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Turner Classic Movies and Warner Home Video held a re-premiere honouring CABARET’s 40th Anniversary at New York City’s legendary Ziegfeld Theatre, the site of the musical’s original 1972 debut. Cast members, Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Michael York and Marisa Berenson were on hand to chat about the film and screen it for a rapt audience that – as was in 1972, according to Mr. Grey - cheered after every number.  For one cold New York night life really was a Cabaret.

The Diva Review had the great pleasure of chatting with some of the folks from CABARET during press the afternoon before the screening and some words from some special guests at the premiere redux.  Here’s some moments from those glamourous days.

 Cabaret 40th Anniversary NYC Junket


Joel Grey and Michael York


The Lady Miz Diva: Mr. Grey, as the only cast member that was part of the original Broadway musical, did the changes made by director Bob Fosse for the movie adaptation, like the inclusion of Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, change how you approached playing the Emcee?

Joel Grey: No.  There was no change for me from the stage to film because it was the same dark character.  I somehow felt empowered to make him darker in the film because you couldn’t miss his intention in a close up; whereas if you’re sitting the balcony and you’re watching a show and you’re saying, ‘Is this funny or not, or is this what?’ made it very different.


LMD: Mr. York, one of the groundbreaking aspects of Cabaret is that it featured the first openly bisexual romantic lead in a blockbuster film.  As this was made at the height of your fame as a leading man, did you have any hesitation in playing Brian?

Michael York:  Well, how sweet of you.  No, not remotely, because I was a friend of Christopher Isherwood.  If you read the novels, for the times, he’s influenced by the times.  It’s there if you want to interpret it, but it’s never spelled out.  But Christopher -- I remember we read the reviews together, he said, “I never went to bed with a woman!” I said, “Well, are you sure?”  He said, “Well, once in the flat when we had to put some people up. I went to bed with Sally Bowles.”

JG: He actually didn’t like the film at all.  He didn’t.

MY:  Because he thought he {Brian} should’ve been overtly homosexual.  But that was from another era.  He was speaking out of his era.

JG:  You know there’s a new book out, his diaries, Isherwood’s diaries.

MY: Oh yes.  Oh, he’d lost so many friends with his diaries.

{Both laugh}

JG:  Oh my God! Really, it’s definitely worth reading.

MY: Oh, it is.  It tells you exactly what he feels, unfiltered through friendships or holding back.

JG:  Like he hated Jews.  He was anti-Semitic and he had all these Jewish friends. They were important parts of his life, but his main feeling was anti-Semitic.


LMD:  I’m curious about Mr. Fosse’s approach to the film.  Did you have a lot of rehearsal time?  Did you do a lot of readings before filming?

JG:  The numbers were rehearsed for six weeks and shot for six weeks.  That was it.

MY:  I have a very personal story.  I’d been filming in Morocco and I accepted the part and my agent said, “I wouldn’t do that,” and I said, “Are you crazy? It’s Christopher Isherwood, it’s a classic.” She said, “Well, that’s just my view.”  Then I went on with this film, then flew in and read the script and realised she was right.  There was no character.  It was I Am a Camera; he {Brian} was this blob around which these very interesting characters interact.  I didn’t know what Bob wanted me to do with him.  I called him, he said, “I agree with you. You and Liza are going go into a room with Hugh Wheeler {Cabaret’s research consultant who did uncredited script rewrites}, and you’re gonna put some flesh on that bone.”  So, we spent an incredible two weeks just coming up with whatever.  He saved my life.  It was a crucial two weeks with Bob and the script.


LMD: It was such a risk to make this film.  At the time, the movie musical was essentially dead.

MY:  The bulk of the cash, the money, the budget had been spent on the rights.  So they were doing it on the cheap in Germany.  Thank God we were in Germany, because all the faces were right and just the ethos, you know, of the place had just gotten through to us.  So that was very important and it took us away, too.  We weren’t as accessible then.


LMD: You mentioned knowing Christopher Isherwood.  Did your friendship affect your portrayal of Brian, who is based on Isherwood in the film? Did he have any input on how you played Brian?

MY: No, not at all.  I knew him as a friend.  I can remember he was very complimentary, but then I guess times change and the film is a product of the times and time moved on.  What we had to deal with is so tame compared to what you have today.


LMD:  It’s still pretty edgy.

MY:  There’s another case in point where we were forced to do two shots.  It’s that scene where I lose my temper and say, “Fuck Max!” and she says, “I do.”  They said, “Sorry, you’ve gotta do it again’.  Liza and I protested so much, “Oh, come on,” but they said, “We need a TV version,” so we had to say, “Screw Max!”  So, I said to Liza, “Let’s play this so badly that they can’t possibly ever use it.”


LMD:  Mr. Grey, why do you think we’re still celebrating Cabaret after all these years?

JG:  These atrocities that this film addresses are still happening in many, many places in the world and we can’t turn our backs.


Marisa Berenson


The Lady Miz Diva: In Cabaret, we don’t know what happens to your character, Natalia, and Fritz after they finally get together.  Did you have an idea of your own about their future?

Marisa Berenson:  You know, one wishes them well, but in that time, I’m not sure that they did end up so well, because it was so dangerous to live in Germany and be Jewish, and I don’t think they would have ended up very well, no.  But you know, love conquers all and that was the whole beautiful message behind the fact that she actually married him.  That he actually came out and said he was Jewish and had the courage to do that because he loved her, which was courageous at that time.  So many people were so afraid.  So, I’m not sure, I hope they were able to … In our fantasies, we want them to be happy forever.


LMD:  Can you talk about being directed by Bob Fosse?  We’ve all heard he was a perfectionist, but did you find him difficult to work with?

MB:  No, I didn’t.  Well, when I met him I was very intimidated by him because he had that distance, you know?  He wasn’t friendly at all immediately.  You felt like you were on the spot to really give the performance that he wanted and he didn’t speak to me that much.  But then when I was on the film, when we got over the initial sort of ‘trying to seduce one’ act, and that didn’t go the way he wanted, then for a while he was a bit peeved off but then we became the closest friends ever.  We became friends forever and he was such a delightful, wonderful man.  I became very close to him and saw him even until the day he died in the hospital.


LMD:  Did he value your input on the character?  Did he find a lot of rehearsal or table readings useful?

MB:  No, we didn’t do table readings.  He worked a lot in the club with the dancing. They rehearsed a lot there, but our scenes, no.  On set, there would be a bit of the rehearsal, but not so much.  It’s not like we sat around for hours and rehearsed, not at all.  It was very spontaneous.  In fact, I didn’t rehearse at all these scenes.


LMD:  Why do you think we’re here celebrating Cabaret 40 years later?

MB:  I think because great movies like Cabaret never age.  I just think they go through time without changing and I think generations are now going to appreciate this film and have inspiration.  I’ve seen so many movies that have been inspired by Cabaret that it’s unbelievable. But I think the sign of a great film, like Barry Lyndon or Visconti’s films is that they don’t age.  You can watch them for generations and years to come and they’ll always be great movies.  Some movies look very dated, you know?  Some films you have trouble watching because, I don’t know, something about them does not pass that {test}.  But this film is one of those, I think, which will ‘til the end of time hold up because first of all, it’s such a brilliantly directed, edited, acted {film}, the look of it was so fantastic, and then Bob Fosse was a very brilliant, intelligent, cultured, profound person.  You can’t just direct and not have in you the knowledge and the education and the culture of the times the history of art in those days or the literature - the intellectual side of it and the social side of it.  So, it has many facets, this film.  Many facets that enrich people, I think, as they’re watching it, because you learn a lot and then it has that fabulous up tone with the dancing and the fabulous choreography and it has that German culture - that sophisticated, very decadent, wonderful time in paintings and literature and everything in those days.  That was a time of great literature and art.  All of that is what makes something great is when you capture all the facets of something and it can enrich your life and it makes it interesting and fascinating and scary and wonderful and fun and sexy and all of those things.


Cabaret 40th Anniversary Red Carpet

The Lady Miz Diva:  Why are we here celebrating Cabaret after 40 years?

Bernadette Peters:  Cos it’s one of the best movie musicals, ever, ever made.  Bob Fosse, his genius, and it was done at a time when movie musicals weren’t being done, and so he figured out a way to do it that was revolutionary, basically.  I’m looking forward to seeing it.



Alan Cumming {The Emcee in 1998’s Tony-winning Cabaret Broadway revival}: Well, it’s stood the test of time.  I mean, it’s such an amazing piece; it’s based on an amazing book and an amazing musical, and I think it’s really one of these rare films that stands the test of time and is a beautiful testament to how great film adaptations of musicals can be if they’re done properly.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

Jan 31st, 2013


Click here for our review of the Divinely Decadent CABARET 40th Anniversary Blu-ray.



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Exclusive photos by L.M.D.

Film Stills Courtesy of  Warner Home Entertainment





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