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The Casting
One of the strengths of "Rent” onstage was the talent and emotional immediacy of the show's ensemble of performers. In trying to assemble a similarly talented cast for the screen, Radcliffe attests, "We looked at everyone. We looked at new actors, we looked at known celebrities and at many of the people who had performed the show on stage. In the end, Chris felt that the passion and talent of the original cast would be hard to duplicate.”

Of his decision, Columbus says, ”These actors embody something that is both rare and tragic. They experienced Jonathan Larson's death just hours before the show's first preview. The complex emotions and intense feelings that resulted from this sad event helped fuel their performances for almost two years. So, besides being amazingly talented, these actors bring something rare to Rent, a richness and depth and understanding for the material that can only come through a shared life experience.”

"The fact that Chris put us in the movie,” comments Adam Pascal who brought the character of Roger to life on stage and now recreates him on film, "makes him a genius in my mind. To have the foresight to use the original cast and not a bunch of Hollywood ‘It' kids, is amazing in and of itself.”

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” adds Anthony Rapp. "And now to have it twice in a lifetime by getting to do the film, well, I don't know what to say except, thank you Chris Columbus, and thank you Joe Roth for giving Chris the wherewithal and freedom to make the movie.”

The filmmakers agreed unequivocally, that the original cast members — Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Jesse L. Martin, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs — were as youthful and in as good shape as they had been when they first stepped on stage in the roles. Joining them were two new cast members, Rosario Dawson and Tracie Thoms.

"Here were these amazing singers, all these professionals who created these roles and there I was coming into this tight knit group,” recalls Dawson. "It was a very scary situation. I was so happy to have Tracie there. Ultimately, everyone was amazing to work with and extremely welcoming.”

Thoms, a graduate of Julliard, has been a self-professed "Renthead” from the moment she first saw the play. Fascinated by "Rent” but never cast in the production, she finally got her wish to play Joanne in the film version.

"Rent was a little bit of an obsession for me for a while,” admits Thoms. "So to actually be a part of it now, for someone to say to me...'Okay, you, the big fan of these actors… come be in the movie with them' — it was great and really scary at the same time. But the whole cast completely embraced me and Rosario from the moment we arrived.”

"What was most interesting to me,” recalls Rapp, "was how excited Rosario and Tracie were and how enthused they were to be working on this. I don't think you can do this show or this film, or tell this story, or sing these songs without putting your whole heart and soul into it. From the first moment, Rosario and Tracie were completely there.”

"Rosario and Tracie found a way to become part of our family almost instantaneously,” concurs Martin. "They fit like a glove. It has been an incredible experience. I'm so glad they were there because I got to make two new friends as well.”

Barnathan says there were distinct differences in the casting of the two women. In the case of Dawson, the filmmakers had not auditioned many actresses for Mimi and the connection between Columbus and Dawson was immediate. With Thoms, the filmmakers had met with many talented singers and actresses for the role of Joanne, but ultimately agreed she stood head and shoulders above the rest.

"Rosario had lived the experience of being a squatter as a young girl,” observes Barnathan. "She

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