"I was 17, I think, when it first opened and definitely could not afford to see it even if I wanted to," the actress, who plays Mimi in the film version of the "La Boheme"-inspired rock opera, told reporters in New York recently.
"Also, it being such a similar mirror of what I'd experienced growing up, I was like: 'OK, it's a bunch of bohemians living on the Lower East Side in squats, struggling, starving and dealing with HIV. Hmm, I know that really well. I don't see where there's anything to sing and dance about.'"
The "Alexander" and "Sin City" star said her attitude changed once she stumbled across the show's soundtrack.
"I was so moved by the articulation of these characters and finding out, when I finally did get to see the show, how beautiful and respectful it was, and what a human story it was," she recalled. "It's not about exploiting the characters. ... Jonathan Larson wrote it about his friends and there's this truth that's in it that really moves people."
"Rent" opens in theaters Wednesday.