Despite some new additions, much of the original Broadway cast was hired for the film, which opens Nov. 11. Director Chris Columbus met with several stars, such as Justin Timberlake
, before realizing that the stage cast had "formed a bond I don't think has ever existed onscreen." From left: Jesse L. Martin, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Rosario Dawson, Adam Pascal, Tracie Thorns, Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp.
"I wasn't willing to turn this into a PG family film," says Columbus, who retained gritty elements like AIDS-infected transvestite Angel (played by Heredia, left).
Dawson (with Pascal) stars as troubled heroine Mimi. The actress, who grew up in the show's East Village locale, "brought a lot of personal experience to the role," says Columbus.
Taye Diggs (with Pascal) stars as bohemian-turned-suit Benny. Offscreen, he's now married to Menzel (above, in the catsuit); they met while costarring in the original stage version.