The Oscar-winner takes the male lead alongside a stellar female line-up including Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Dame Judi Dench, Kate Hudson and Penelope Cruz.
But he was adamant he didn’t want the role and insisted he would not be able to sing well enough – until director Rob Marshall coerced him into signing up.
He says, “A friend of mine, when I told him I was doing this, said: ‘My God, you’re in danger of becoming prolific!’ Yeah, I hadn’t intended to go back to work. I really hadn’t. It wasn’t a good moment, just from the family point of view. Rebecca, my wife, had just made a film in Connecticut and we decamped there for a few months and homeschooled the boys. We just thought we couldn’t do it again. It really wasn’t the right moment to go back to work.
“He (Marshall) probably knew that I’d come up with every excuse I could not to do it – including giving him a list of names of actors that I thought would be far better than me! The truth is that Rob could charm the birds out of the trees. It was a lost cause trying to put up a struggle.
“He managed to convince all of us that over a period of time he could turn a squeak into a roar. I don’t know how he did that. I told him straight out I couldn’t sing. He said: ‘You can.’ I said: ‘No I can’t.’ At that point, we got someone in to play the piano and I tried to stagger through one of the songs. And I said: ‘See, I can’t sing.’ And he said: ‘No, you can.’ Because he knew we’d be working for eight weeks of rehearsal and he was convinced. I took it on trust, really.”