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Here's why Heath Ledger wasn't cast opposite Nicole Kidman in 'Moulin Rouge'

He was so young and adorable, and that was part of the problem.
/ Source: TODAY

Christian and Satine, the star-crossed lovers at the heart of Baz Luhrmann's 2001 musical "Moulin Rouge" swept everyone who saw them off their feet. And in large part, that was thanks to the chemistry between stars Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman.

But ... it could have been quite different, because as Luhrmann told recently, he had another actor who would have fit the role perfectly: Heath Ledger.

Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge," and Heath Ledger in 2000.Alamy, WireImage

As he noted, "It turned out they (Ledger and Kidman) did really work together (in pre-casting workshops). And it was quite beautiful."

Yep! Australian Luhrmann could have made it a double-Aussie bill (Kidman was born in Hawaii but grew up in Australia, while the late Ledger was born Down Under) if he'd gone through with it. The problem?

Ledger was just 21 at the time. Kidman, meanwhile, was in her 30s. And, as Jake Gyllenhaal (who would go on to star with Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain") revealed in 2018, he was also up for the role at one point.

"There’s some stories to tell here," he continued. "A young Heath Ledger was up for the role and I thought maybe the character could be very young."

Alas, no. Age disparities show up all the time in movies and TV, but apparently this was a bridge too far for the director.

"Heath was just too young in the end."

Kidman, now 53, went on to earn an Academy Award nomination for her performance, and the film took home two Oscars. Ledger tragically died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in 2008, and won an Oscar posthumously for his work in "The Dark Knight."

Kidman and her ultimate co-star in "Moulin," Ewan McGregor.Alamy

Fortunately, McGregor worked out perfectly: He was 30 at the time, and Luhrmann knew he'd found his romantic poet. He noted that he still had video of them during the first day of rehearsals.

"They were hysterical and wonderfully matched," he said. "They were great. (McGregor) was just the perfect partner for Nicole."

All of which shows that there can sometimes be more than one right answer when it comes to casting.

"Getting the right chemical equation between two leads in a romantic relationship is really important," said the director, who earned an Academy Award nomination for "Moulin." "You can't fix that if you get it wrong."