two households both alike in dignity, in fair verona where we lay our scene. from forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.
shakespeare’s famous play is updated to the hip modern suburb of verona still retaining its original dialogue.
dir.: baz luhrmann
crime / drama / romance
leonardo dicaprio as romeo
claire danes as juliet
john leguizamo as tybalt
harold perrineau as mercutio
- claire dane’s 1st day on set filming with leonardo dicaprio was the topless scene after romeo and juliet have 1st spent the night together.
- shakespeare described tybalt swordsmanship as “showy”. to transform this into flamboyant gunplay, john leguizamo worked a flamenco-inspired style.
- the jesus statue that dominates verona was actually a visual effect. it was 2 feet high.
- claire danes was only 3 years older than the character she played. it was her 1st ever experience of performing shakespeare.
- leonardo dicaprio was baz luhrmann’s 1st choice to play romeo.
- when tybalt’s car rolls over, the roll cage, which is used to protect the stunt driver, collapsed, almost breaking the stunt driver’s neck.
- key hair stylist aldo signoretti was kidnapped by gang members and held for $300 ransom baz luhrmann paid.
- leonardo dicaprio’s version of romeo’s speech at juliet’s bier was so good it moved claire danes to tears, nearly ruining the scene.
- baz luhrmann sent british alternative-rock band radiohead a videotape containing the last 20 minutes of the movie and asked ‘em to make a song for the end credits. they composed the song “exit music (for a film)”, which appeared on “ok computer” (the director has said in the dvd commentary that he believes it’s one of the best exit themes ever written)
- the music playing as juliet shoots herself at the end of the film is isolde’s ‘liebestod’ from richard wagner’s opera tristan und isolde, where it is used in the exact same context.
- the film runs for exactly 2 hours, in line with the prologue which states: “is now the 2 hours’ traffic of our stage”
- a number of important (and trivial) moments involve water. when we 1st see juliet, she is holding her head under water; when romeo and juliet 1st see each other, it’s through a fish tank; the balcony scene is moved from a balcony to a swimming pool; mercutio is killed at the beach; when tybalt is shot, he falls into a pond; when the banished romeo comes to juliet’s room he is drenched from the pouring rain, and when he leaves the next morning he falls into the pool again.
- ewan mcgregor, christian bale, and john leguizamo auditioned for the role of mercutio before baz luhrmann decided to make mercutio black. benicio del toro was considered for the part of tybalt.
- sarah michelle gellar, jennifer love hewitt, kate winslet and christina ricci were considered for juliet. gellar’s commitment to “all my children” interfered, and hewitt was considered too youthful-looking. natalie portman was also considered and even flew to director baz luhrmann’s hometown, sydney, to film scenes with leonardo dicaprio, when 20th century fox couldn’t quite visualize the director’s off-the-wall concept. luhrmann says, “although she’s a fantastic young actor, she’s a tiny little girl and leonardo’s six feet tall. he’s 21, but can look 18. she made him look all of 21, and it just became obscene.” portman’s version is this: “they said it looked like leonardo was molesting me when we kissed. it was really disappointing, but i wouldn’t have wanted to be in the movie and have it look wrong. if i was in the film, i would have wanted it to be perfect.”
- claire danes wears a wig throughout the movie and also had a special aquatic wig for her underwater scenes.
- the majority of sets were built from scratch in order to achieve the film’s unique look. the sycamore grove theatre and huts on verona beach were actually destroyed by a hurricane during filming. the beginning of the hurricane is evident during mercutio’s death scene, and many pick up shots had to be filmed elsewhere.
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