14-year-old actress Hailee Steinfeld has been keeping busy since her breakout performance in last year’s True Grit. She was a heavy contender to star as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, is currently attached to an unusual take on Sleeping Beauty, and now looks to sign on for the latest film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
The new take on the Bard’s tragical tale of love was scripted by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, The Tourist) and is being produced by director Garbriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness).
THR says that filming on this new $15 million adaptation of Romeo and Juliet will begin in Italy later this spring, under the direction of Carlo Carlei – who’s best known for the 1993 crime drama The Flight of the Innocent. Seeing how Shakespeare’s original play takes place in Verona, that suggests this film will be an overall more loyal rendering of the playwright’s work than some of its predecessors (see: Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet).
Pretty much everyone is familiar with Shakespeare’s story of star-crossed lovers whose romance takes a turn for the worst because of their warring families. The play has been a longtime staple of both junior high and high school English class curriculums – as is the 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, with Leonard Whiting (who I still say looks like a young version of Mark Hamill in the movie) and Olivia Hussey as the titular couple.
Lily Collins was at one point set to portray Juliet in this new adaptation, but the actress has since signed on for Tarsem Singh’s Snow White movie instead. Steinfeld is almost the same age as Juliet was in the original play, and presumably her male costar will be an actual teenager as well. So long as the actor cast opposite Steinfeld isn’t too much older, there shouldn’t be any awkwardness in that regard.
Steinfeld gave an excellent performance as the plucky and self-dependent Mattie Ross in True Grit, but she looks to play a couple of more (so to speak) conventional female character archetypes in the future. The role of Juliet is naturally kind of a passive one, but at least Steinfeld will get to be more active and expressive as the new incarnation of Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty.
Romeo and Juliet has been adapted so many times before that a lot of moviegoers likely have little to no interest in seeing yet another movie based on the play. However, with the right people working in front of and behind the camera, even the most commonly retold of tales can still be moving and engaging (see the recent film version of Jane Eyre for a good example of that).