Gere shifts to ‘Chicago’

Thesp ready to sing in musical with Zeta-Jones, Zellweger

Richard Gere is poised to join Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger in “Chicago,” the Rob Marshall-directed Miramax musical.

Gere would play Billy Flynn, a dashing and sleazy lawyer who makes stars out of two accused murderesses in Chicago during the Roaring ’20s. Flynn reps both women, who are charged with separate crimes, but shifts his loyalty when one of them becomes more popular in the press.

Pic includes three musical numbers sung by the Flynn character. Gere does have a musical background, playing the lead in a West End production of “Grease” and some singing in “The Cotton Club.”

Written by Bill Condon, “Chicago” is being produced by Marty Richards and Harvey Weinstein, with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron exec producing. Richards produced the Bob Fosse musical, which won two Tony Awards in its original, 1977 staging and six more when it was revived two decades later. The film adaptation has long been a passion project for Weinstein, and it proved a magnet for screen talent, with numerous actresses buzzing around the roles until Zeta-Jones signed on to play Velma and Zellweger signed on to play Roxie.

Gere recently completed the Mark Pellington-directed “The Mothman Prophecies” for Lakeshore and Screen Gems and the Adrian Lyne-directed “Unfaithful” for Fox 2000. He is repped by ICM.

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