Rob Marshall

Rob Marshall

Born in Madison, WI, Marshall first began making home movies as a youth, including a parody of "The Brady Bunch" which starred his sisters, while appearing in productions of "The King and I" and "The Sound of Music" as a child. But by the time he was preparing to enroll at Carnegie Mellon University, he had shifted his interest to dance, training in both jazz and ballet. In 1980, he took a year off from school to join in a touring company of "A Chorus Line," directed by noted choreographer Michael Bennett. Marshall took his experiences back to Carnegie Mellon, becoming a much better dancer by the time he graduated in 1982. The next year, he landed a part in the musical "Zorba" (1983), which he followed by appearing in "The Rink" (1984) and "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (1985). All three productions were choreographed by Graciela Daniele, who took the young Marshall under her wing to become his mentor. By the time he performed in "Edwin Drood," Marshall was Daniele's dance captain and assistant. But his career as a dancer came to a sudden end when he suffered a back injury while performing in "Cats," which marked his final appearance on Broadway as a performer.Despite his career being temporarily derailed, Marshall found himself fielding offers to choreograph regional theater. He moved rapidly up to the big leagues, choreographing his first Broadway effort, "The Kiss of the Spider Woman" (1993), with music and lyrics by Kander and Ebb. Starring star Chita Rivera and directed by the legendary director Hal Prince, the popular musical earned Marshall his first Tony Award nomination for Best Choreography, which he shared with fellow choreographer Vincent Patterson. Marshall's next big moment came when he choreographed the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of "She Loves Me" (1993), which earned him an Olivier nomination when the show ran in London. He won major acclaim for his choreography of the 1994 Broadway revival of "Damn Yankees" starring Victor Garber and Bebe Neuwirth, while the show's national tour with Jerry Lewis and subsequent London production - which earned him a second Olivier nomination - only enhanced his reputation. Meanwhile, he reunited with Hal Prince to choreograph the dance moves for a revival of "Company" (1995), which closed after 60 performances, followed by a production of "The Petrified Prince" at the Public Theater.Only two years into his Broadway career, Marshall had already established himself as a top choreographer. Following a production of Blake Edwards' "Victor/Victoria" (1995), starring Julie Andrews, he added his touch to the smash revival of "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum" (1996) which starred Nathan Lane, and later Whoopi Goldberg. Of course, Marshall's string of successes on stage soon attracted the attention of Hollywood. He was tapped to choreograph the dance sequences in lavish musical television productions like "Mrs. Santa Claus" (CBS, 1996), starring Angela Lansbury, and an all-star small screen version of "Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" (ABC, 1997) starring singer Brandy, Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg and Jason Alexander. After working with actor-director Tim Robbins on "Cradle Will Rock" (1998), Marshall returned to Broadway to make his co-directorial debut alongside Sam Mendes and choreograph the wildly popular revival of Kander and Ebbs' sensation, "Cabaret" (1998). Starring Alan Cumming as the Master of Ceremonies and Natasha Richardson as Sally Bowles, the acclaimed production won just about every award imaginable, including the Tony, the Drama Desk Award and the Outer-Critics Circle Award. That same year, he also helmed the Tony-winning Broadway run of Neil Simon's "Little Me," starring Faith Prince and Martin Short, as well as "Promises, Promises" for the City Center Encores! Series.Marshall made a major splash on the small screen with the ratings-earning television adaptation of "Annie" (1999) with Kathy Bates, Victor Garber, Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth. The made-for-television musical marked Marshall's first professional foray behind the camera as a director and became the most-viewed small screen movie of that year. The Peabody-award winning broadcast also resulted in Marshall winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography, as well as earning a Director's Guild of America Award nod. Marshall soon found himself being strongly beckoned by big screen Hollywood. After replacing the original director on the Broadway musical "Suessical" (2000) - which he did uncredited, working with the show's choreographer, his sister Kathleen - he began meeting with movie studio executives looking for his first feature film project. Thanks to the children of Miramax studio head Harvey Weinstein obsessively watching "Annie," Marshall found himself pitching his long-dreamed-of ambition of putting the famous musical, "Chicago," onto celluloid. Marshall had earlier directed a well-received Los Angeles production of the musical starring Bebe Neuwirth in 1992, which had earned him a Dramalogue Award, making him exactly the right person for the job.Though there had been several failed efforts since the 1980s to bring "Chicago" to the screen that involved a revolving door of talent, Marshall believed that he had the concept that would allow contemporary filmgoers to embrace the inherent unreality of the movie musical. Marshall determined that he would keep the music sequences theatrical and showy by making them imaginary figments unfolding in the head of the delusional lead character, Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger). Miramax agreed and Marshall set to work crafting a script with writer-director Bill Condon. He also cannily cast major stars who were proven box office draws - Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere - but were not known for their musical talents. He also populated the supporting roles with highly unconventional choices, including Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu, which helped amplify the curiosity factor. But no amount of gimmicks beat Marshall's remarkably assured direction and whip-smart style, which resulted in a potent, energetic and highly original film that captured the electricity of Broadway-style dance without sacrificing a theatrical sensibility for cinematic realism. It did not hurt that "Moulin Rouge" (2001), Baz Luhrmann's kaleidoscopic musical starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, had been released a year prior to resounding box office success; in effect, altering the public's long-held perception of movie musicals as silly and unwatchable. This shift, as well as all of Marshall's heartfelt efforts, proved fruitful when his musical vision was released in 2002 to gushing critical accolades and strong box office receipts, a ride that resulted in several major award nominations, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.Marshall found himself in non-musical territory for his next feature directing effort, the long-awaited adaptation of Arthur S. Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha" (2005), starring Asian heavyweights Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe and Michelle Yeoh. Despite its sweeping story, lush cinematography and Oscar-winning art direction and costume design, Marshall failed to create an emotionally satisfying or financially successful endeavor. The film followed the life of a beautiful geisha (Zhang) during World War II who is in love with a man beyond her reach (Watanabe). Returning to the more comfortable genre of musical and variety programming, Marshall directed "Tony Bennett: An American Classic" (NBC, 2006), an all-star 80th birthday tribute to the legendary crooner featuring Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Bill Crystal. Marshall won two Emmy awards for his efforts; one for Outstanding Directing for a Variety, Musical or Comedy Program; the other he shared with the other producers for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special. Back to directing features, he joined forces with the Weinsteins again to helm "Nine" (2009), a musical drama loosely based on Federico Fellini's "8 ½" (1963), which focused on a film director (Daniel Day-Lewis) stuck in neutral as he tries to make a movie while dealing with the demands of all the women in his life, including his deceased mother (Sophia Loren). The film was indeed an A-list grab bag, as Marshall's reputation and the material presented attracted not only Day-Lewis and Loren - two notoriously choosy actors - but also Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Dame Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard and Kate Hudson.