Arts & Culture

Production Has Officially Begun on the Cats Movie Starring Taylor Swift and Judi Dench

Plus, our first hint at what the cats themselves might look like.
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While we're waiting for a peek of the new film adaptation of Cats (who doesn't want to see Judi Dench and Idris Elba in that crazy makeup?), there's still plenty of jellicle-related gossip to catch up on.

Here's everything else we know about the film so far:

PRODUCTION HAS OFFICIALLY BEGUN.

Across the pond in Hertfordshire, England, Cats is finally underway. It's likely most satisfying for director Tom Hooper, who's been attached to the project since way back in 2016.

SIGNS POINT TO THE USE OF CGI IN THE CREATION OF THE CATS.

Hollywood's recent push for live-action versions of classic animated films has yielded a deluge of digitally transformed actors. The results are mixed, to say the least—many fans have found that the onscreen creatures' almost-lifelike appearance falls squarely in the uncanny valley.

This doesn't seem to be of concern to the director of Cats, however. Hooper plans to use "astonishing new technology to transform his cast members," per Universal's recent announcement. We don't yet have details on how heavily the film will lean on CGI; it's possible that it will merely supplement makeup and other low-tech means of transformation.

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HAMILTON'S CHOREOGRAPHER IS ONBOARD. 

After the Royal Ballet's Wayne McGregor had to drop out for scheduling reasons, Cats has found its choreographer. Andy Blankenbuehler is most famous for his work on Hamilton, but also choreographed Cats's most recent Broadway revival.


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The cast of Cats perform on stage on July 31, 2016, at the musical’s first-ever Broadway revival.

JASON DERULO HAS BEEN CAST AS RUM TUM TUGGER.

The musician will play the notoriously rowdy cat. No word yet on whether he'll sing (as Rum Tum Tugger does in the original version) or rap (as in the London revival).

REBEL WILSON WILL PLAY JENNYANYDOTS, THE "OLD GUMBIE CAT."

The actress and comedienne has signed on to the project as Jennanydots, the famously lazy cat. She's known to spend her days sleeping, and wake up at night to cook and knit. Jennanydots is also known for her trademark team of cockroach helpers.


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A cast member performs onstage in Cats.

IAN MCKELLEN IS ALREADY LEARNING HIS LINES.

McKellen treated the audience of The Graham Norton Show to a taste of the upcoming film, singing the opening bars of "Gus the Theatre Cat."

He also revealed that he's currently trying to embrace his "inner pussy" for the role. McKellen even considered eating cat food on the weekends to prepare for his role. "I always thought cat food smelled as if it might be rather tasty," he said. "It isn’t."

ROYAL BALLET DANCERS FRANCESCA HAYWARD AND STEVEN MCRAE HAVE SIGNED ON TO THE PROJECT.

Hayward will play the all-white kitten Victoria for her feature film debut. She'll also have the chance to flex her singing skills, as she'll be tackling an all-new song by Andrew Lloyd Weber, written specifically for the adaptation.

McRae has been cast as Skimbleshanks, an older cat known for traveling on trains at night, hence his nickname "The Railway Cat."

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IT'S BEING DIRECTED BY VETERAN FILMMAKER TOM HOOPER.

You might know him from little projects like The King's Speech and The Danish Girl, not to mention his first acclaimed adaption, 2012's Les Misérables. After the success of the latter, Broadway fans trust him to handle another beloved musical.


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Cats cast members during the play’s Paris season at the Theatre de Paris.

JUDI DENCH HAS BEEN CAST AS DEUTERONOMY, A ROLE USUALLY PLAYED BY A MAN.

The revered actress is the most recent addition to the cast. Her gender-flipped role is intriguing, and raises questions about what else director Tom Hooper plans to change in his adaptation.

Deuteronomy is the leader of the Jellicles (the group of cats featured in the musical, based on the characters in T.S. Eliot's book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats). The feline is wise and well-respected—not unlike Dench herself.

TAYLOR SWIFT IS ALSO ONBOARD.

Swift will play Bombalurina, one of the two kitties that sing "Macavity the Mystery Cat," a notoriously lusty number.

Why was she cast, you might ask? "Well, basically, Tom Hooper thought it was a really good idea, and of course, she loves cats," said Andrew Lloyd Webber, the writer of the original musical. It's true—Taylor Swift loves her a cat.

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IDRIS ELBA WILL PLAY MACAVITY, THE SUBJECT OF SWIFT'S SONG.

In the musical, Macavity is the "master criminal." Given Elba's undeniable handsomeness, it makes perfect sense that he'd play the bad-boy character described in the sultry song.

JAMES CORDEN AND JENNIFER HUDSON ROUND OUT THE CAST.

Comedian James Corden and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson have also signed on to the coming film, adding even more star-power to an already stacked cast. Hudson is reportedly playing Grizabella, while Corden will portray Bustopher Jones.

Mette Towley, who is currently best known as a choreographer, has been tapped to play young kitten Jemima. Fellow up-and-comer Laurie Davidson, who debuted in 2017 as the star of TNT's Will, has also joined the project as a yet-to-be-announced character.

IT'S COMING OUT JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS, 2019.

The release date has been set for December 20, 2019, making the film a prime holiday box office contender. The movie adaptation of Wicked was previously slated for that day, but has since been pushed back. Thankfully, we're getting another Broadway hit in its place.

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This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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