Behind-the-scenes secrets of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet

A scene from the movie, Romeo + Juliet.
A scene from the movie, Romeo + Juliet.

Twenty years ago, Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet hit theatres and began it's trajectory to one of the biggest box office smashes of all time.

The Shakespearean movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, was mostly shot in Mexico City - where an employee was actually kidnapped during filming.

The director, Luhrmann, revealed in a 1996 interview that the key onset hair stylist, Aldo Signoretti, was held for ransom by gang members.

"The bandidos rang up and said, 'for US$300 (NZ$417) you can have him back,'" he said.

"So Maurizio (another staffer) goes down clutching the money to the hotel, chucks them the bag, and they threw him [Signoretti] out of the car and broke his leg.

"We paid $300 to get him back - I thought it rather a bargain."

Here are some other things you probably didn't know about Romeo and Juliet.

1. Natalie Portman was the frontrunner to play Juliet Capulet, and actually filmed a few scenes with DiCaprio. However, even though 13-year-old Portman was the same age as her character, she looked tiny next to her co-star.

Actress Natalie Portman.
Actress Natalie Portman.

"Fox said it looked like Leonardo was molesting me when we kissed," Portman told the NY Times that year.

She was quickly replaced by 17-year-old Claire Danes.

2. Unlike Danes, Leonardo DiCaprio was Luhrmann's first and only choice to play Romeo Montague. He even said he wasn't interested in directing it if the young star didn't take the role.

3. DiCaprio and Danes had very little time to get to know each other - the first scene they shot together was the topless scene after Romeo and Juliet sleep together.

4. They may have had sensational on-screen chemistry, but rumours circulated for years that the two stars actually disliked each other.

Danes attempted to explain their situation in later years.

"There was definitely a spark, but I don't think either of us knew how to handle it," she said. "So we sometimes sort of ignored each other. It was too big for us to really accept."

5. You probably never noticed, but at the big masquerade ball, all the main characters are wearing costumes to match their personalities.

Romeo is dressed as a knight, Juliet an angel, Fulgencio Capulet as an emperor and Tybalt as a devil.

6. Danes wore a wig throughout the entire movie - she even had a special aquatic wig for her underwater scenes.

7. The grand statue of Jesus that towers over the city of Verona was a visual effect: the real thing was only two foot tall.

- news.com.au

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