'Cats': A Guide to the Star-Studded Musical's Feline Characters

10:37 AM 10/26/2019

by Katherine Schaffstall

Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Jason Derulo and newcomer Francesca Hayward make up the cast of the Tom Hooper-directed movie based on the hit Broadway show.

Learn more about the feline characters played by Taylor Swift, Idris Elba and more stars in Tom Hooper's Cats movie, based on  Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit Broadway musical, before the film hits theaters on Dec. 20.

Based on T.S. Eliot's book of poems Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the musical follows a tribe of felines, known as the Jellicle Cats, as they attend the annual Jellicle Ball. During the ball, the tribe's leader Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) chooses one cat to be reborn and return to a new life.

The star-studded cast also includes Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, James Corden and Jason Derulo, as well as newcomer Francesca Hayward.

Webber first teased his interest in turning the stage musical into a film in 2013. Hooper signed on to direct the pic in May 2016, while the casting process began in January 2018. The first batch of actors was announced in July of that year.

The first official trailer for Cats debuted roughly a year later, after some of the stars had teased their roles in talk-show interviews, and features clips that show the star-studded cast as their feline characters while Hudson performs "Memory." The trailer was met with mixed reviews and generated a significant amount of commentary on social media and from late-night comedians.

Read on to find out more about the film's feline characters.

  • Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella

    Hudson stars in the film as Grizabella, a former "glamour cat" that is ostracized by the Jellicle Cats. Due to her age, she is hardly recognizable as the proud, carefree and admired cat that she once was known as. The character notably performs the song "Memory." Hudson rose to fame when she competed on the third season of American Idol. She went on to make her film debut as Effie White in the 2006 film Dreamgirls. Hudson won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for the supporting role. She has also appeared in the films Sex and the City and The Secret Life of Bees. Hudson has released three albums and won a Grammy Award in the best R&B category for her debut self-titled album. She received her second Grammy Award in 2017 in the best musical theater album category as a castmember of the Broadway production of The Color Purple.

  • Taylor Swift as Bombalurina

    Swift portrays Bombalurina, a flirtatious red cat that makes advances on many male cats throughout the film. The character has close relationships with fellow cats Munkustrap, Jennyanydots and Jellylorum. Best known for her career as a singer, Swift released her self-titled debut album in 2006, followed by Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), 1989 (2014), Reputation (2017) and Lover (2019). She has won 10 Grammy Awards and is the first woman to win album of the year honors twice. On the acting side, Swift made a guest appearance on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation before making her film debut in the 2010 film Valentine's Day. She has since voiced the role of Audrey in The Lorax, guest-starred on New Girl and made a cameo in The Giver.

  • Ian McKellen as Gus the Theatre Cat

    McKellen stars as Gus the Theatre Cat, an old and frail cat that narrates the story and becomes more confident as the night continues. Gus was once known as a successful actor and regularly relates the plotline of Cats to other productions in which he was involved. McKellen is known for playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Magneto in the X-Men films. His other notable film roles include Richard III, Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny, Gods and Monsters, The Da Vinci Code, Mr. Holmes, The Dresser and the 2017 live-action adaption of Beauty and the Beast. McKellen has won six Laurence Oliver Awards, a Tony Award and a Golden Globe Award, while he has been nominated for two Oscars, four BAFTA Awards and five Emmy Awards.

  • James Corden as Bustopher Jones

    Corden plays respected member of the Jellicle tribe Bustopher Jones. The wise cat is a regular visitor of gentlemen's clubs, though his frequent visits do not change his reputation among his peers. Best known as the host of CBS' The Late Late Show, Corden has popularized fan-favorite segments including "Carpool Karaoke" and "Crosswalk The Musical." As an actor, Corden starred on the BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey from 2007-2010. It was previously announced that the show will return for a one-off Christmas special in 2019. He has had roles in the films One Chance, Begin Again, Into the Woods and Ocean's 8, while he has voiced characters in Trolls, The Emoji Movie, Peter Rabbit and Smallfoot. Following the release of Cats, Corden will appear in Trolls World Tour and Peter Rabbit 2. He won a Tony for his role in the play One Man, Two Guvnors.

  • Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy

    Dench plays the Jellicle Cats' wise, ancient leader, who has lived many lives and cares for all of the cats in the tribe. Additionally, she has a soft spot for outcast Grizabella. While Old Deuteronomy was originally played by male actors, Dench's performance will mark the first time the character is female. Dench is a seven-time Oscar nominee and won in the best supporting actress category for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love. Her other film credits include Four in the Morning, A Room With a View, A Handful of Dust, Mrs Brown, Chocolat, The Shipping News, Iris, Mrs Henderson Presents, Notes on a Scandal, Nine, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Philomena and Victoria & Abdul. On the TV side, Dench has appeared in the miniseries The Last of the Blonde Bombshells, Cranford and Return to Cranford and in the BBC One film Roald Dahl's Esio Trot. Also an established stage actress, Dench has acted in live productions including Shakespeare's Macbeth, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. She earned a Tony Awards nomination in 1999 for her role in Amy's View.

  • Idris Elba as Macavity

    Elba plays Macavity, who is commonly referred to by the nickname "The Hidden Paw." The mystery cat is a well-known criminal, though he is never punished because he is too clever to leave behind evidence of his crimes. Elba is known for his television roles as Stringer Bell on HBO's The Wire and John Luther on BBC One's Luther. The actor recently starred as the titular character on the Netflix original series Turn Up Charlie, which he co-created and executive produces. On the film side, Elba has starred in Obsessed, Legacy, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Beasts of No Nation, The Dark Tower, Molly's Game, The Mountain Between Us and Hobbs & Shaw. He has voiced characters in the films Zootopia, The Jungle Book (2016) and Finding Dory. Elba made his feature directorial debut with 2018's Yardie.

  • Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger

    The singer plays Rum Tum Tugger, a rebellious young kitten that likes to cause mischief among the rest of the tribe. Many of the female cats in the tribe also find the mischievous feline attractive. Cats will serve as Derulo's film debut, though he has made guest appearances on the shows Empire and Lethal Weapon. Derulo has released six albums, including Jason Derulo (2010), Future History (2011), Tattoos (2013), Talk Dirt (2014), Everything Is 4 (2015) and 2Sides (2019). Eleven of his songs have gone platinum, including "Watcha Say," "In My Head," "Talk Dirty" and "Wiggle." He will next appear in the film Spinning Gold.

  • Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots

    Wilson plays Jennyanydots, an old cat that is often viewed as lazy. She spends the majority of her days sitting and sleeping, though she is much more active at night. Following the sunset, Jennyanydots can be found training pests on how to do household chores. Wilson's breakout role was in the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids. She went on to star as Fat Amy in the Pitch Perfect films. Her other movie roles include parts in Bachelorette, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, How to Be Single, Grimsby, Isn't It Romantic, The Hustle and Jojo Rabbit. Wilson also created and starred on the short-lived ABC sitcom Super Fun Night.

  • Francesca Hayward as Victoria

    Hayward portrays Victoria, a shy and naïve white kitten who is known by the Jellicle tribe for her beauty and poise. While the quiet cat has no solo singing parts in the stage production, Webber and Swift wrote the new song "Beautiful Ghosts" for the character to sing in the film. She also has a number of spotlighted dance solos. Hayward is an English ballerina and a principal dancer in the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, which is based in London. She starred in the short film The Sun in God and as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words.