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'Romeo and Juliet' for 'Twilight' Crowd

Romeo and Juliet Douglas Booth Hailee Steinfeld
Romeo and Juliet: Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth

Starring LOL's Douglas Booth and True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld, a new version of Romeo and Juliet is currently being shopped around at the Cannes Film Festival.

Partly financed by Austrian design house Swarovski, this latest adaptation of Shakespeare's love story was written by Academy Award winner Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and directed by Carlo Carlei. A Best New Director David di Donatello nominee for The Flight of the Innocent (1993), Carlei's previous English-language foray, the Matthew Modine vehicle Fluke, was a major box office flop in 1995. In recent years, Carlei has worked on Italian television; his most recent TV movie was a remake of Roberto Rossellini's Il General della Rovere (2011), starring Pierfrancesco Favino in the old Vittorio De Sica role.

According to the Los Angeles Times blog 24 Frames, producer Ileen Maisel wants “every teenager in the world to come see” Romeo and Juliet. To make the narrative more accessible, the new movie offers its dialogue in “understandable iambic pentameter,” which, according to one of film's publicists, is supposed to make this version a “Romeo and Juliet for the Twilight Generation.”

Well, Romeo and Juliet does play a key role in The Twilight Saga: New Moon. In Chris Weitz's 2009 movie, the vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) gets to recite a brief poem to the human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), and subsequent plot twists and turns lead the teenage couple to Italy and a, huh, near-death experience.

Now, making accessible film versions of Romeo and Juliet is nothing new. Directed by George Cukor, MGM's 1936 adaptation starring Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard was a major box office hit. No one seemed to care that Shearer, 35, and Howard, 43, were old enough to be Romeo and Juliet's parents.

Just as accessible and even more successful was the 1968 Best Picture Oscar nominee directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. That Romeo and Juliet grossed $38.9 million in North America, or approx. $230 million adjusted.

Among the other movie versions of Romeo and Juliet, which pop up much more frequently than once every generation, are several silent ones (even silent screen vamp Theda Bara got to play Juliet); Renato Castellani's Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner Romeo and Juliet (1954), starring Laurence Harvey and Susan Shentall; and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (1996), with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.

Not to mention Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins' multiple Oscar-winning musical West Side Story (1961) and Eytan Fox's Middle-East political drama / gay romance The Bubble (2006), respectively starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer / Ohad Knoller and Yousef Sweid as the star-crossed lovers.

Also in the (possibly) 2013 Romeo and Juliet cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Damien Lewis, Ed Westwick, Natascha McElhone, Paul Giamatti, Lesley Manville, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Christian Cooke, Laura Morante, Tomas Arana, and Tom Wisdom.

Romeo and Juliet (1968) box office: The Numbers. Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth / Romeo and Juliet photo: Swarovski Entertainment.

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