Photography By Benedict Evans | Groomer: Losi/Brydges MacKinney
I was with somebody and John had just broken up, so I wasn’t interested at first. We were just friends; we just liked each other. In a weird way, I think it’s why, after 32 years, we’re still interested in each other and like being challenged by each other.
My performing career ended when I injured myself in Cats on Broadway (I was the narrator Munkustrap). Before Chicago, we were off doing different things. But with the movie, I said, “You have to do this with me. Let’s see if it works. You never know.” I needed his eye. I felt insecure. It was interesting trying to figure out John’s role. He works with me on everything artistic. Now it’s nice because he’s an artistic producer. He should have been a producer on Chicago, because that’s what his involvement was, but we were new to film, trying to figure out how it works.
We realized it was wonderful to work together, since with a movie it’s not like you put your life on hold — it is your life. So we could bring our home to Toronto or Los Angeles, where we shot Memoirs of a Geisha, or Italy and London, where we shot Nine. We have these adventures now, and it’s part of our life.
The truth is, we love work, but it’s not our life. Life is life. We realized that, in a relationship, you have to fill up. You can be running on empty, and it’s important to stop work and have an experience together and be living the food and atmosphere and the people somewhere. It’s like filling up a tank of gas. And then there’s work. We learned that when we actually did three projects back-to-back — it was too much. What were we racing for?
It’s true that we met in a bathroom. We were both auditioning for the Off-Broadway musical Boogie-Woogie Rumble of a Dream Deferred. It was 1982. I had just done Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ on Broadway. But we were both pretty new. There were two changing rooms, which were really bathrooms at this little theater downtown. I walked into the first, which was filled with guys, so I went in the next one. Rob did the same thing. After we auditioned, I told him he did really well. He couldn’t believe anyone at a New York audition would compliment someone. We both got parts. They even wrote us a song that we sang together, and we staged it ourselves.
People say, “Don’t you get tired of each other?” Then to work together on top of it? But we don’t. As actors, we made a pact. We vowed never to go to the same audition. When we were both choreographers and directors, it was bizarre. We tried to work on stage together, as co-directors, but we were each trying to have an identity and we both needed to be the chief. We realized, This isn’t going to work. So we never did that again until Chicago came along.
He had already directed a TV movie, and he said, “I need you on this one because movies are so big, and there’s so much room for people and creativity that I think it’s gonna work.” I went in with a lot of trepidation, but he was absolutely right. I’d only acted for camera, so it was all new to me, and during Chicago I learned a lot. Ever since, we’ve done it all together; we go scouting and work with sets and costumes — everything. As the director, he gets the final say. I can live with that. We don’t always see eye to eye, but I think that’s the best part of our relationship. It’s good to have a little friction.