him. He’s such a great actor and he was very concerned with his character's motivation.
You worked on Nine with Daniel Day Lewis, who isn’t someone thought of as a musical star.
Daniel’s movement was very much based on his character being this athletic, macho guy and a lot of it was based on his inner turmoil. I loved working on Nine. I have a long history of working with Rob Marshall. I loved Daniel. He’s such a great actor and was so sweet. All of those actors were great, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, they were just startling in their professionalism and their commitment. It was a beautiful thing to be a part of.
That’s refreshing to hear. I imagined there’d be a lot of egos among that high powered cast.
I credit it to Rob. He just sets it up from the top that we’re all in it together and we’re going to make this beautiful film together. The great thing about working on a musical is you do form these bonds like a family. There was such harmony on that set. I’d be having lunch at a table and there’d be Sophia Loren, and Judi Dench, and Nicole Kidman and they’re talking about baby clothes or whatever. That project was surreal. I had to pinch myself. That experience was a Fellini movie in itself.