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STAR - March 1997

About Romeo & Juliet



How did you like the script for this project?

Leo: If it wasn’t in the sort of fantasy world, like it is, I don’t think I would have done a traditional Romeo and Juliet, because it’s been done so many times before. It was something that I don’t think needed to be improved that much. But by bringing all these different aspects into it, you’re kind of giving it a new twist, and relating it to audiences today.

Have you met Claire Danes before?

Leo: I knew about her work, and I kind of proposed her for the part, just because she has strength and an intensity about her work that I thought was perfect. Baz (Baz Luhrmann the director) thought it was perfect for the character, just because every other Juliet we met was doing sort of a flowery, string-up-at-the-stars version of Juliet, when we needed somebody with a more modern twist, who could be a little more firm with me, and more powerful. She (Claire) wasn’t afraid to reach up to the back of my neck and hang on.

Are you romantic?

Leo: I’d definitely say that when I’m alone with a girl, I’m doing the baby voices, all that stuff, rubbing noses, the whole thing...I’m getting embarrassed now.

One of the reasons Romeo and Juliet has endured all this time is the young love aspect. I think it’s one of the greatest love stories ever written. Do you have to have loved and lost to play him?

Leo: You don’t have to experienced anything to play anything, I don’t think. I have never come close to a lot of that stuff that a lot of the characters I’ve played have done. So it’s just a matter of identifying something at that time, while you’re doing the scene that can get you to the place where you need to be going.

How was Baz able to project his vision for the film, since it probably wasn’t on paper at first?

Leo: He didn’t know what to do at first. We went to do a practice session in Australia. I worked on it for a week with a bunch of Australian actors, and we listened to everyone’s ideas. And then in the end, he decide to bring the most important things of the play, which were the religious aspects, the gang rivalry between the families, the idea that you could be killed every moment, because back then they had swords and they constantly fighting, and continuing that into guns. And then this overall theme of their love conquering over evil. Or failing in this aspect.

Does it ever worry you that acting comes so naturally to you?

Leo: It doesn’t worry me. I’ve been really lucky - especially with the parts that I’ve gotten. And as long as I can maintain a clear head, and remain sane, I’m going to keep doing it. This is what I want to do for awhile.

How do young actors stay sane?

Leo: Just by remaining a kid off screen. Because you’re expected to become an adult all of a sudden, just because you’re put into an adult world ? I’m still learning about myself and stuff. I don’t know who I am yet.

How do you deal with attention and with fame?

Leo: I ignore a lot of the stuff that I read about me. I just want to say that you’ve just got to realise that no matter what happens, in the end there will be a lot of stuff written about you. Some of it will be true, some of it won’t. It can really affect you, because you know what really lasts is your work.

Does most of what’s written about you in the press tend to be on the personal side?

Leo: Yeah, kind of. It’s upsetting, too, because I don’t think a lot of people get my humour. So I don’t joke around as much. It gets to the point where you’re like ,"Didn’t you know that I was being sarcastic ? How could you write that as something that I honestly say ?" I remember doing an interview where this guy goes, "So, are you a bad boy?" And I go, "Yeah," and I took a little piece of cake, and I threw it on the floor and spill my water on the floor. And I said, "Yeah, I am!" Completely as a joke. And then you read it, and he goes, "Proving that he was a bad boy, Leonardo threw his cake down on the floor, and spilled his water all over the place, thinking that he would impress me." Oh, you jerk!

Do you live a normal life off set?

Leo: I do all the time. I’m all over the place. I’m looking in the LA Weekly every week just to find out what stuffs there is to do. It still seems like the same life - really, it does. I’m maybe a little bit more of a homebody now. But I’m not really that widely recognised, which is kind of cool.

Do you have your own home now?

Leo: Yeah.

We talked to Chris O’ Donnell and he said it’s hell, because no one picks up after him now, no one cooks his meals.

Leo: It’s a weird adjustment. Because you don’t realise how much you would miss Mumsie until she’s not there. Everyone still wishes they’d live with their mom in the end.

How much time have you spent working on projects during the last couple of years ?

Leo: I’d say I spend a good half a year, every year, working.

Do you like that schedule, about half and half?

Leo: Yeah, I do. I don’t mind it. I may slow down soon, just because .... And I’m doing another movie now (Titanic). It’s hard.

Where are you filming now?

Leo: I’m filming in Mexico again. Hoo-haw.

So it is easier to be back in Mexico for the second time, now that you know the lay of the land?

Leo: It’s not really easy to be in Mexico, no, I can’t say it is. Now it’s nice because I’m very close to LA, still so I can drive home wherever I want. It’s not that far away. But I’ve developed a good floor in my stomach from my last trip, so I may be able to repel a lot of the different sickness we get this time.

Titanic will be your first commercial project, Have you been rejecting those films for a long time?

Leo: Well, I just needed to get the right one to do. I didn’t want to go do a commercial movie or the sake of doing a commercial movie you’ve got to do it in the right context.

And is there a musical version of Titanic that’s going to be on Broadway?

Leo: I have heard this. I have no idea. I don’t understand - how could that happen. (Leo sings)"The ship is sinking ! Jump, jump, jump!!!"

They don’t have you dancing and singing in this one?

Leo: No, thank the Lord.


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