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DiCaprio Woos Danes in Romeo and Juliet
(Premiere - July 1996)

"We spent a lot of time wet," says Claire Danes of her experience starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Director Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom) sets his version of the classic play in a ficticious urban landscape where the Bard's prose trips off the doomed duo's tongues like street lingo, DiCaprio's Romeo drives a silver convertible, and water plays a major role. "We have some balcony action, but I fall in the pool," Danes reports.

Studio execs were skeptical of Luhrmann's vision until they screened tapes of Danes and DiCaprio in rehearsals. "They went, 'Oh, we get it. This sounds like two real kids talking,' " says Luhrmann, phoning from "the middle of a 90-mile-an-hour sandstorm that's blowing our sets off the beach." Shooting on location in Mexico, the cast and crew endured killer bees, multiple broken legs, and enough Montezuma's revenge to shut down production for four days. "We were waiting for the locusts," jokes Danes, who says her biggest challenge was just playing Juliet. "There was no simple, pleasant scene where I'm talking to my best friend over coffee. It was, like, I'm being disowned by my father or I'm about to kill myself." As for playing Juliet's death scene in a candle-bedecked cathedral? "I didn't realize how frightening it would be until I was up on the deathbed, saying the words," Danes says. "I was finding different excuses not to reach the climax of the scene because I didn't want to feel those feelings. I said things like, 'Oh, my wig is pulling. I forgot my lines, let's cut."

© 1996, Premiere Publishing Company LCC