William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet often shorted to 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 modernization 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.
Overview[edit | edit source]
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. Romeo's line "Thy drugs are quick" is moved from Act V to this scene (the meaning of "quick" in this context becomes "fast-acting" rather than "effective")
- Juliet's line "Oh God, was it Romeo's hand that shed Tybalt's blood" is changed to a prayer, instead of meaning oh my god.
- 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.
- When the Montagues meet with the Capulets at the petrol/gas station, the Montagues bite their thumb instead of the Capulets.
- Gregory and Sampson are Capulet servants, yet in the beginning of the film they are introduced as the Montague Boys.
- The scene in which Romeo first sees Juliet again after the party takes place in a pool instead of on a balcony.
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" (which was used in the beginning gas station shootout, "Dagger" (which Mercutio throws to the ground before using his fists, or "Rapier" (Which belonged to Tybalt, and Romeo uses it to shoot Tybalt); 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".
Production[edit | edit source]
Template:Expand-section 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.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- 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.