NEW YORK — Renee Zellweger is poised to join Catherine Zeta-Jones as the larcenous murdering dancer-singers who topline “Chicago,” the Miramax version of the Tony-winning Bob Fosse musical being prepped by director Rob Marshall for an early 2002 shoot.
While Zellweger wouldn’t seem the most obvious choice for a song-and-dance film, the actress has been eyed for some time by the studio that distributed her last hit, “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”
Zellweger showed off her talents to Marshall in Gotham late last week and demonstrated enough singing and dancing ability to have the director and producers Harvey Weinstein and Martin Richards offer her the role of Roxie. She accepted, and the dealmaking with her CAA agents and manager John Carabino is commencing.
An offer also is out to Kevin Spacey to play sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn, who defends two women on separate murder charges and changes loyalties when one becomes more popular in the press than the other.
Kathy Bates is also said to be under consideration for the role of Mama Morton, the prison matron who is the intermediary between the murderesses and the media.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are exec producing the film.
“Chicago” has been a high priority at Miramax for years, but co-chair Weinstein and the musical’s producer Richards were unable to agree on everything — until Oscar-winning “Gods and Monsters” scribe Bill Condon turned in a script that had the duo singing in harmony.
Since then, they have been meeting with numerous versatile actresses. They settled early on Zeta-Jones (Daily Variety, July 11), who has extensive dancing and stage experience. She’s now in negotiations to play Velma, the role originated by Chita Rivera in the stage musical.
Miramax declined comment.