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    Updated on Nov 15, 2018. Posted on Nov 11, 2016

    23 Facts You May Not Know About Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet"

    In honour of it turning TWENTY this month. OMG.

    1. Natalie Portman was originally going to play Juliet.

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    Numerous other actresses who have since gone on to become famous were also seen. But Natalie was actually hired and even filmed some scenes with Leonardo DiCaprio.

    2. But it was decided the casting alongside Leo was a bit problematic. Natalie was 13 at the time and Leo was 21.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    In a 1996 interview, Natalie explained: "It was a complicated situation and it had to do with at the time I was 13 and Leonardo was 21 and it wasn't appropriate in the eyes of the film company or the director Baz [Luhrmann]. And it was kind of a mutual decision that it just wasn't going to be right at the time and I think the film came out really, really beautifully and Claire Danes did a really, really beautiful job. It just wasn't the right time, you know?"

    In a New York Times interview the same year she added: "Fox said it looked like Leonardo DiCaprio was molesting me when we kissed."

    3. But Leonardo DiCaprio was always going to be Romeo. In fact, it may not have gone ahead at all without him.

    Ben Gabbe / Getty Images
    Simon Meaker EMPICS Entertainment

    Luhrmann told Vpro Cinema: "I wouldn't have been interested in doing it. I couldn't think of anyone who embodied what he embodied. I mean, there's the physical essence, the physical representation, but more importantly... he had such an innate ability to take the language, stay within the iambic but also embrace it and make it his own."

    4. Although the director didn't originally know who Leo was. He first saw a paparazzi picture of him and said, "Now that's what Romeo should look like" but he presumed he was a rock star.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    He revealed: "Before I committed to doing it I was like, well the problem is finding someone who can play Romeo. And I'd seen some pictures." Luhrmann then went on to explain how he'd seen some paparazzi pictures of Leo before he knew who he was, as it was pre-Titanic days and he wasn't yet a household name. Luhrmann said: "I went, 'Now that's what Romeo should look like' and I didn't know who he was... [I was like] 'If only he could act.'" Lucky he took the trouble to find out!

    5. Juliet was the hardest character to cast. But it was Jane Campion, director of The Piano, who first suggested Claire Danes for the role, thanks to seeing her in My So-Called Life.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    Luhrmann told Vpro Cinema: "We saw so many young female players, many who are famous today... and then Jane Campion said to me, 'Have you seen this girl on My So-Called Life? And she said, 'She's so mature for her age', so I met her. I mean, I auditioned a load of other young actors who all went on to have careers. I met her and it was amazing. I met Claire Danes and what was great was although she was still very young, like Juliet, she was wise beyond her years."

    6. Claire's eye contact in the audition room is what impressed Leo the most.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    DiCaprio told ScreenSlam: "Claire just came in and was just so in the moment and so there and so not trying to do this little angelic flower Juliet, like with the hand movements and everything so precise. She just looked me in the eye and we were doing this scene where we're supposed to be together, she came right up to me, looked me right in the eye and started doing lines. Without any conscience as far as how she should be. She was just pure and there and great."

    7. Although they had such a big spark they ended up ignoring each other in between takes because they didn't "know how to handle it."

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    There were rumours they didn't get on at all but Claire later said: "There was definitely a spark, but I don’t think either of us knew how to handle it. So we sometimes sort of ignored each other. It was too big for us to really accept." Remember, they were pretty young at the time – Claire was just 17.

    8. Claire and Leo also didn't have much time to get to know each other... The first scene they shot was the bed scene where they were almost naked and had to pretend to be madly in love.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    In an interview she revealed: "The first scene we did was the 'morning after' scene after we'd just made love and so there we were shirtless and it was [laughs] a way to break the ice."

    9. During filming in Mexico, the movie's main hairdresser was kidnapped and they had to pay a $300 ransom.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    Aldo Signoretti was taken, but the kidnappers agreed to give him back if they were paid 300 US dollars. They threw him out of their car and broke his leg once the money was thrown over to them.

    10. But that wasn't the only problem they faced on set. Many people were hit with various illnesses and at one point filming was shut down for an entire week due to Luhrmann having a temperature of 110.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    11. And a hurricane wiped out some of the set. They filmed a bit during the storm before it became too dangerous – which is why Mercutio’s "a plague on both your houses" scene looks particularly dramatic.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    Luhrmann told The Guardian: "All the crew had goggles on, and the guys had stinging sand in their eyes, and then, after those two shots, the sets were completely blown away by the hurricane."

    12. Twentieth Century Fox bosses needed to be convinced about the film before signing up and Leo felt so strongly about doing it he flew to Australia of his own accord to convince them himself.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    Luhrmann told SFGate: "He came down to Australia to persuade the studio. He cashed in his business-class tickets so he could bring his friends, and he stayed in Australia for no money at all. He did a video workshop, so we could persuade the studio to do it. He was extremely passionate about it."

    13. Marlon Brando was almost Father Laurence instead of Pete Postlethwaite. But it was around the time Brando's son was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of his half-sister's boyfriend, so he had to drop out due to "family problems".

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    Luhrmann told SFGate: "The last letter I got from him came at the time of his son's involvement in that criminal activity. It said, 'Dear Baz, I can no longer consider playing the role of Father Laurence. I've got personal family problems' – which was an understatement."

    14. And Brando had been a little too convinced by Leo's acting in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

    Paramount Pictures

    Luhrmann told SFGate: "For a while, Marlon Brando was writing to me about doing Father Laurence (in the film). He said he saw Leonardo in Gilbert Grape: Why is it you are going to cast a young man who's not entirely in control of his mental faculties? So Leonardo had him believing that he wasn't all that balanced."

    15. Every sign seen in the movie has a sneaky Shakespeare reference.

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    For example, this petrol station sign is part of a line from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 3.

    16. During the Capulets' big ball, each person is dressed in a costume that represents their character.

    Twentieth Century Fox

    For example, Juliet as an angel, Tybalt as a devil, Romeo as a brave knight, and Mercutio as a drag queen showing off the two sides of him, etc.

    17. The now iconic elevator scene was really tricky to film.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    They had to create a small room so they could circle around it, and it was a very odd and loud experience for the actors to deliver such important lines. You can watch how they did it here.

    18. Claire wore a wig throughout the whole thing, and even had a special aquatic one made for the underwater scenes.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    19. Some of the pool scene was filmed in a tank for the close-up underwater shots. But it had to be in cold water because warm water turned their skin red.

    20. The soundtrack, which is the best soundtrack of all time btw, went platinum.

    View this video on YouTube

    youtube.com

    It includes absolute classics that will give you all the feels, like The Cardigans' "Lovefool", The Wannadies "You and Me Song", Des'ree's "Kissing You", and "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)" by Quindon Tarver.

    21. Radiohead wrote the finale song especially for the movie after Luhrmann sent them the last 20 minutes of the film before it was in cinemas. The song they wrote became “Exit Music (For a Film)”.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    Although it didn't end up on the soundtrack. Another Radiohead song, "Talk Show Host", did, however. And the band included it on their own 1997 album, OK Computer.

    22. The film runs for exactly two hours, in line with the prologue, which states: “Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage.”

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    23. And it is now 20 years old! The film was released on 1 November 1996.

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    And it's still as good now as it was back then... 😢

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