See the All-Star Cast of Romeo + Juliet Then and Now

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When Romeo + Juliet came out, DiCaprio admitted that he didn’t know how the concept—Elizabethan language in a hyper-modern setting—would be received, no matter how timeless the material.

He said that he had to admit that he knew it was working when he told i-D 1997 that the first day of work was the first day a person saw it. It seemed more natural and’meant to’ be than a traditional model.

He said that although it’s a fantasy universe, “it has a lot modern references in its, especially with the violence, so it made my feel a lot more at home.” Shakespeare would have wanted his work to continue on through the years and be timeless so that it could adapt to the future.

And of playing Romeo, DiCaprio said, “It was interesting once I really started to research him, because you have this pre-planned idea of what Romeo’s supposed to be, just some fluffy romantic type of guy, but then you sort of realize that he was a hopeless romantic, and then he meets Juliet. Juliet replies, “Alright look, you should marry us now if you have any real balls.

“So he risks everything—his whole life, his whole family, everything—and he marries this girl, which is such an honorable thing to do if you really believe in somebody, if you believe in love like that, especially at that age, especially to risk your life. It’s both the ultimate tragedy as well as the ultimate love story.