Rob Marshall?s new musical Nine is sure to be a gay fave

Rob Marshall?s new musical Nine is sure to be a gay fave

Director Rob Marshall’s Nine is a worthy musical follow-up to his multiple Oscar-winning Chicago, full of bombastic production numbers and razzle-dazzle with an Italian accent. The original 1982 Broadway stage musical—with book by Arthur L. Kopit and songs by Maury Yeston, the latter of whom contributed three new songs to the film—was an adaptation of Frederico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical 1963 classic, 8 ½, about a womanizing filmmaker stuck in a creative and personal rut.

Daniel Day Lewis plays Guido Contini, who only has about a week until his next film, which still lacks even a script, begins production. Unable to focus, Guido loses himself in women—his wife (Cotillard), mistress (Cruz), lead actress (Kidman), costumer (Dench), and a Vogue reporter (Hudson)—while he’s haunted by childhood memories of his mother (Loren) and a prostitute, Saraghina (Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie).

Amongst Nine’s big talking points is that its cast exhaustively rehearsed song and dance numbers for eight weeks to the point they literally bled (Cruz, during a number involving ropes), while Fergie studied classic Italian films and actresses’ body language while lobbying for her role. She performs one of Nine’s standout numbers, Be Italian.

“During the number I was not moving like myself,” Fergie shared in mid-November at the New York City press junket. “Whenever I would sit down I wouldn’t cross my legs because that’s not how Saraghina would sit. She wasn’t a lady. I say ‘Be Italian’ many times in the song and it was important to me that every time I did, it had a different meaning. Love of life, of sex, of food, of drink, of dancing, of singing.”

A few weeks following the junket, the openly gay Marshall caught up with Watermark by phone.

Nine_462854910.jpgWATERMARK: Your life partner, John DeLuca, also served as a producer and choreographer on Nine. What does working together bring to your films?
Rob Marshall: “Everything. The first time we worked together as collaborators on the other side of the desk was Chicago. I said, “John, I need you!” I was so nervous, being my first feature film I really felt I needed all hands on deck and I needed his eye. He has a brilliant eye. I was concerned about working with my partner and how’s that going to play into our lives. But movies take so much time that to have the family—John, and we have a beautiful dog named Gillie—with you as part of these journeys, then you’re not putting your life on hold. It becomes your life.

What do you find cutest about him when working together?
Let me think after 27 years… He’s just wonderful with people, you know? The actors and dancers adore him because he brings joy and life to everyone he works with and supports them and gives great confidence. I love seeing other people learn to love him the way I do.

At the press conference it seemed some of the journalists didn’t realize you’re gay, bombarding you with suggestive, lecherous “how hot was it working with all these sexy ladies” questions.
Oh right. What’s funny is what people don’t understand about being a gay man is you appreciate women as well as men. Penelope Cruz is one of the sexiest women I’ve ever seen in my entire life. So I was fine to hear those things. I’m very happy and proud of who I am and talk about John as well.”

Which actor required the most vocal coaching and prep to get them in shape for the singing?

Everyone did. Fergie obviously had a different challenge. She had to find her way into this world as an actor and approach her material from that. But they were all working so hard because it’s not something they do every day. Even Nicole, who sang in Moulin Rouge, we actually took her material and dropped it many keys because I wanted a chest voice for her to have a more sultry, darker, deeper sound for Claudia, so she was working really hard to find that.”

What is the most significant change made from the play Nine to the film?
It’s just one man with women and you’re moving in and out of things quite quickly. It all plays as a conceptual fantasy. Our movie really moves back and forth between reality and fantasy and memory.

What was the biggest difference between this and Chicago for you?

Chicago ultimately was a satire so there was a tone to that… it’s really a shift in tone. This explores more dramatic territory and I found it’s a deeper story. That kind of emotional work was something very different from Chicago.

I understand that Daniel would write notes to the rest of the cast on “Guido Contini” stationery and would sign them with his character’s name. Did he write any notes for you, like ‘looking good in those pants?’
(Laughs) Not like that but he’s a very generous man, believe me, and I’ve gotten a few with some lovely words of encouragement. I’ll treasure those forever.”

Speaking of treasures, is there anything special we’ll see on the Nine DVD next year?
There’s a number we shot that we decided not to use in the end, Only With You. So we might put that extra number on the DVD. It’s Daniel with Penelope, Nicole and Marion.

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