Romeo + Juliet

Romeo + Juliet

Infobox Film
name = Romeo + Juliet

caption = Theatrical poster for "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet"
director = Baz Luhrmann
writer = William Shakespeare ("Play")
Craig Pearce ("Screenplay")
Baz Luhrmann ("Screenplay")
starring = Leonardo DiCaprio
Claire Danes
John Leguizamo
Harold Perrineau
Pete Postlethwaite
Paul Sorvino
Brian Dennehy
Paul Rudd
Vondie Curtis-Hall
Miriam Margolyes
Jesse Bradford
Dash Mihok
Vincent Laresca
producer = Baz Luhrmann
Gabriella Martinelli
music = Nellee Hooper
Craig Armstrong
Marius De Vries
cinematography = Donald McAlpine
editing = Jill Bilcock
distributor = 20th Century Fox
released = November 1, 1996
runtime = 124 mins.
country = USA
language = English
budget = $14,500,000 (estimated)
gross = $147,311,378
amg_id = 1:136681
imdb_id = 0117509

"William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" is an Academy Award-nominated 1996 American film and the 10th on-screen adaptation of William Shakespeare's romantic tragedy of the same name. It was directed by Australian Baz Luhrmann and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the eponymous roles.

The film is a modernisation of Shakespeare's play, designed to appeal to a younger modern audience. The warring families (the Montagues and the Capulets) are represented as warring business empires and swords are replaced by guns. Despite the adaptation, the film retains Shakespeare's original dialogue, albeit edited down for modern cinema audiences.


The plot has some changes from the original script:

* Juliet's age is never directly stated; it is, however, hinted at by several of the characters' lines in the early scenes of the film.
* Certain lines are omitted. For example, Juliet's soliloquy is recycled, and she wordlessly commits suicide with Romeo's gun.
* Certain lines are moved from their original context. For example, Mercutio's Queen Mab speech is about a fairy queen in the play; in the film, it is perceived as an Ecstasy-like drug.
* Certain events have their order altered. For example, in the death scene, Juliet's lines are moved so that she wakes as Romeo is drinking the poison, and he dies in her arms.
* Certain lines of dialogue are moved from one speaker to another. For example, in the initial scene, the lines of the Montague and Capulet servants are swapped, until Tybalt enters the scene. Some (but very few) lines were added to the movie.
* At times whole scenes are omitted, such as Romeo's killing of Paris, but this scene is often cut from stage productions as well.
* Romeo buys the poison from the "Apothecary" in Verona instead of in Mantua.
* Abra (originally known as "Abram" in the play) is a Capulet instead of a Montague.

Much of the film's story takes place in the fictional Los Angeles area town or suburb called "Verona Beach", which is based on the real life Venice Beach (a play on the fact that both are cities in Italy). As with the play, a brief part of the film takes place in a location known as Mantua, which is depicted as a desert-like hinterland.

Verona Beach is the center of a corporate war between two leaders of industry, "Montague" and "Capulet", rather than just a mere family feud. Prince Escalus is renamed "Captain Prince", and instead of being Prince of Verona, he is the Chief of the Verona Beach Police Department. His relationship to Paris (called "Dave Paris" in the movie) is removed from the film. Romeo and Juliet's parents are given names here too, the names in this case being Ted and Caroline Montague and Fulgencio and Gloria Capulet. Dave Paris is stated as being the Governor's son rather than a nobleman, and throughout the film he speaks in a conceited and pompous manner around Juliet and her father. He only wants to marry her for wealth and ego rather than real love.

In addition to the characters being updated, many of the props were replaced with analogous contemporary props. In place of swords, the characters wield guns with fictional brand names like "Sword 9mm" or "Dagger"; Lord Montague's "Longsword" is a South African MAG-7 shotgun. Instead of chasing Tybalt on foot, Romeo and Tybalt engage in a car chase. Romeo crashes out Tybalt's car by the central fountain of the city, during which Romeo presses the barrel of Tybalt's pistol to his head and asks him to end his life. Tybalt refuses and in a resurgence of anger Romeo kills Tybalt with his own custom handgun. Although most of the fights are done with guns (and fists) instead of swords, Mercutio's death comes at the hands of Tybalt wielding a large shard of glass found on the beach. Mercutio's "Queen Mab" is an ecstasy-like drug in the form of a pill that Romeo takes before attending the Capulet party. Friar Lawrence gives the letter for Romeo in Mantua to a postal service called "Post Haste".


Most of the film was shot in Mexico City, Mexico, but other parts were shot in parts of Miami. A section of the film was filmed during a real hurricane, causing the stage producers to rebuild the set. When filming the gas station scene at the start of the movie the actor Dash Mihok who played Benvolio accidentally ran out into the real traffic.


* Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo Montague
* Claire Danes as Juliet Capulet
* John Leguizamo as Tybalt Capulet
* Harold Perrineau as Mercutio
* Dash Mihok as Benvolio Montague
* Pete Postlethwaite as Friar Lawrence
* Miriam Margolyes as Nurse Angelica
* Paul Rudd as Dave Paris
* Paul Sorvino as Fulgencio Capulet
* Diane Venora as Gloria Capulet
* Brian Dennehy as Ted Montague
* Christina Pickles as Caroline Montague
* Vondie Curtis-Hall as Captain Escalus Prince
* Jesse Bradford as Balthasar
* M. Emmet Walsh as Apothecary
* Zak Orth as Gregory
* Jamie Kennedy as Sampson
* Vincent Laresca as Abra

Leonardo DiCaprio was Luhrmann's first choice to play Romeo, while the casting of Juliet was a lengthy process. Natalie Portman was the original actress to play Juliet, and she traveled to Sydney for rehearsals. After rehearsing a few scenes, the producers began to feel that she was too young for the role; according to Portman, they felt that the footage looked like DiCaprio was "molesting" her.cite news|title=UP AND COMING: Natalie Portman;Natalie Portman (Not Her Real Name)|ur|= The New York Times|autor James Ryan|date=February 25,1996] Eventually, Luhrmann agreed that the age difference between the two actors was too great. Filming was halted to find another actress for the part.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kate Winslet, and Jennifer Love Hewitt were the front-runners to replace Portman. Gellar couldn't take the part because of her commitments to the soap series "All My Children" [.] Hewitt was then cast in the role, but during rehearsals Luhrmann began to feel that she didn't look "modern" enough. Reese Witherspoon was then offered the role, but couldn't take it because of prior commitments. Jodie Foster, who worked with Claire Danes in "Home for the Holidays", suggested that she audition. Danes did one audition, and was hired later that day.


Financially, the film was very successful, grossing USD$147 million worldwide at the box officecite web|url= |title=Romeo + Juliet (1996) |accessdate=2007-10-14 |publisher=Box Office Mojo] on a USD$14.5 million budget. The film premiered November 1, 1996 in the United States and Canada in 1,276 theaters and grossed $11.1 million its opening weekend, ranking #1 at the box office. It went on to gross $46.3 million in the United States and Canada.cite web|url= |title=Romeo + Juliet (1996) - Weekend Box Office |accessdate=2007-10-14 |publisher=Box Office Mojo]

Critics gave the film generally positive reviews. According to the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 74% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 38 reviews. [cite web|url= |title=William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet - Rotten Tomatoes |accessdate=2007-10-13 |publisher=Rotten Tomatoes] Roger Ebert of the "Chicago Sun-Times" disliked the film, giving it 2 stars and saying, "This production was a very bad idea ... I have never seen anything remotely approaching the mess that the new punk version of Romeo & Juliet makes of Shakespeare's tragedy." Ebert wrote that Pete Postlethwaite and Miriam Margolyes were "the only actors in the film who seem completely at home" and said, "In one grand but doomed gesture, writer-director Baz Luhrmann has made a film that (a) will dismay any lover of Shakespeare, and (b) bore anyone lured into the theater by promise of gang wars, MTV-style." [cite web|url= |title=:: :: Reviews :: Romeo & Juliet |accessdate=2007-10-14 |author=Roger Ebert |date=1996-11-01 |publisher="Chicago Sun-Times"]

The film won several awards. Retrieved 2007-10-14] At the Berlin International Film Festival in 1997, Leonardo DiCaprio won the Silver Bear Award for Best Actor and director Baz Luhrmann won the Alfred Bauer Award. Luhrmann was also nominated for the Golden Bear Award for Best Picture. Leonardo DiCaprio won Favorite Actor and Claire Danes won Favorite Actress in a Romance at the 1997 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards. At the 1997 MTV Movie Awards, Danes won Best Female Performance. DiCaprio was nominated for Best Male Performance, and DiCaprio and Danes were both nominated for Best Kiss and Best On-Screen Duo. At the 51st BAFTA Film Awards, Baz Luhrmann won the award for Best Direction. Luhrmann and Craig Pearce won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Nellee Hooper won the award for Best Film Music. And Catherine Martin won the award for Best Production Design. The film was also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Sound.

At the 69th Academy Awards, Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch were nominated for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration.


The film made use of modern alternative rock and pop music coupled with a dramatic symphonic score by Nellee Hooper, Craig Armstrong, and Marius De Vries. The film's soundtrack was also noted for featuring choral renditions of the songs "When Doves Cry" and "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)" performed by Quindon Tarver.

The soundtrack album to the film was issued in two volumes, with the first release containing most of the songs from the film and Volume 2 containing the original score.

Although the film featured the Radiohead song "Exit Music (For a Film)" in the closing credits, the song did not appear on Volume 1; "Talk Show Host", a different Radiohead song also used in the film appeared instead.

A number of hit singles resulted from the soundtrack, including "Lovefool" by The Cardigans, "Kissing You" by Des'ree, "Young Hearts Run Free" covered by Kym Mazelle, "#1 Crush" by Garbage and Quindon Tarver's remixed version of "When Doves Cry". Tarver's rendition of "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)" was later used in Luhrmann's "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" single.

Choral arrangements were performed by Metro Voices.

The final scene in the film contains the final bars from Wagner's music-drama Tristan und Isolde.

The soundtrack was a popular and solid seller, and was especially successful in Luhrmann's native Australia, where it was the second highest selling album in Australia in 1997, going five times platinum in sales. [cite web
url =
title = Top 100 Albums 1997
publisher = Australian Recording Industry Association
accessdate = 2007-02-10
] A 10th anniversary release of the soundtrack with bonus tracks also eventuated.

Further reading

* Lehmann, Courtney. [ "Strictly Shakespeare? Dead Letters, Ghostly Fathers, and the Cultural Pathology of Authorship in Baz Luhrmann's 'William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet'."] Shakespeare Quarterly. 52.2 (Summer 2001) pp. 189-221.


External links

* [ Official website]

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