A Chorus Line (film)

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A Chorus Line
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Attenborough
Produced byCy Feuer
Screenplay byArnold Schulman
Based onA Chorus Line
by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante
StarringMichael Douglas
Music by
CinematographyRonnie Taylor
Edited byJohn Bloom
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • December 13, 1985 (1985-12-13)
Running time
118 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$25 million[2]
Box office$14.2 million[3]

A Chorus Line is a 1985 American musical drama film directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Michael Douglas. The screenplay by Arnold Schulman is based on the book of the 1975 stage production of the same name by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante. The songs were composed by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban.

Released theatrically on December 13, 1985 by Columbia Pictures, the film received mixed reviews from critics and was a box office bomb, grossing only $14 million from a $25 million budget.


A group of dancers congregate on a Broadway theatre stage to audition for a new musical production directed by Zach (Michael Douglas). After initial eliminations, sixteen hopefuls remain. Arriving late is former lead dancer Cassie (Alyson Reed) who once had a tempestuous romantic relationship with Zach but left him for Hollywood. Now she has not worked in over a year, and is desperate enough for work to even just be part of the chorus line. Zach informs them that he is looking for eight dancers (four men and four women). He starts by having them go down the line to introduce themselves. When Cassie asks to speak with Zach alone, his secretary Kim (Sharon Brown) escorts her out, but Zach's choreographer, Larry (Terrence Mann), stops her and convinces her to stay. Mike Cass (Charles McGowan) explains that his mom used to take him along to his sister's dance lessons and eventually, he started taking the class himself. Then, Bobby Mills (Matt West) shares his obsession with interior design and his time in private school. Sheila Bryant (Vicki Frederick), Bebe Benson (Michelle Johnston), and Maggie Winslow (Pam Klinger) recount their experiences with abusive fathers and their shared love for ballet. Next, Kristine Erlich-Deluca(Nicole Fosse) and her husband Al (Tony Fields) tell Zach that Kristine cannot sing but dances wonderfully. Mark Tobori (Michael Blevins) recalls a gonorrhea scare that occurred when he was younger, Greg Gardner (Justin Ross) describes discovering his homosexuality, and Richie Walters (Gregg Burge) remembers his first sexual interaction in a graveyard. Meanwhile, Cassie has been sitting backstage waiting for a chance to speak with Zach and reminiscing over her days on Broadway.

Back on stage, Connie Wong (Jan Gan Boyd) complains about how, her whole life, she remained 4'10". Diana Morales (Yamil Borges) realizes that they went to the same high school and had the same drama teacher, Mr. Karp, sharing with Zach that, no matter what she did, Karp never saw her as a serious actress. Don Kerr (Blane Savage) explains that his day job is serving tables to support his wife and two kids, while Val Clarke (Audrey Landers) describes her recent breast augmentation in order to get work. Paul San Marco (Cameron English) begins to tell his story but stops when he remembers his younger sister's death, and Judy Monroe (Janet Jones) recounts how she shaved her bratty sister's head. As Cassie enters the stage, Zach tells Larry to take all the dancers to a rehearsal room. Cassie pleads for a job but Zach tells her that she cannot fit into a line because of her previous experience as a star. Fed up with her presence, he sends her downstairs to learn the routine with everyone else. Paul re-enters the stage and asks Zach if he is disqualified from the audition. Paul tells him about how he grew up watching musicals on 42nd Street and during the shows, older men would molest him, and when he got to high school, everyone called him gay for allowing it. Realizing that he was gay, Paul describes his first job at a drag cabaret and admits that he lied to his parents to hide his homosexuality, but one time, his parents arrived early to the show and saw him through the stage door wearing a dress, later disowning him for lying. Zach runs onstage and embraces Paul, showing compassion for the first time in the audition.

Larry brings the dancers back onstage to perform the newly-learned routine for Zach. However, as they repeat the combination, their inner thoughts are heard. Zach begins shouting at Cassie from the house, seeing that she cannot blend in. They argue about their past relationship while Larry leads the group in a tap combination. Suddenly, Paul messes up in the routine and injures his knee. As he is rushed to the hospital, Zach asks the dancers what they will do once they can no longer perform. Diana is the only one that can truly answer the question, telling him that she wants to be remembered, even if just for dancing in a chorus, which all the hopefuls seem to agree with. Zach chooses Val, Cassie, Bebe, Diana, Mike, Mark, Richie, and Bobby to be in his line. Months later, the eight performers are seen performing "One" in front of an audience. As the song progresses, the cut dancers also appear onstage and it becomes harder to identify each dancer. The dancer's reflections from the mirror joins them and soon the stage is filled with hundreds of dancers. As the credits roll, the song's tag vamps as the dancers continue dancing in a giant Kickline.


  • Michael Blevins as Mark Tobori
  • Yamil Borges as Diana Morales
  • Jan Gan Boyd as Connie Wong
  • Gregg Burge as Richie Walters
  • Cameron English as Paul San Marco
  • Tony Fields as Al DeLuca
  • Audrey Landers as Val Clarke
  • Nicole Fosse as Kristine Evelyn Erlich-DeLuca
  • Vicki Frederick as Sheila Bryant
  • Michelle Johnston as Beatrice Ann "Bebe" Benson
  • Janet Jones as Judy Monroe
  • Pam Klinger as Maggie Winslow
  • Charles McGowan as Mike Cass
  • Justin Ross as Greg Gardner
  • Blane Savage as Don Kerr
  • Matt West as Bobby Mills

Musical numbers[edit]

  1. "I Hope I Get It" – Entire cast—Contains new sections of music not in the original stage version
  2. "Who Am I Anyway?" – Paul—his solo, originally part of "I Hope I Get It"
  3. "I Can Do That" – Mike
  4. "At the Ballet" – Sheila, Bebe and Maggie—the soundtrack contains an extended version not heard in the film
  5. "Surprise, Surprise" – Richie and dancers—replaces "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love" and "Gimme the Ball", although one verse of the song is heard in the film. The monologues of Mark, Connie, Judy, and Greg which are part of this number are performed in other parts of the film without music.
  6. "Nothing" – Diana
  7. "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three" – Val
  8. "Let Me Dance for You" – Cassie—replaces her song "The Music and the Mirror", although part of the instrumental section remains the same
  9. "One" (rehearsal) – entire cast
  10. "What I Did for Love" – Cassie—sung counterpoint to the Tap Combination. In the stage version, the company performs the number, with Diana leading.
  11. "One" (Finale) – entire cast (8 kicklines of 17 dancers each)

The songs "And...", “Sing!”, and "The Tap Combination" from the stage version are eliminated in the film, as well as most of "The Montage" ("Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love").


Chart (1986) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[4] 100


Even before the show had premiered on Broadway, Hollywood producers had expressed interest in a motion picture version of the musical.[5] Universal Pictures acquired the rights for $5.5 million, in addition to agreeing to pay royalties of 20% of the distributor's gross rentals above $30 million,[6][5] with the stage musical's director Michael Bennett hired as producer and director. Bennett declined to participate when his proposal to present the film as an audition to cast the movie version of the stage play, instead of a literal translation of the play (cf. the 1971 film adaptation of The Boy Friend) was rejected. Many directors turned down the project, insisting that not only was A Chorus Line too beloved, but it would not translate well to the screen. In addition, the requirement to start paying royalties after the gross reached $30 million -- by which time the film might not yet have broken even -- made the film a difficult financial prospect.[5] When Attenborough accepted the project in 1984,[7] there was some apprehension as to the treatment the British director would give the musical's quintessentially American story.

Universal sold the rights to PolyGram for $7.8 million in 1982 and in 1983 Embassy Pictures joined as co-producers,[7] investing 20% in Embassy Film Associates, which financed the picture.[8]

In February 1984, according to Attenborough, the singer Madonna auditioned at the Royale Theatre on Broadway for a dance role in the movie using her birth name of Ciccone. He rejected her.[9]

The dance numbers were choreographed by Jeffrey Hornaday.

Matt West, Vicki Frederick, Pam Klinger, Justin Ross, and Alyson Reed had all appeared in A Chorus Line on Broadway or in other major productions of the stage show prior to appearing in the film version. Gregg Burge, Charles McGowan, and Blane Savage joined stage productions of A Chorus Line after filming the movie.

Audrey Landers could move well but was not a trained dancer as was the rest of the cast. Attenborough cast her in the film despite her lack of formal dance training. She is absent from some of the more difficult choreographed dance numbers.

The decision to tamper with the score disappointed fans of the show. "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love," "Sing!," and "The Music and the Mirror" were deleted (the first was touched on briefly) and new songs "Surprise, Surprise" and "Let Me Dance For You" were added. The show's breakout tune, "What I Did for Love," was originally performed by Diana as a paean to dancers and their dedication to their craft, but in the film it becomes a wistful love song by Cassie about Zach as she leaves the stage. Another change from the stage show to the movie sees the character of Bebe being selected as one of the final eight dancers, rather than Judy.

The stage musical was one of the first productions to address the subject of gay actors within the theatre. However, the film version opted instead to make a more "family friendly" film by dealing less with the experiences of gay actors.

Six months prior to release, Embassy Pictures was sold to The Coca-Cola Company, who also owned Columbia Pictures. Five months later, Dino DeLaurentiis acquired Embassy but he did not acquire the 20% interest in Embassy Film Associates, which created some confusion over who would handle the film, which was already scheduled to be distributed by Columbia.[8]


Critical response[edit]

In his review in The New York Times, Vincent Canby observed, "Though it was generally agreed that Hair would not work as a film, Miloš Forman transformed it into one of the most original pieces of musical cinema of the last 20 years. Then they said that A Chorus Line couldn't be done—and this time they were right...Mr. Attenborough has elected to make a more or less straightforward film version that is fatally halfhearted."[10]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated, "The result may not please purists who want a film record of what they saw on stage, but this is one of the most intelligent and compelling movie musicals in a long time—and the most grown up, since it isn't limited, as so many contemporary musicals are, to the celebration of the survival qualities of geriatric actresses."[11]

Variety said, "Chorus often seems static and confined, rarely venturing beyond the immediate. Attenborough merely films the stage show as best he could. Nonetheless, the director and lenser Ronnie Taylor have done an excellent job working within the limitations, using every trick they could think of to keep the picture moving. More importantly, they have a fine cast, good music and a great, popular show to work with. So if all they did was get it on film, that's not so bad."[12]

Time Out London says, "The grit and drive of the original have been dissipated into studiously unkempt glitz as empty as plasticised pop ... It's too corny and unbelievable for words."[13]

Kelly Bishop, the original stage Sheila, noted, "It was appalling when director Richard Attenborough went on a talk show and said 'this is a story about kids trying to break into show business.' I almost tossed my TV out the window; I mean what an idiot! It's about veteran dancers looking for one last job before it's too late for them to dance anymore. No wonder the film sucked!"[citation needed]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 40% based on reviews from 35 critics. The website's critics consensus states: "On stage, A Chorus Line pulled back the curtain to reveal the hopes and fears of showbiz strivers, but that energy and urgency is lost in the transition to the big screen."[14] On Metacritic the film has a score of 46% based on reviews from 13 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[15]


The film was nominated for the following awards:

Academy Awards[16]
Golden Globes

Note: At the Golden Globes, A Chorus Line lost out in both categories to Prizzi's Honor, while at the BAFTA Awards it lost out in both categories to Amadeus.

Home media[edit]

A Chorus Line was released to DVD by MGM Home Entertainment on April 15, 2003 as a Region 1 widescreen DVD, with a re-release in new packaging on January 14, 2014 and a Blu-ray release on the same date.

In culture[edit]

In season 6, episode 10 of the American medical drama House, Dr. Gregory House buys a A Chorus Line poster, while Dr. James Wilson hums the final score of the movie and musical in the episode finale.


  1. ^ "A Chorus Line (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. December 20, 1985. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  2. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (November 29, 1985). "At the Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  3. ^ "A Chorus Line - Box Office Mojo" Box Office Mojo. Retrieved: April 18, 2021.
  4. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 284. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  5. ^ a b c Freedman, Samuel G. (November 11, 1984). "'Chorus Line' vs. Hollywood -- a Saga". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  6. ^ "'A Chorus Line' to Tune Out March 31 After 15 Years". Variety. February 28, 1990. p. 53.
  7. ^ a b "A Chorus Line". AFI Catalog. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Greenberg, James (November 13, 1985). "Dino Cleans House At Embassy; 70 Staffers Are Canned On Coast". Variety. p. 3.
  9. ^ Entirely Up To You, Darling by Diana Hawkins & Richard Attenborough; page 133; paperback; Arrow Books; published 2009. ISBN 978-0-099-50304-0
  10. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 10, 1985). "A Chorus Line (1985) review". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 20, 1985). "A Chorus Line review". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on December 20, 2010. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  12. ^ "A Chorus Line review". Variety. December 31, 1984. Archived from the original on December 20, 2010. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  13. ^ R., A. Time Out Film Guide. London, UK: Time Out. Archived from the original on December 20, 2010. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  14. ^ "A Chorus Line (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  15. ^ "A Chorus Line". Metacritic. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  16. ^ "The 58th Academy Awards (1986) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved October 16, 2011.

External links[edit]