Producer Martin Richards approached Catherine Zeta-Jones about appearing in this film version of the play after being wowed by her renditions of carols at a family Christmas party in Bermuda (her and husband Michael Douglas' home). Richards approached her for the role of Roxie Hart but Zeta-Jones, though not familiar at all with the original show, did know that the character of Velma Kelly sang the song "All That Jazz"; she only wanted to play that role because she wanted to sing that song.
Adapted from a 1975 musical play directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, whose other credits include the films Cabaret, Lenny and All That Jazz. The stage musical "Chicago" premiered at the 46th Street Theatre (now known as the Richard Rodgers Theatre) in New York on May 12, 1975 and ran for 936 performances. Its opening night cast included Jerry Orbach as Billy Flynn, Chita Rivera as Velma Kelly (Rivera later played Roxie Hart in a 1990s London production and also has a bit part in this film), Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart and Barney Martin as Amos Hart. A 1996 Broadway revival of the musical was even more successful and is still running as of this date (Oct. 2008).
Rob Marshall wanted Catherine Zeta-Jones to wear her natural long hair in the movie, but she insisted on the short bob. She explained to People magazine that she didn't want her hair to fall over her face and give people a reason to doubt that she did all the dancing herself.
The translated speech by Hunyak is: "How did I find myself here? They say my famous lover (neighbor?) held down my husband and I cut his head off. But it's not true. I am innocent. I don't know why Uncle Sam says I did it. I tried to explain at the police station but they didn't understand." The original, in Hungarian: "Mit keresek én itt? Azt mondják, a híres lakóm lefogta a férjem, én meg lecsaptam a fejét. De nem igaz. Én ártatlan vagyok. Nem tudom, miért mondja Uncle Sam, hogy én voltam. Próbáltam a rendõrségen megmagyarázni, de nem értették meg."
When mama introduces Billy Flynn for the first time, the "All I Care About is Love" dancers slowly appear behind her. There were no CGI effects involved, it was simply a scrim. In fact, the only CGI effects throughout the movie are from "erasing" the harnesses on Christine Baranski (Mary Sunshine) and on some of the reporters during the end of the "We Both Reached for the Gun" number.
The musical numbers "My Own Best Friend" and "Me and My Baby" were originally written into the script, but were removed at the last minute. "My Own Best Friend" was to have taken place when Roxie and Velma are put in solitary confinement after getting into a cat fight. "Me and My Baby" can be heard briefly when Roxie faints and proclaims her pregnancy.
Rob Marshall had previously been hired by the producers to direct Annie; he had not wanted to direct that earlier film, preferring only to do choreography, but was persuaded to do both. That film's success resulted in his getting the job to direct Chicago.
Rob Marshall was originally considered by Miramax to direct the screen version of the smash Broadway play "Rent". When he arrived for his interview, he told Miramax he wanted to talk about "Chicago" instead and proposed the "musical in Roxie's mind" concept. Miramax loved the idea and put "Rent" on the back burner, finally making Rent three years later.
The play "Chicago" was Maurine Dallas Watkins' retelling of two very public murder trials that occurred in Chicago in 1924, those of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. Watkins covered these trials for the Chicago Tribune and wrote the character of Mary Sunshine as a self portrait.
A long battle took place between the agents of Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones over billing on the movie poster. In the end, "diagonal billing" was settled upon - as depending on which way you read it (top to bottom or left to right), both appear to get top billing.
The Broadway musical production of "Chicago" opened at the 46th Street Theatre (now the Richard Rodgers Theatre) on June 3, 1975 starring Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera (who had a cameo in the film), and Jerry Orbach in the principal roles. During a vacation, Liza Minnelli played Roxie Hart. There were many replacements during the original run, including Ann Reinking as Roxie Hart. The show ran for 936 performances. The original non-musical play "Chicago" opened at the Music Box Theater on December 30, 1926 and ran for five months. The musical version had even more success as a revival, opening again at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on November 14, 1996. It has moved to various other theatres, and as of this writing (May 2008), is still running.
The 1996 smash revival of the 1975 musical was one of the very few instances of a Broadway revival that was far more successful than the original. It was still running as of May, 2008. Given the long, difficult history of bringing the show to the screen, many believe that if the Broadway musical had not been so successful in its 1996 revival, the 2002 film would never have been made.
There are several differences between the film and stage versions that presented challenges in bringing the project to the screen. A significant difference is the portrayal of reporter Mary Sunshine (played in the film by Christine Baranski). In the stage version, Mary Sunshine is played by a very convincing female impersonator who appears to be a large, matronly woman. He sings falsetto, and the audience is not aware that he is a man until the second act, after a line to the effect of "Things are not always what they appear to be!" and someone pulls off the wig and dress, revealing the truth about Mary Sunshine.
The original production of "Chicago" opened at the 46th Street Theater on June 3, 1975, ran for 936 performances and was nominated for the 1976 Tony Awards for the Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score.
During the Cell Block Tango, each girl does an imitation of her crime, each in session using a red silk bandanna to imitate where the blood would have been. However, when Hunyak is speaking, she pulls out a white bandanna, not a red one, indicating that, she is, in fact, innocent.
Cited as one of the films responsible for prompting the MPAA to include smoking in their film certification criteria in 2007, due to the numerous instances of smoking from the main characters and ensemble.
Cinematographer Dion Beebe was on his way to a theater in London to watch the musical when he got a phone call from his agent telling him that director Rob Marshall was interested in having him shoot the film.