Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet modernized the conflict and danger of Verona, but ran into real-life danger when a hair stylist was kidnapped.
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet brought the conflict and danger of Verona into the modern age, but the crew ran into real-life danger as a hair stylist was kidnapped during filming. The modernized take on the classic Shakespeare play is now a ’90s classic, placing the conflict between the Montagues and Capulets in the setting of Verona Beach. Romeo and Juliet’s families were made into feuding mafia empires in the contemporary United States to retain the drama and violence of the original. However, no one expected the threat of violence that happened on set.
To achieve the look of Verona Beach, Romeo + Juliet filmed in Mexico, using various existing locations as its backdrop alongside building sets. The historic Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City became the Capulet mansion, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church became St. Peter’s, where Romeo and Juliet marry in secret. Boca del Rio, Veracruz was turned into the beachside resort Sycamore Grove. The filming locations provided gorgeous settings, but also hosted big problems for the crew.
During production, hair stylist Aldo Signoretti was kidnapped and held for ransom by bandits (via Pop). The kidnappers called and demanded $300 for Signoretti’s return. Makeup artist Maurizio Silvi took the ransom outside a hotel and threw the bag of money toward the kidnappers, and the kidnappers threw Signoretti out of the car, breaking his leg in the process. Baz Luhrmann was not present for Signoretti’s kidnapping and ransom, but said he thought $300 was a bargain.
Kidnapping wasn’t the only production problem the crew had to face. A hurricane hit the Gulf of Mexico while they were filming Mercutio’s death scene, and it destroyed the sets they had built in Veracruz. The cast and crew also got sick, and production halted as Luhrmann had a fever of 110 degrees. Filming ran three months longer than anticipated, but Luhrmann stated he wouldn’t trade a day of production in Mexico.
Despite a kidnapping, a hurricane, and a long bout of illness, Romeo + Juliet was completed to spectacular success. Luhrmann and his crew even managed to incorporate the hurricane into the story as they continued to film in the storm before the full force of it hit. The film’s contemporary update of Shakespeare was soon followed by other modernizations of his plays, such as the similarly iconic 10 Things I Hate About You as an update of Taming of the Shrew. While the production of Romeo + Juliet was seemingly plagued with problems and occasional danger, it’s hard to argue with the results.
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