Cast of Cats film to be size of actual cats

Stars including Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and Taylor Swift will be shrunk via CGI and made hirsute using ‘digital fur technology’

Ever since Tom Hooper’s movie adaptation of Cats – the long-running Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on the puss prose of TS Eliot – was announced , speculation has raged over its logistics. Would the cast, including Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and Taylor Swift , be donning Lycra, heavy makeup and fluffy wigs in the style of the stage show?

How “method” might they be going with their performances? How many parts – on top of Dench playing the traditionally male Deuteronomy – would be gender-flipped?

Some of these questions were answered on Wednesday when attendees at CinemaCon in Las Vegas were treated to a behind-the-scenes featurette from the set at Leavesden studios near Watford, where shooting finished last week ahead of a planned Christmas release.

The footage showed actors wearing not tights and whiskers but full-body motion-capture suits as well as VFX dots on their faces, which suggests their performances will be heavily modified by CGI. The video revealed that virtual cat hair will then be stuck on, with the use of “digital fur technology to create the most perfect covering of fur”.

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The video also showed that furniture and props were scaled up so that the actors would appear to be the size of actual cats, adding – suggested the producers – a sense of both realism and childlike magic.

No footage from the film was shown, but dance rehearsals featuring Swift were aired and Jennifer Hudson appeared on stage to sing Memory, the keynote tune sung by her character, Grizabella. Representatives from the film apparently flagged the song’s – and the show’s – message of inclusion.

The film, which also features Ray Winstone, Idris Elba, James Corden and Rebel Wilson, hopes to mimic the success of Hooper’s movie version of Les Misé rables , which opened in December 2012 and earned $441m (£336m) and eight Oscar nominations, from which it took three wins, including best supporting actress for Anne Hathaway.

The plot of Cats involves a feline mob called the Jellicles who, one night, must decide which of them will be resurrected following ascension to the Heaviside Layer (adapted from Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). The stage musical ran for 21 years in London and 18 years on Broadway.

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