”It’s been the most difficult birth, a most unusual child,” says Luhrmann (”Romeo + Juliet”) of his baby, a postmodern musical set within 19th century Paris’ most famous bohemian hangout. Expected last Christmas, the movie got sidetracked — but not because, as rumors had it, test audiences were so perplexed that Aussie pop star Minogue had to be recruited to add narration. (Never happened; but she does appear as a faerie.) Lurhmann says that he simply failed to finish shooting last summer before ”Star Wars: Episode II” claimed his soundstages. The death of his father was also a factor, as was a knee injury suffered by Kidman. Lurhmann eventually picked up his missing shots in Madrid last fall.
But testing has spurred some changes, such as a new, ”get to the point” beginning. The delay’s upside: ”Moulin Rouge” will open the prestigious Cannes film festival next month. The downside: ”This is the kind of movie that’s usually a fall movie,” says Leguizamo, who plays painter Toulouse Lautrec. ”Summer films are usually the biggest grossers, but they’re also usually the shallowest stuff.” Lurhmann’s feelings on his release date are mixed. ”It’s a pretty ballsy place, right next to those big aircraft carriers and Japanese Zeros,” he says. ”I have nightmares of Zeros going ‘We must get the cancan dancing film!’ ”