Moulin Rouge!

This article is about the 2001 motion picture. For other uses, see Moulin Rouge (disambiguation).
Moulin Rouge!

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Produced by
Screenplay by
Music by Craig Armstrong
Cinematography Donald M. McAlpine
Edited by Jill Bilcock
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • 9 May 2001 (2001-05-09) (Cannes)
  • 24 May 2001 (2001-05-24) (Australia)
  • 1 June 2001 (2001-06-01) (United States)
Running time
128 minutes[1]
  • Australia
  • United States
Language English
Budget $52 million[2]
Box office $179.2 million[3]

Moulin Rouge! (/ˌmlæn ˈrʒ/, from French: [mulɛ̃ ˈʁuʒ][4]) is a 2001 Australian–American pseudo-pastiche jukebox musical film directed, produced, and co-written by Baz Luhrmann. It tells the story of a young Scottish poet/writer, Christian (Ewan McGregor), who falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge, cabaret actress and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman). It uses the musical setting of the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France.

At the 74th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Nicole Kidman, winning two: for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. It was the first musical nominated for Best Picture in 10 years, following Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991).


In the year 1900, a British writer named Christian (Ewan McGregor), suffering from depression, begins writing on his typewriter ("Nature Boy"). As Christian narrates, the film flashes back to one year earlier upon Christian's move to the Montmartre district of Paris to become a writer among members of the area's Bohemian movement. He soon discovers that his neighbours are a loose troupe of performers led by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo). Toulouse-Lautrec and the others ask for Christian's help, and his writing skills allow them to finish their proposed show, "Spectacular Spectacular", that they wish to sell to the owner of the Moulin Rouge, Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent). The group arrives at the Moulin Rouge as Zidler and his "Diamond Dog Dancers" perform for the audience ("Zidler's Rap Medley"). Toulouse arranges for Christian to see Satine (Nicole Kidman), the star courtesan, in her private quarters to present the work, unaware that Zidler is promising Satine to the wealthy and unscrupulous Duke of Monroth (Richard Roxburgh), a potential investor in the cabaret ("Sparkling Diamonds").

Satine mistakes Christian for the Duke, and dances with him before retiring to her private chamber with him to discuss things confidentially ("Rhythm of the Night", "Meet Me in the Red Room"), but soon learns he is just a writer ("Your Song"). The Duke interrupts them; Christian and Satine claim they were practicing lines for "Spectacular Spectacular". With Zidler's help, Toulouse and the rest of the troupe pitch the show to the Duke with an improvised plot about an evil maharajah attempting to woo an Indian courtesan who loves a poor sitar player ("The Pitch (Spectacular Spectacular)"). The Duke backs the show on the condition that only he may see Satine. Satine contemplates on Christian and her longing to leave the Moulin Rouge to become "a real actress" ("One Day I'll Fly Away"). Christian goes back to Satine to convince her that they should be together, she eventually falls for him ("Elephant Love Medley"). As the cabaret is converted to a theater, Christian and Satine continue seeing each other under the pretense of rehearsing Satine's lines. The Duke becomes suspicious of their frequent meetings and warns Zidler that he may stop financing the show; Zidler arranges for Satine to dine with the Duke that evening, but she falls ill from tuberculosis ("If I should die(Górecki)"). Zidler makes excuses to the Duke, claiming that Satine has gone to confession ("Like a Virgin"). Zidler learns that Satine does not have long to live. Satine tells Christian that their relationship endangers the show, but he counters by writing a secret love song to affirm their love ("Come What May").

As the Duke watches Christian rehearsing with Satine, Nini, a jealous performer, points out that the play is a metaphor for Christian, Satine and the Duke. Enraged, the Duke demands the ending be changed with the courtesan choosing the maharajah; Satine offers to spend the night with the Duke to keep the original ending. At the Duke's quarters, Satine sees Christian on the streets below, and realizes she cannot sleep with the Duke. ("El Tango de Roxanne"). The Duke attempts to rape her, but is saved by Le Chocolat, one of the cabaret dancers. Reunited with Christian, he urges her to run away with him. The Duke tells Zidler he will have Christian killed if Satine is not his. Zidler reiterates this warning to Satine, but when she refuses to return, he finally informs her she is dying ("A Fool to Believe"). Zidler tells Satine that to save Christian's life, she has to tell him that she will be staying with the Duke and she doesn't love him ("The Show Must Go On"). Christian tries following her, but is denied entry to the Moulin Rouge, and becomes depressed, even though Toulouse insists that Satine does love him.

The night of the show, Christian sneaks into the Moulin Rouge, intending to pay Satine to return his love just as the Duke paid for her ("Hindi Sad Diamonds"). He catches Satine before she steps on stage and demands she tell him she does not love him. Suddenly they find themselves in the spotlight; Zidler improvises and convinces the audience that Christian is the sitar player in disguise. Christian denounces Satine and walks off the stage. From the rafters, Toulouse cries out, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return", spurring Satine to sing the song Christian wrote to express their love. Christian returns to the stage, joining her in the song and reaffirming his love for her. The Duke orders his bodyguard to kill Christian, but is thwarted, while the Duke's own attempt is stopped by Zidler. The Duke storms out of the cabaret as Christian and Satine complete their song ("Come What May (Reprise)", "Coup d'État (Finale)").

After the curtain closes, Satine succumbs to tuberculosis. Before she dies, Christian and Satine affirm their love and she tells him to write their story. A year later the Moulin Rouge has closed down, and Christian finishes writing the tale of his love for Satine, a "love that will live forever" ("Nature Boy (Reprise)").




The storyline of Moulin Rouge can be traced back to Alexandre Dumas, fils' The Lady of the Camellias, although Luhrmann, as an opera director, was probably more directly influenced by Verdi's adaptation, La traviata.

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

When I was in India researching Midsummer Night's Dream, we went to this huge, ice cream picture palace to see a Bollywood movie. Here we were, with 2,000 Indians watching a film in Hindi, and there was the lowest possible comedy and then incredible drama and tragedy and then break out in songs. And it was three-and-a-half hours! We thought we had suddenly learnt Hindi, because we understood everything! We thought it was incredible. How involved the audience were. How uncool they were - how their coolness had been ripped aside and how they were united in this singular sharing of the story. The thrill of thinking, 'Could we ever do that in the West? Could we ever get past that cerebral cool and perceived cool.' It required this idea of comic-tragedy. Could you make those switches? Fine in Shakespeare - low comedy and then you die in five minutes. . . . In 'Moulin Rouge', we went further. Our recognisable story, though Orphean in shape, is derived from Camille, La Boheme - whether you know those texts or not, you recognise those patterns and character types.[5]

Luhrmann revealed that he drew from the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice in the DVD's audio commentary. The legend of Orpheus says he 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 ahead-of-his-time as a musician and writer.


Leonardo DiCaprio, who worked with Luhrmann on Romeo + Juliet, auditioned for the role of Christian.[6] Luhrmann also considered younger actors for the role, including Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal before Ewan McGregor won the part. Courtney Love auditioned for the role of Satine and assisted in clearing licensing rights for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to be used in the film.[7]


Production began in November 1999 and was completed in May 2000, with a budget of $52.5 million.[2] Filming generally went smoothly, with the only major problem occurring when Kidman injured her ribs while filming one of the more complicated dance sequences; she also stated in an interview with Graham Norton that she broke her rib while getting into a corset, by tightening it as much as possible to achieve an 18-inch waist.[8] The production also overran in its shooting schedule and had to be out of the Fox Studios in Sydney 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 Madrid.

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 Paris 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 Eden Ahbez's "Nature Boy", "Lady Marmalade" by Patti LaBelle (the Christina Aguilera/P!nk/Mýa/Lil' Kim cover commissioned for the film), Madonna's "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin", Elton John's "Your Song", the titular number of The Sound of Music, "Roxanne" by The Police (in a tango format using the composition "Tanguera" 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 Luhrmann would have more time during post-production. The film premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival[9] on 9 May – making it the festival's opening title.

Moulin Rouge! received generally positive reviews from critics.

The film holds a rating of 66/100 at Metacritic based on 35 reviews,[10] and a 76% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 187 reviews, and a 65% "Fresh" rating, based on 40 "top" reviewers.[11] In December 2001, it was named the best film of the year by viewers of Film 2001.[12]

Awards and honors

The film was selected by the National Board of Review as the best film of 2001. 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.

The film received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Picture.[13] The film was not nominated for Best Director (Luhrmann); commenting on this during the Oscar ceremony, host Whoopi Goldberg remarked, "I guess Moulin Rouge! just directed itself." The film won the awards for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction.

"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 Romeo + Juliet and not written expressly for Moulin Rouge!.[14]

Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Baz Luhrmann's trippy pop culture pastiche from 2001 was an aesthetically arresting ode to poetry, passion, and Elton John. It was so good, we'll forgive him for Australia."[15](1079/1080).[16]

Award Category Subject Result
(43rd Australian Film Institute Awards)
Best Film Martin Brown, Fred Baron, Baz Luhrmann Nominated
Best Direction Baz Luhrmann Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Ewan McGregor Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Nicole Kidman Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Richard Roxburgh Nominated
Best Cinematography Donald McAlpine Won
Best Editing Jill Bilcock Won
Best Sound Andy Nelson, Roger Savage, Guntis Sics Won
Best Production Design Catherine Martin Won
Best Costume Design Catherine Martin, Angus Strathie Won
Academy Award Best Picture Fred Baron, Martin Brown, Baz Luhrmann Nominated
Best Actress Nicole Kidman Nominated
Best Film Editing Jill Bilcock Nominated
Best Cinematography Donald McAlpine Nominated
Best Costume Design Catherine Martin, Angus Strathie Won
Best Production Design Catherine Martin, Brigitte Broch Won
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Maurizio Silvi, Aldo Signoretti Nominated
Best Sound Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Roger Savage, Guntis Sics Nominated
ACE Eddie Best Edited Feature Film – Comedy or Musical Jill Bilcock Won
BAFTA Award Best Film Fred Baron, Martin Brown, Baz Luhrmann Nominated
Best Direction Baz Luhrmann Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jim Broadbent Won
Best Cinematography Donald McAlpine Nominated
Best Sound Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Roger Savage, Guntis Sics Won
Best Music Craig Armstrong, Marius De Vries Won
Best Production Design Catherine Martin Nominated
Best Costume Design Catherine Martin, Angus Strathie Nominated
Best Editing Jill Bilcock Nominated
Best Special Visual Effects Chris Godfrey, Andy Brown, Nathan McGuinness, Brian Cox Nominated
Best Makeup and Hair Maurizio Silvi, Aldo Signoretti Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Fred Baron, Martin Brown, Baz Luhrmann Won
Best Director Baz Luhrmann Nominated
Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Ewan McGregor Nominated
Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nicole Kidman Won
Best Original Song ("Come What May") David Baerwald, Kevin Gilbert Nominated
Best Original Score Craig Armstrong Won
Grammy Award Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media Craig Armstrong Nominated
National Board of Review Award Best Film Fred Baron, Martin Brown, Baz Luhrmann Won
Producers Guild of America Award Best Picture Fred Baron, Martin Brown, Baz Luhrmann Won
Satellite Award Best Film Fred Baron, Martin Brown, Baz Luhrmann Nominated
Best Director Baz Luhrmann Won
Best Original Screenplay Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce Nominated
Best Actor Ewan McGregor Won
Best Actress Nicole Kidman Won
Best Original Score Craig Armstrong Won
Best Original Song ("Come What May") David Baerwald, Kevin Gilbert Nominated
Best Cinematography Donald McAlpine Nominated
Best Editing Jill Bilcock Nominated
Best Visual Effects Chris Godfrey, Andy Brown, Nathan McGuinness, Brian Cox Nominated
Best Art Direction and Production Design Catherine Martin Won
Best Costume Design Catherine Martin, Angus Strathie Won
Best Sound Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Roger Savage, Guntis Sics Nominated


Musical numbers performed in the film

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

Elephant Love Medley

The following is a list of songs featured in the medley, along with the names of the writers and singers of the original.

The "Elephant Love Medley" also contains additional original lyrics that are unattributed.

In the Blu-ray release, it was revealed that the song that was planned to open the film was originally Cat Stevens' "Father and Son", sung by Christian where he argues with his father for making him see that he has to go to Paris in order to make his dreams come true. Cat Stevens refused the permission for using the song in the film, therefore the song was changed to "Nature Boy".

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 on 8 May 2001, with the second Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film, Vol. 2 following on 26 February 2002.

Stage adaptation

For a while in 2002–03, there was speculation about 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.[17] Some sources claimed in 2006 that the director, Baz Luhrmann, had approached the leads of the film, Kidman and McGregor, to star in the potential stage version.[18]

In 2008, a stage adaptation, La Belle Bizarre Du Moulin Rouge (The Moulin Rouge Bizarre's Beauty) toured Germany and produced a cast recording.[19]

A stage musical is currently being developed by Global Creatures and will be directed by Alex Timbers.[20]


  1. "MOULIN ROUGE! (12)". British Board of Film Classification. 21 June 2001. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  2. 1 2 "Moulin Rouge! (2001) – Box office / business". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  3. "Moulin Rouge!". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  4. Wells, John C. (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. 3rd ed. Longman. ISBN 1-4058-8118-6.
  5. Andrew, Geoff. "Baz Luhrmann (I)". Film. Retrieved 2014-02-15.
  6. Tim Gray (February 11, 2014). "Leonardo DiCaprio Unleashes a Fearless 'Wolf' Performance". Variety. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  7. Kara Warner (May 2, 2011). "'Moulin Rouge' Could Have Starred Heath Ledger, Baz Luhrmann Reveals". Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  8. "Nicole Kidman: 'I broke my rib getting into corset for Moulin Rouge'".
  9. "Festival de Cannes: Moulin Rouge!". Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  10. "Metacritic reviews". Internet Movie Database: Moulin Rouge!., Inc. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  11. "Moulin Rouge! (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster,Inc. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  12. "Moulin Rouge is viewers' favourite". London: BBC News. 20 December 2001. Archived from the original on 4 June 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  13. "The 74th Academy Awards (2002) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 19 November 2011.
  14. Fung, Alex (9 February 2002). "Alex's Oscar Column No. 09 for the 74th Annual Academy Awards". Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  15. Geier, Thom; Jensen, Jeff; Jordan, Tina; Lyons, Margaret; Markovitz, Adam; Nashawaty, Chris; Pastorek, Whitney; Rice, Lynette; Rottenberg, Josh; Schwartz, Missy; Slezak, Michael; Snierson, Dan; Stack, Tim; Stroup, Kate; Tucker, Ken; Vary, Adam B.; Vozick-Levinson, Simon; Ward, Kate (11 December 2009), "THE 100 Greatest MOVIES, TV SHOWS, ALBUMS, BOOKS, CHARACTERS, SCENES, EPISODES, SONGS, DRESSES, MUSIC VIDEOS, AND TRENDS THAT ENTERTAINED US OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS". Entertainment Weekly.:74-84
  16. It was listed as number 212 on Empire's 500 greatest films of all time"Empire's 500 Greatest films of all time". Cinemarealm. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  17. "Moulin Rouge – Stage Production". Baz the Great. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  18. Gorgan, Elena (20 June 2006). "Moulin Rouge on the Stage? – The director Baz Luhrmann has already approached Kidman and McGregor with the offer". Softpedia. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  19. "La Belle Bizarre Du Moulin Rouge » Touring Cast :". Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  20. "'Moulin Rouge!' Being Developed Into a Stage Musical". Retrieved 2 September 2016.
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