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Miramax tuning ‘Chicago’

The line is forming for Velma and Roxy roles in pic

NEW YORK — After several false starts, Miramax is poised to start shooting the musical “Chicago,” with a new script by Oscar-winning “Gods and Monsters” scribe Bill Condon and a deal in place with Rob Marshall.

Marshall, a stage director who helmed the ABC musical adaptation of “Annie,” will make his feature directorial debut, with Marty Richards and Harvey Weinstein producing.

Also coming aboard as executive producers are Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who exec produced ABC’s “Annie” and “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows.”

The musical has long been a passion project for Miramax’s Weinstein, who has tried for nearly five years, with original stage producer and rights owner Richards, to make a film version.

It has been difficult to find the right combination of script and stars for the Bob Fosse tuner, which won two Tony Awards in its original incarnation in 1977, with Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon in the starring roles.

A Broadway revival two decades later won six Tonys, with Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking starring. Actresses from Goldie Hawn to Madonna, Liza Minnelli and Charlize Theron have all been mentioned as participants, and directors and scribes including Herb Ross, Larry Gelbart and Wendy Wasserstein have checked in and out.

Why now?

What has given sudden urgency to the project?

“Harvey and I both have creative say, and until now we never could agree on the script for the movie,” said Richards. “What Bill has done is phenomenal, and we have hired a casting director, we’re scouting locations in Toronto, and will soon be taking rehearsal space to find the right actresses, who’ll have to come in and show us they can sing and dance. Do you know if Julia Roberts can sing and dance?”

While Roberts’s hoofing abilities are not fully known, there is solid buzz about actresses who can do both, and who will meet on the film. Among those mentioned are Catherine Zeta-Jones, Nicole Kidman (who sings in “Moulin Rouge”), Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz and Madonna.

Richards and Weinstein need to find two actresses to play Velma and Roxie, a vaudevillian and chorus girl who both committed murders, and who become famous in a musical about the legal system manipulated through media and money in Chicago in the roaring ’20s.

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