By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Although Romeo + Juliet wasn’t a massive hit with critics upon its release in 1996, it was a massive hit with me and majority of other teenagers out there, not to mention the film single-handedly introduced myself and others to the work of Shakespeare.
Australian director Baz Luhrmann brought something loud, abrasive, stylised, quirkly and typically Australian to the star-crossed lovers of this classic tragedy. Not everyone dug the ’90s grunge update by the Strictly Ballroom director, but almost 25 years on, Romeo + Juliet has become one of the most memorable adaptations of Shakespeare… and the soundtrack. THE SOUNDTRACK. Here are 10 facts you may not know about the film however.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio paid out of his own pocket to fly to Australia and do a workshop with Baz Luhrmann. He was so good as Romeo in auditions that he even made Claire Danes cry.
2. Natalie Portman was originally considered for the part of Juliet and was fresh off the set of Luc Besson’s Leon: The Professional, but was only 14, whereas DiCaprio was 21. Many found the age difference to be inappropriate.
3. The incredible Western-like gas station scene at the beginning of the film actually took 7 days to shoot.
4. Film hair stylist Aldo Signoretty was kidnapped while the movie was shooting in Mexico City, and Luhrmann had to pay a ransom of $300 to get him back.
5. Paul Rudd, who played Dave Paris, was actually 26 when the movie was made… and still looks exactly the same today.
6. The soundtrack went platinum five times in Australia where it was also the second best-selling album of the year.
7. The Radiohead song ‘Exit Music for a Film’ from popular album ‘Ok Computer’ was specially written for the end credits of the film but didn’t make it into the theatrical cut OR the soundtrack like ‘Talk Show Host’. Luhrmann himself thinks of it as one of the best end themes ever written.
8. As is said in the prologue ”…is now the two hours traffic of our stage”, the film’s runtime is exactly 2 hours.
9. Director Jane Campion (The Piano, Top of the Lake) suggested that Claire Danes play Juliet because of the 16-year-olds maturity for her age and her outstanding performance in teen series My So Called Life. She is also the only actress, to this day, to look Leonardo DiCaprio directly in the eye at an audition.
10. That’s a real hurricane in the ‘Plague on both your houses’ scene – no CGI was needed. Luhrmann stated in The Guardian that the cast and crew decided take advantage of the storm for the scene rolling into Mexico, but after only two shots, the set was completely blown away. They returned two days later to re-shoot the scene using fans.
Catch a special screening of Romeo + Juliet in Prague’s Kino Aero on Monday, July 22 at 20:30.
Feature photo: YouTube