This movie was launched in Australia to an audience of just 250 people in a small country town called Taree, 200 miles north of Sydney. Baz Luhrmann grew up just outside of Taree where his family owned a gas service-station. The 250 tickets were sold at a local pharmacy.
Filming was halted for two weeks in November 1999 after Nicole Kidman fractured two ribs and injured her knee while rehearsing a dance routine for the film. Many of the scenes where she is seen only from the chest up, including "A real actress!", were shot while she was in a wheelchair.
The necklace worn by Nicole Kidman was made of real diamonds and platinum and was the most expensive piece of jewelery ever specifically made for a film. The Stefano Canturi necklace was made with 1,308 diamonds, weighing a total of 134 carats and was worth an estimated US $1 million.
In the "Like a Virgin" number, Jim Broadbent's voice is dubbed by an opera singer, mimicking Broadbent's own vocal performance. The floor was rubbed in with Coca Cola so the dancers wouldn't slip. This segment, Richard Roxburgh's favorite experience from the production, took a week to film.
Moulin Rouge! (2001) became the first movie musical, in ten years, to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year since Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991). It was also snubbed for Best Director (Baz Luhrmann) and Best Original Screenplay, which has been cited as one of the most outrageous, infamous, and unforgivable Oscar snubs for the 74th Academy Awards.
Various tricks were used to make John Leguizamo's (Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa) legs appear shorter. Some shots are of his stand-in who was of the correct height, while in others he walked on his knees in special leg braces and wearing blue socks so that his lower legs could be digitally removed. Leguizamo did the entire climactic scene from a squatting position to give him greater mobility in his role. Consequently he had to endure several weeks of physical therapy afterwards.
"Come What May" was written by David Baerwald for Romeo + Juliet (1996) but not used. In Moulin Rouge! (2001), it is newly written for the stage show by Christian. It is the only completely original song in the entire film. However, because it was written for another film, it was disqualified for the Oscars' Best Song award.
Originally, the green fairy was going to be a long-haired muscle man with a giant sitar and Ozzy Osbourne was hired to provide the vocals. Eventually it was changed to the current "Tinker Bell" incarnation, played by Kylie Minogue, but Osbourne still gives voice to the fairy's guttural scream when it turns evil.
The movie's plot is an amalgam three operas/operettas. A young writer with Bohemian friends, falling in love with a terminally ill girl, is from Great Performances: La bohème (1994) based on Henri Murger's novel "La Vie de la Boheme". A courtesan learning that love can also be true and idealistic, comes from La traviata (1968) based on Alexandre Dumas fils' novel Camille (1936), which also involves terminal illness. Finally, the plot line of the writer who travels to the "under-world" of the Moulin Rouge to find his love and tries to take her back to the "upper-world" comes from Jacques Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld" based on Greek mythology--a movement from this opera's overture becomes the "pitch" song for Spectacular Spectacular.
Cat Stevens would not license his song "Father and Son", which was the first musical number in the original script, because of his current religious beliefs. He objected to the sexual content in the film. The scene featuring "Father and Son" was to have been between Christian and his father in his father's office, with all his father's employees joining in for the chorus. This was to be the segue into his leaving home for Paris. The scene is included in the complete script on the Special Edition DVD.
The stage for "Spectacular Spectacular" was especially reinforced to hold the weight of a galloping horse for a scene where the evil Maharaja rides across the stage. The scene was abandoned but the white horse still appears fleetingly in one shot.
Courtney Love has gone on record calling losing the role of Satine to Nicole Kidman one of the biggest disappoints of her career and made no secret of her resentment against Kidman. Director Baz Luhrmann characterized the difference between the two actresses in a Vanity Fair article by saying "Courtney is fire and Nicole is ice." This prompted Love to remark that Kidman was "a puddle" and dedicate the song "Miss World" (a song about a self-loathing beauty queen) to Kidman on her 1999 tour with her band Hole.
The majority of the Can Can dancers at the Moulin Rouge have a specifically designed 'persona', most of them based on different male fetishes. The full list of names of the Can Can dancers and their 'persona' is as follows: Antoinette - Based on the famous French Queen, Marie-Antoinette. Arabia - Based on Arabian courtesan garb. Babydoll - Dressed in Infant Clothing (Often mistook for Bo Peep) Chinadoll - Dressed in Chinese silks. Dominatrix - Self explanatory. French Maid - Self explanatory. Garden Girl - A hippie/bohemian/earthy seeming girl. Gypsy - Self explanatory. Harlequin - Based on a court jester's diamond patterned costume. Historic - Based on the Statue of Liberty. Juno - Dressed as an Angel. Liberty - Dressed in 'Napoleonic' garb. Mome Fromage - Dressed in candy/cake/confectionery type colors and fabrics. Nini Legs-In-The-Air - Costume decorated with windmills, as the character is said to have the best legs in the Moulin Rouge and is always showing them off, waving her legs around, likening her legs to a windmill. Dances in the center. Pearly Queen - Decorated in sophisticated clothing; pearls, furs, jewels. Petite Princess - A dwarf woman in a princess costume. Polka Dot- a spirit of winter with evergreen trees drawn on her dress. Schoolgirl - Self explanatory (strongly resembles Gigi (1958) or Madeline (1952)). Spanish - Dressed in a flowing, veiled Spanish costume. Tarot - Costume is decorated with various imagery from tarot cards. Tartan - Costume is a full traditional Scottish Garb, with the skirt designed to look like a kilt. Tattoo - Dancer is covered entirely from the neck down in tattoos. Travesty - Cross-dresser, upper half is of an upper-class man; top hat, tuxedo, and bow tie. Dances with Nini. Urchin - Dressed as a poor street girl (strongly resembles Eponine from Great Performances: Les Misérables in Concert (1995)); bowler hat, patchwork costume.
Frenchman Henri de Toulousse-Lautrec is played by Hispanic (Colombian) actor John Leguizamo. In the 1952 film Moulin Rouge (1952), he was played by another Hispanic actor, Puerto Rican born José Ferrer. Cast member David Wenham shares the role of another Frenchman with Ferrer: Cyrano de Bergerac.
For much of the film, Audrey (David Wenham) is wearing a long, colorful scarf very reminiscent of the trademark scarf worn by Tom Baker on Doctor Who (1963). The scarf Baker wore was inspired by a long red scarf worn in the painting "Ambassadeurs: Aristide Bruant dans son cabaret" by famous bohemian Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who is a character in this movie.
The Elephant medley contains parts of several famous and not-so-famous love songs. These include "All You Need is Love" by the Beatles, "I was Made for Loving You" by KISS, "In the Name of Love" by U2, "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Thelma Houston, "Silly Love Songs" by Paul McCartney, "Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, "Heroes" by David Bowie, and "I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton.
The song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" mentions four jewelers - Tiffany, Cartier, Black Starr & Frost - Gorham and Harry Winston. Winston was not in business when the movie was set, and Black Starr & Frost had not yet merged with Gorham. Both names were removed from Satine's performance of the song. Harry Winston was replaced with Jim Broadbent's character Harold (Harry) Zidler. This historical person's real name was Charles Zidler, which the writers changed for this song.
During the performance of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend", the chorus of "Material Girl" is sung. In the original music video for "Material Girl", Madonna re-enacted Marilyn Monroe's performance of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).
The song "My Way", made popular by Frank Sinatra, was considered to be performed by The Duke for the film, but this never developed. However, The Duke still repeatedly yells, "My way!" during the finale.