updated 06/13/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 06/13/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT
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.