Romeo + Juliet

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Romeo + Juliet
William shakespeares romeo and juliet movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Produced by Baz Luhrmann
Gabriella Martinelli
Screenplay by Craig Pearce
Baz Luhrmann
Based on Romeo and Juliet 
by William Shakespeare
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Claire Danes
Brian Dennehy
John Leguizamo
Pete Postlethwaite
Paul Sorvino
Diane Venora
Music by Nellee Hooper
Marius de Vries
Craig Armstrong
Cinematography Donald M. McAlpine
Editing by Jill Bilcock
Studio Bazmark Productions
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • November 1, 1996 (1996-11-01)
Running time 120 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $14.5 million
Box office $147,554,999[2]

Romeo + Juliet is a 1996 American-Australian film adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It was directed by Baz Luhrmann and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the leading roles. The film is an abridged modernization of Shakespeare's play. While it retains the original Shakespearean dialogue, the Montagues and the Capulets are represented as warring business empires and swords are replaced by guns (with brand names such as "Dagger" and "Sword").

Some of the names were also changed. Lord and Lady Montague and Lord and Lady Capulet were given first names (as opposed to the Shakespeare original where their first names are never mentioned), Friar Lawrence became Father Lawrence, and Prince Escalus was renamed Captain Prince. There was also no Friar John, who was in the original play. Also, some characters were switched from one family to the other—in the original, Gregory and Sampson are Capulet, but in the film, they are Montagues. (Abra and Petruchio, conversely, are shifted from the Montague to the Capulet family.)

In addition, a few plot details were shifted, most notably near the ending.


In the fictional modern-day location "Verona Beach", the Capulets and the Montagues are arch-rivals.[3] The animosity of the older generation—Fulgencio and Gloria Capulet and Ted and Caroline Montague—is felt by their younger relatives. A gunfight between the Montague boys led by Benvolio, Romeo's cousin, and the Capulet boys led by Tybalt, Juliet's cousin, creates chaos in the city. The Chief of Police, Captain Prince, reprimands the families, warning them that if such behavior continues, their lives "shall pay the forfeit of the peace".

Benvolio meets with Romeo on a beach. Whilst playing a game of pool they learn of a party being held by the Capulets that evening which they decide to gate-crash (Romeo agreeing to come after discovering that his 'crush' Rosaline is attending).

The Montague boys meet their friend, Mercutio, who has tickets to the Capulet party. Romeo takes the Ecstasy pill Mercutio gave him and they proceed to the Capulet mansion. The effects of the drug and the party overwhelm Romeo, who goes to the rest-room. While admiring an aquarium, he and Juliet see each other. Tybalt spots Romeo and vows to kill him for invading his family's home, but Fulgencio stops him.

Romeo and Juliet sneak into an elevator and kiss. The nurse spots them when the doors open and drags Juliet away, while revealing to her that Romeo is a Montague. At the same time, Romeo realizes that Juliet is a Capulet. Mercutio takes Romeo from the party, but he sneaks back to the mansion, hiding under Juliet’s balcony. Juliet emerges into the yard and proclaims her love for him before Romeo sneaks up behind her. Juliet is horrified that he has risked death, but Romeo tells her he does not care whether he is caught. Knowing her nurse is looking for her, Juliet tells him that, if he sends word by the following day, they will be betrothed. Romeo visits Father Lawrence, telling him he wants to marry Juliet. He agrees to marry the pair in hopes that their marriage will help ease the tensions between the families. Romeo passes the word on to Juliet’s nurse and the lovers are married.

Tybalt encounters Mercutio just as Romeo arrives. Romeo attempts to make peace, but Tybalt assaults him. Mercutio intervenes and batters Tybalt, and is about to finish him off by hitting him with a log when Romeo stops him. Tybalt slashes Mercutio with a shard of glass. Mercutio, in denial, laughs it off as a mere "scratch", but soon realizes that the cut is deeper than he thought. Angered over his pending death, Mercutio curses the warring houses. He storms off in anger only to die in Romeo's arms a few moments later. Angry that Mercutio, neither a Capulet nor Montague, has been murdered, Romeo chases after a fleeing Tybalt and guns him down.

Captain Prince banishes Romeo from the city. Romeo, hiding with Father Lawrence, claims he would rather die than be banished. Father Lawrence, in turn, sternly lectures Romeo about the fact that the end result of his actions could have been his death as opposed to banishment. Father Lawrence treats Romeo's injuries and says that, after some time passes, he will help Romeo and Juliet return to the city and reconcile with their family and friends. The nurse tells Romeo that Juliet is waiting for him. At the Capulet mansion, Juliet prays, horrified by what has happened. When Romeo climbs over her balcony, she kisses him and they have sex. Fulgencio decides Juliet will marry Paris, the Governor's son.

The next morning, Romeo narrowly escapes as Juliet's mother tells her that the family has promised she will marry Paris. She refuses to marry, so her father threatens to throw her out. Her mother and nurse insist it would be in her best interest to marry Paris. Juliet sees Father Lawrence, imploring him to help her and threatening to commit suicide. The priest proposes she fake death and be put in the Capulet vault to awaken 24 hours later. Romeo will be told of the plot, sneak into the vault, and once reunited the two can travel to Mantua. He gives her the potion which mimics death. After saying goodnight to her mother, Juliet drinks the potion. She is found in the morning, declared dead, and placed in the vault. Balthasar, one of Romeo's cousins, learns that Juliet is dead and tells Romeo, who is not home when the messenger arrives to tell him of the plan.

Romeo returns to Verona, where he buys poison. As he goes to the church, Captain Prince finds out he is back, and tries to capture him, without success. Father Lawrence learns that Romeo has no idea Juliet is alive. Romeo enters the church where Juliet lies and utters a farewell speech. She awakens just as Romeo takes the poison. The two thus see each other before he dies. After he dies, Juliet picks up Romeo's gun and shoots herself in the head, dying instantly. The two lovers are discovered in each other's arms. Prince condemns both families, whose feuding led to such tragedy, and coroners are shown removing the two bodies.


Natalie Portman had been chosen for the role of Juliet but, after production began, it was felt that the footage looked as though DiCaprio was "molesting" her.[4] Eventually, Luhrmann agreed that the age difference between the two actors was too great. Filming was halted to find another actress for the part.


After the success of Strictly Ballroom, Luhrmann took some time over deciding what his next project would be:

Our philosophy has always been that we think up what we need in our life, choose something creative that will make that life fulfilling, and then follow that road. With Romeo and Juliet what I wanted to do was to look at the way in which Shakespeare might make a movie of one of his plays if he was a director. How would he make it? We don't know a lot about Shakespeare, but we do know he would make a `movie' movie. He was a player. We know about the Elizabethan stage and that he was playing for 3000 drunken punters, from the street sweeper to the Queen of England - and his competition was bear-baiting and prostitution. So he was a relentless entertainer and a user of incredible devices and theatrical tricks to ultimately create something of meaning and convey a story. That was what we wanted to do.[5]

Luhrmann obtained some funds from Fox to do a workshop and shoot some teaser footage in Sydney. Leonardo DiCaprio agreed to pay his own expenses to fly to Sydney and be part of it. Once Fox saw the footage - of the fight scene - they agreed to support it.[5]

All development was done in Australia with pre-production in Australia and Canada and post-production in Australia. While some parts of the film were shot in Miami, most of the film was shot in Mexico City and Veracruz. For instance, the Capulet mansion was set at Chapultepec Castle while the ballroom was built on Stage One of Churubusco Studios; and the church is Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Del Valle neighborhood.[6]


The film grossed USD$147,554,998 worldwide at the box office.[2] 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.[7]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes rated the film "Fresh", with 70% of 53 critics giving positive reviews.[8] James Berardinelli gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and wrote, "Ultimately, no matter how many innovative and unconventional flourishes it applies, the success of any adaptation of a Shakespeare play is determined by two factors: the competence of the director and the ability of the main cast members. Luhrmann, Danes, and DiCaprio place this Romeo and Juliet in capable hands."[9]

Leonardo DiCaprio won Favorite Actor and Claire Danes won Favorite Actress in a Romance at the 1997 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.[10] 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.[10] At the 51st BAFTA Film Awards, director Baz Luhrmann won Best Direction. Luhrmann and Mary Haile won the Best Adapted Screenplay. Nellee Hooper won the Best Film Music. And Catherine Martin won the Best Production Design. The film was also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Sound.[10]

The film won several awards.[10] At the 47th Berlin International Film Festival in 1997, DiCaprio won the Silver Bear for Best Actor and Luhrmann won the Alfred Bauer Prize.[11] Luhrmann was also nominated for the Golden Bear Award for Best Picture.[10] At the 69th Academy Awards, Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch were nominated for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration.[10]


  1. "#1 Crush" – Garbage
  2. "Local God" – Everclear
  3. "Angel" – Gavin Friday
  4. "Pretty Piece of Flesh" – One Inch Punch
  5. "Kissing You (Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet)" – Des'ree
  6. "Whatever (I Had a Dream)" – Butthole Surfers
  7. "Lovefool" – The Cardigans
  8. "Young Hearts Run Free" – Kym Mazelle
  9. "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)" – Quindon Tarver
  10. "To You I Bestow" – Mundy
  11. "Talk Show Host" – Radiohead
  12. "Little Star" – Stina Nordenstam
  13. "You and Me Song" – The Wannadies


  1. ^ "WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S ROMEO + JULIET (12)". 20th Century Fox. British Board of Film Classification. December 2, 1996. Retrieved October 10, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Romeo + Juliet (1996)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-09-22. 
  3. ^ Whitington, Paul (November 21, 2007). "From stage to screen". Irish Independent. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  4. ^ James Ryan (February 25, 1996). "UP AND COMING: Natalie Portman; Natalie Portman (Not Her Real Name)". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ a b "Interview with Baz Luhrmann", Signet, 19 December 1996 accessed 19 November 2012
  6. ^ "Romeo + Juliet - Official Website, Production Notes". 
  7. ^ "Romeo + Juliet (1996) - Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  8. ^ "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  9. ^ Berardinelli, James (1996). "Review: Romeo and Juliet (1996)". Retrieved 4 October 2010. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f Retrieved 2007-10-14
  11. ^ "Berlinale: 1997 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2012-01-12. 

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