Romeo + Juliet (1996) Poster


Baz Luhrmann sent British alternative-rock band Radiohead a videotape containing the last 20 minutes of the movie and asked them to make a song for the end credits. They composed the song "Exit Music (for a film)", which appeared on their 1997 album "OK Computer" (the director has said in the DVD commentary that he believes it's one of the best exit themes ever written).
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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. The moment the director yelled "cut!," Danes smacked DiCaprio on the arm and said, "Don't make me cry. I'm supposed to be comatose, here!"
The film runs for exactly two hours, in line with the prologue which states: "Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage".
Key hair stylist Aldo Signoretti was kidnapped by gang members and held for $300 ransom which Baz Luhrmann paid.
Claire Danes's first day on set filming with Leonardo DiCaprio was the topless scene after Romeo and Juliet have first spent the night together.
The Jesus statue that dominates Verona was actually a visual effect. In reality, it was 2 feet high.
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.
Cinematographer Donald McAlpine was faced with a real problem with the meet-cute scene between Romeo and Juliet at the fish tank - the reflections of the water and the glass of the tank were almost impossible to light without causing all sorts of untoward reflections. McAlpine solved the problem by inserting a couple of fluorescent tubes into the tank out of the camera's eyeline. These were the sole source of light in the scene.
Claire Danes wears a wig throughout the movie and also had a special aquatic wig for her underwater scenes.
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Aaliyah, Kate Winslet and Christina Ricci were considered for Juliet. Gellar's commitment to All My Children (1970) 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."
At the Capulet masquerade ball, the major characters wear costumes that reflect their personalities: Romeo as a knight, Juliet as an angel, Tybalt as a devil, Capulet as an emperor, etc.
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.
Shakespeare described Tybalt swordsmanship as "showy". To transform this into flamboyant gunplay, John Leguizamo worked with choreographer John O'Connell to create a flamenco-inspired style.
Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio initially did not get along well on set. Danes accused DiCaprio of being immature, while DiCaprio said Danes was just uptight.
Leonardo DiCaprio was Baz Luhrmann's first choice to play Romeo.
In Baz Luhrmann's native Australia, the soundtrack was the second highest selling album of the year, going platinum five times.
Romeo and Juliet first kiss which takes place in a cramped elevator with the camera dizzyingly swirling around them was achieved by making the elevator into sections and putting the camera on a circular dolly. As it spun round, stage hands would lift and very hurriedly replace the elevator panels to accommodate the bulky camera equipment.
Like most of William Shakespeare's work, the verse of Romeo and Juliet is written in iambic pentameter. Pete Postlethwaite, who plays Father Laurence, is the only actor in the movie who speaks using this meter.
Claire Danes was only three years older than the character she played. It was her first ever experience of performing Shakespeare.
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.
In an effort to drum up the necessary funds from the backers, Leonardo DiCaprio flew to Australia on his own dime and performed an on-spec audition video with Baz Luhrmann.
The opening gas station encounter took 7 days to film with 2 days of pick-ups in Veracruz.
There are various billboards, advertisements and magazines throughout the movie that contain quotes from other William Shakespeare plays: (I.i.1 = Act, scene and line number)
  • 'Shoot forth thunder' (the gun advert) is from 'The Second Part of King Henry the Sixth', IV.i.109.

  • 'Experience is by industry achiev'd' (in the Capulet lift) is from 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona', I.iii.25

  • 'Such stuff as dreams are made on' (another advert) is from 'The Tempest', IV.i.168-169. Prospero (the name of the drink in the advert) is the player who says these lines.

  • 'Add more fuel to your fire' (sign at gas station) is from 'The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth' V.iv.70

  • 'Retail'd to posterity' (Montague corporate poster) is from 'Richard the Third' III.i.77

  • 'A rash fierce blaze of riot' (newspaper headline seen through flames at the end of the gas station scene) is from 'Richard the Second' II.i.34

  • 'I am thy pistol and thy friend' (gun poster in the pool hall, which is named the Globe after after the Globe Theatre in London where Shakespeare's plays were first performed) is from 'The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth' V.iii.85

'Jack Cade's Lemonade' is a stall visible next to Sycamore Grove. This is a reference to the character Jack Cade from Shakespeare's Henry VI.
All the guns in the film are named after types of swords. The handguns belonging to Benvolio (SWORD 9mm Series S), Mercutio (DAGGER 9mm) and Tybalt (RAPIER 9mm) are Taurus PT99 9mm Parabellum pistols, identifiable by the adjustable rear sights. The handguns used by Romeo, Sampson and Gregory (DAGGER .45s) are Para-Ordnance P-13 .45 caliber pistols. In the scene where Mercutio is holding Romeo's pistol, it changes to a Para-Ordnance P-14. The other handguns used by Abra and Petruchio are a two-tone and reverse two-tone Beretta 92FS 9mm pistol. Ted Montague's "Longsword" is actually a South African MAG-7 shotgun.
Neil Patrick Harris was considered for the role of Romeo.
Claire Danes' rendition of Juliet's line "I long to die!" is sampled in the background of the Evanescence song "Tourniquet."
Natalie Portman was originally cast as Juliet but Baz Luhrman felt the age gap between her and Leonardo DiCaprio (eight years) was a problem. Lurhman also felt Portman was too young (she was thirteen at the time of filming).
On the beach where Romeo meets Juliet's maid to arrange his wedding, a stall called "Rosencrantzsy's" can be seen, this is a nod to Shakespeare's Hamlet, which contains a character called Rosencrantz. Another stall is named "Pound of Flesh", referencing another of Shakespeare's plays, The Merchant of Venice.
When Romeo talks to the father of the main church about his new love with Juliet, the children's choir perform the chorus for the song "When Doves Cry" by Prince.
Sam Rockwell auditioned for the role of Mercutio.
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One of the police helicopters that is featured is named Capt. Prince. The role of the police captain is originally the Prince in the play.
Leonardo DiCaprio fought for Claire Danes to win the role of Juliet after she impressed him with her line delivery and the fact that she was the only actress to look him straight in the eye.
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The highest-grossing live-action William Shakespeare adaptation.
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The following year Leonardo DiCaprio starred in Titanic, written and directed by James Cameron. Claire Danes starred in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. The first two Terminator films were written and directed by Cameron as well.
Marlon Brando expressed interest in playing Father Laurence, but personal family problems took him out of the running. The role eventually went to Pete Postlethwaite. Brando had previously starred in Julius Caesar (1953), another William Shakespeare adaptation.
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The telephone number for the Post Haste Dispatch is 555-3713.
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Catherine Martin, Kym Barrett: The production designer and the costume designer make cameo appearances as Gloria Capulet's maids. They are seen in the film dressing Juliet's mother in her Cleopatra costume before the ball.
Martin Brown: The film's co-producer is the security man sitting at the monitors in the balcony scene.
John O'Connell: The choreographer plays the waiter at Sycamore Grove just before Mercutio's death scene.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Romeo's last words at the altar, as he is about to die, are "the drug is quick". This is the same sentence he says earlier after the swirling of images at the ball at Capulet Mansion, before he goes to cleanse his system of the ecstasy pill he took. This is an obvious foreshadow of his death.
A number of important moments (and a lot of trivial ones) involve water. When we first see Juliet, she is holding her head under water; when Romeo and Juliet first 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 fountain; 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.
The music playing as Juliet shoots herself at the end of the film is Isolde's 'Liebestod' from the movie of Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde (1974), where it is used in the exact same context.
In the original play, the Prince says that due to the discord of Capulet and Montague, he has in the process lost two kinsmen, Mercutio and Paris. However, in the movie, Paris doesn't die, but Captain Prince still says he has lost a brace (pair) of kinsmen.
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