William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous tragedies ever written. So, naturally, it’s been adapted into infinite incarnations over the years. For many of us, though, Baz Luhrmann’s high-energy, modern retelling, Romeo + Juliet, was the first real taste we got of the ancient grudge in fair Verona and the timeless, tragic tale of star-crossed lovers. Thanks to the incredibly talented cast, and an enormously addictive soundtrack, it was a big hit with teenagers and Shakespeare fans alike when it hit movie theaters in 1996.
Since then, many of the movie’s stars have gone on to remarkable careers in film and television. Some have racked up accolades and starred in blockbuster films, while others have enjoyed more under-the-radar successes. Curious to see what your favorite Montague or Capulet has been up to in the last 20 years? Find out Where Are They Now? They Cast of Romeo + Juliet.
18. Pete Postlethwaite – Father Lawrence
He was a friend to Romeo and a man of deep faith. Romeo + Juliet‘s Father Lawrence was also, unfortunately, largely responsible for setting tragedy in motion during the movie’s tumultuous final act. God knows he meant well, but by helping Juliet fake her death and failing to make sure Romeo knew that she wasn’t actually dead, Verona’s resident priest and amateur chemist didn’t end up doing the doomed couple many favors. He looked equally awesome in a Hawaiian shirt and a cassock, though. We’ll give him that.
Father Lawrence was played by one of the 20th century’s most fascinating actors. Pete Postlethwaite already had impressive credits to his name, but his career continued to thrive after Romeo + Juliet hit theaters. He co-starred The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Amistad and Inception. He earned a BAFTA nomination for his portrayal of crime lord Fergie Colm in The Town. Sadly, the recognition was posthumous – Postlethewaite passed away at the age of 64.
17. Vondie Curtis-Hall – Captain Prince
Captain Prince did not have an easy job keeping the peace in Romeo + Juliet. Despite his numerous attempts to get the Montagues and the Capulets to grow the hell up and stop brawling, the streets of Verona were basically running with blood by the end, and he had to clean up the mess. When he seethed, “All are punished,” as Romeo and Juliet’s corpses were carted away, you totally believed that he, too, felt the pain of their loss. Hopefully, for his sake, the two equally dignified families he was speaking to lay down their swords for good.
Vondie Curtis-Hall’s performance as Captain Prince was undoubtedly memorable – in fact, he’s taken on a lot of memorable roles over the years. He’s appeared in more than two dozen movies and TV shows since 1996, firmly establishing himself in the “Where do I know that guy from?” category. His standout performances include Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, The Sopranos, Law and Order, and recurring roles on series like Soul Food, ER and Rosewood. Marvel fans might recognize him as Ben Urich, the struggling investigative reporter and Matt Murdock’s ally in Daredevil.
16. M. Emmet Walsh – Apothecary
The Apothecary plays a small but incredibly vital role in the incredibly unfortunate fates of Juliet and her Romeo. He barely speaks a word on screen, but the poison he hands off to the young Montague sets off a deadly chain reaction that ends with both a bang and a whimper. In retrospect, maybe he should have been a little bit more discerning before he handed off his toxic creation to a clearly volatile teenager.
M. Emmet Walsh managed to do quite a bit with the tiny role he had in Romeo + Juliet. That’s more or less the story of his career, though. He’s a true character actor in every sense of the word, and prior to his role in this Shakespearean adaptation, he’d already impressed audiences and critics with roles in classic movies like Blade Runner and Blood Simple. Walsh has continued to work regularly since his days as the Apothecary, showing up in Wild, Wild West, The X-Files, Damages and Empire. He’s also done a lot of voiceover work, lending his gruff timbre to movies and TV series like The Iron Giant and Pound Puppies. Even though he’s 81 years old, Walsh is showing no signs of slowing down. He currently plays Cosmic Owl on Adventure Time.
15. Christina Pickles – Caroline Montague
We don’t get to know Mrs. Montague very well during Romeo + Juliet, despite Baz Luhrmann’s best efforts at making the play’s tertiary characters more interesting. What we do learn is that she is a stoic, if passive, partner to her mogul husband who apparently doesn’t have a huge problem with her teenage son cavorting with a pistol-laden crew and staying out into all hours of the night. Still, her devastation at the story’s close is palpable, thanks to Christina Pickles’ quiet but powerful performance.
Pickles already had an impressive acting career before she took on this supporting role. Since R+J, she’s snagged a few more memorable matriarch roles. She appeared in The Wedding Singer and Atlas Shrugged: Part 1. Pickles is probably best known for her portrayal of Ross and Monica’s overly critical mom, Judy, on Friends. She also played Lily’s grandma, Rita, on How I Met Your Mother.
14. Brian Dennehy – Ted Montague
Daddy Montague stands in stark contrast to his arch rival throughout Romeo + Juliet. Subdued and largely unemotional, he casts a powerful presence but does little to intervene as his family becomes deeply embroiled in death and destruction. We’re never really told why – and if he had, the story would have been a lot less interesting, that’s for sure. Still, the dude probably could have done more to keep his nephews from running amok in Verona.
Brian Dennehy made the most of his short time on screen in Romeo + Juliet. The role was hardly a breakout for him, though. In fact, he’s earned numerous accolades a wide range of performances since the early 1980s. In addition to acting on Broadway, he’s appeared in movies like Ratatouille and Death of a Salesman. Chances are, if you’ve turned on your TV in the last two decades, you’ve seen Dennehy’s face there at least once. He starred in The Fighting Fitzgeralds and Just Shoot Me, and has appeared on everything from The West Wing to Blacklist.
13. Diane Venora – Gloria Capulet
From her pill-popping, booze-guzzling pre-party routine to her penchant for making out with her nephew, Lady Capulet wasn’t exactly a great role model for her daughter, Juliet. She made it pretty clear, too, that she wouldn’t want anything to do with her if she didn’t follow in her MILFy footsteps. When we saw her, devastated in the film’s final moments, it was hard to feel too much sympathy for her – but that was more to do with her awful personality rather than Diane Venora’s eccentric and emotional performance.
In the years immediately following Romeo + Juliet, Venora was a regular fixture in some of Hollywood’s best thrillers. From The Jackal to The Insider, she brought a level of toughness and tenacity that made her truly stand out amongst her peers. Unfortunately, Venora has taken a step back from her film career in recent years. The last time she appeared in a film was 2010’s lackluster All Good Things. Hey, it’s never too late for a comeback.
12. Paul Sorvino – Fulgencio Capulet
He was both the life of the party and a seriously terrifying father figure when push came to shove. Fulgencio Capulet clearly enjoyed the fruits of his labor, as evidenced by his wild and boorish behavior at the costume-themed feast he threw early in Romeo + Juliet. When it came to family matters, and the ongoing feud with the Montagues, though, he was hopelessly stubborn — and that quality was ultimately his undoing.
Thanks to his portrayal of Paul Cicero in Goodfellas, Paul Sorvino was probably one of the best-known actors in the Romeo + Juliet cast. Since the mid-’90s, he’s worked regularly as an actor — but he hasn’t really found a project that matched his earlier successes. He appeared in the cult hit Repo!: The Genetic Opera and has cropped up on recent series like Grandfathered and Elementary. Sorvino also starred as the mayor in a movie called Jersey Shore Shark Attack, which sounds like it should have been a way bigger hit than it was.
11. Vincent Laresca – Abra Capulet
With his orange-tinted sunglasses and “Sin”-sational grill, Abra Capulet was Tybalt’s stylish right-hand man through much of Romeo + Juliet. His quick temper and blood-born hatred of the Montagues made him a major player in the fiery, city-wide brawl that kickstarted the movie’s explosive first act. Then he mostly faded into the background, and given the fate of many of the story’s major players, that was good bit of luck on his part.
Vincent Laresca, who played the hot-headed Capulet, wasn’t one of the breakout stars of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation, but he’s been one of the more prolific actors in the years since. Some of his credits are underwhelming – Case Worker in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift and Construction Worker in The Amazing Spider-Man aren’t exactly marquee parts. Still, Laresca made a career for himself with meaty roles on TV dramas like Graceland, 24, Weeds and Shades of Blue.
10. Jesse Bradford – Balthasar Montague
Balthasar Montague mostly plays the role of “random hanger-on” throughout his time in Romeo + Juliet. He does drive all the way out to the boondocks to let the banished Romeo know that his wife is dead. Then, he drives the grieving widower back to Verona, never once mentioning that maybe suicide isn’t his only option. Despite his lack of critical thinking skills, no one can argue that Balthasar didn’t care about his family – he was with his star-crossed cousin right until the end.
Jesse Bradford had years in Hollywood under his belt when he took on his supporting role in R+J. He’s remained a regular player on film and TV, but hasn’t exactly become a household name. Bradford is probably best known for his role as Missy’s sarcastic punk rock brother in Bring it On. He also had a brief recurring role on The West Wing and starred in the before-its-time cyber-stalker thriller, Swimfan and Disney’s sci-fi nonstarter Clockstoppers. Since the early 2000s, he’s mostly stuck to supporting roles in movies like Flags of Our Fathers and I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and in short-lived TV series like Guys With Kids, Sequestered and Code Black.
9. Zak Orth – Gregory Montague
There’s not all that much you can say about Gregory Montague. He’s the Shakespearean equivalent of a frat boy — hard-partying and rabble-rousing for no discernible reason. He helps instigate a fight with the Capulets at the beginning of Romeo + Juliet, then mostly hangs out in the background making mischief.
Zak Orth has had a considerably more exciting career since he played the lesser-known Montague.He played a supporting but memorable role in the 1997 comedy In and Out, and has also appeared in movies like Music and Lyrics and Vicky Christy Barcelona. He’s a staple in many of the comedy troupe Stella’s projects, most notable as J.J. in Wet Hot American Summer and its Netflix follow-up miniseries. Orth has also appeared in a range of TV series, from the sci-fi drama Revolution to HBO’s critical hit Veep. He recently nabbed a guest-starring role on Elementary, and co-stars in the Hulu Original Series, Casual.
8. Jamie Kennedy – Sampson Montague
In Romeo + Juliet, Sampson Montague spends most of his time on screen making inappropriate gestures and obnoxious noises. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the actor who played him, Jamie Kennedy, has spent the better part of the last 20 years playing equally obnoxious characters. After doing time as horror movie aficionado Randy Meeks in the Scream franchise, he tried his hand at a full-fledged comedy career. In doing so, he subjected us to some of the most insufferable projects of the 21st century. MTV’s The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, Son of the Mask and Malibu’s Most Wanted rank amongst his most egregious endeavors to date. He also starred in the Nickelodeon cartoon series Fanboy and Chum Chum.
Kennedy still gets a lot of work as an actor and stand-up comedian, though he’s often relegated to B-movie fare these days. He had a recurring stint on The Ghost Whisperer and the recently cancelled medical drama Heartbeat. His most exciting appearance recently? Tremors 5. No, seriously.
7. Dash Mihok – Benvolio Montague
No one would argue that Benvolio Montague had it easy. He always seemed reluctant to engage in his family’s ongoing feud with the Capulets, and instead seemed more interested in Romeo’s dramatic love life. Unfortunately, both the tension on the streets and his cousin’s actions in the sheets led to seriously violent consequences – and Benvolio could only stand by and watch as life in Verona imploded.
Dash Mihok brought a measured cool to his performance in Romeo + Juliet. In the years that followed, he’s been a go-to supporting actor in Hollywood, disappearing into small parts in movies like The Thin Red Line, The Perfect Storm, I Am Legend and Silver Linings Playbook and TV shows like Felicity and Gotham. His most prominent role to date is also one of his more recent — he plays Bunchy, the alcoholic younger brother of Ray Donovan.
6. Miriam Margolyes – Nurse
From her first moment, screaming for Juliet throughout the Capulet mansion, the Nurse became a serious scene-stealer throughout Romeo + Juliet. Miriam Margolyes turned Shakespeare’s one-note caretaker into a vivacious and deeply devoted support system for the young bride – basically the complete opposite of her mother. From the way she yelled out her charge’s name as she ran through the castle to her hilarious eyebrow-waggling when discussing her prospective husband, the Nurse is one of the most memorable characters in the entire movie.
Miriam Margolyes’ inspired performance was one of many in her storied career. She brought three decades of experience to her work in Romeo + Juliet – and has lent her talents to dozens of projects since. She showed up in James and the Giant Peach, Mulan and Happy Feet, and played small roles in movies like End of Days and Magnolia. Without a doubt, though, Margolyes is best known for her portrayal of Herbology Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter franchise. Yeah, she got to sidle up to Leo when he was in his attractively angsty prime and tussle with mandrake roots — talk about a dream life.
5. Harold Perrineau – Mercutio
Cross-dressing, fun-loving but ultimately loyal to a fault. If Romeo and Juliet are the heart of their own story, then Mercutio is undeniably the soul. He came into Romeo + Juliet like a disco-flavored wrecking ball and left the story with an ominous wail, single-handedly encompassing the wild range of emotions the play is so famous for bringing to life. His dying proclamation for a plague to fall upon both the Montague and Capulet houses foretold the tragic conclusion – and reminded us all that it’s probably not a great idea to meddle in ancient grudges.
Harold Perrineau’s electric performance as Mercutio earned him rave reviews, and still stands as a highlight in his decades-long career. It’s hardly his most recognizable role, though — since 1996, he’s appeared in a ton of high-profile projects, including Zero Dark Thirty, HBO’s Oz and The Best Man and Matrix franchises. His most memorable role to date, though, was definitely as Michael on Lost, in which he spent the better part of his time taking care of (and yelling after) his magical son Walt.
4. John Leguizamo – Tybalt Capulet
The Prince of Cats had a lot of nerve calling Romeo a villain. After all, he’s the one who went out of his way to instigate drama, shoving the newlywed around until he finally snapped. Tybalt could have probably benefited from taking a breather from all the family drama — instead, he ended up killing Mercutio and dying at Romeo’s hands as a result. Still, he looked super cool with his uber-coiffed hair and silver-soled shoes.
John Leguizamo brought a raw energy and air of unpredictability to his portrayal of Tybalt in Romeo + Juliet. He’s done the same to many of the roles he’s taken on since. He re-teamed with Baz Luhrmann to play Toulouse Lautrec in Moulin Rouge! and seethed his way through Spike Lee’s dark drama, Summer of Sam. He’s undoubtedly best known for his portrayal of Sid the sloth in the Ice Age franchise, but he has branched out a bit in recent years. Most notably, he played antagonist Ozzy Delvecchio in Netflix’s Bloodline. Once a villain, always a villain.
3. Paul Rudd – Dave Paris
It’s hard to imagine a time when Paul Rudd wasn’t a household name, but back in 1996, he was just another actor in Baz Luhrmann’s impressive ensemble. As Dave Paris, the charming if dopey bachelor, he suited up as an astronaut to try and woo the fair Capulet maiden (he didn’t succeed, obviously). He seemed to mean well enough, even if trying to marry a teenager when she clearly wants nothing to do with you isn’t exactly how successful relationships are born. In the end, he was barely a blip on Juliet’s radar, even if he did make the cover of Timely magazine.
Paul Rudd’s youthful enthusiasm made his supporting performance one of the most delightful in Romeo + Juliet. Having starred in the previous year’s Clueless, he was well on his way to becoming one of Hollywood’s most recognizable actors, but it took him a few years to really find his footing. These days, it goes without saying that he’s just about everywhere. He’s been the sex-obsessed reporter Brian Fantana in Anchorman and a permanent fixture in Judd Apatow’s movies, including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and This is 40. Plus, there’s that whole thing where he’s Ant-Man.
2. Claire Danes – Juliet Capulet
What can you say about Juliet Capulet? She was the epitome of a young girl in love, hopelessly optimistic about a future that could never be. It’s a tough role to pull off, and numerous actresses have tried on screen over the years. Claire Danes made some interesting choices in her portrayal of the ill-fated teen, making her introspective and often non-plussed where others might have played up her more wishy-washy or romantic characteristics. Her performance in Romeo + Juliet‘s last act, as she edges toward hysteria and ultimately succumbs to suicide after her lover dies in her arms, was as vulnerable and emotional as they come, and helped solidify her as one of Hollywood’s best young actresses.
Danes’ career has had its share of highs and lows in the years since Romeo + Juliet. She starred in a string of underwhelming projects, including Mod Squad, Shopgirl and the not-musical version of Les Miserables. Eventually, she found her groove though, turning in strong performances in The Hours, The Family Stone, Stardust and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. She’s really been killing it lately, though, thanks to her award-winning performance in Temple Grandin and as the meme-worthy CIA operative Carrie Matheson in Showtime’s hit thriller, Homeland. To us, though, she’ll always be My So-Called Life‘s iconically moody teenager, Angela Chase – a role she took on two years before she donned Juliet’s angel wings.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio – Romeo Montague
Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo? Baz Luhrmann’s main Montague boy is, as it turns out, very easy to track down these days – because he’s arguably the biggest movie star in the world. Leonardo DiCaprio was 21-years-old when he signed on to star in Romeo + Juliet. His smoldering stare and unconventional charisma made him an ideal romantic lead, and this led to the first wave of Leomania, which culminated with the following year’s Titanic. You know, the second-biggest-grossing-picture of all time? Yeah, that Titanic.
Since then, Leo has become one of Hollywood’s most versatile and intriguing actors. He picks ambitious projects, like The Beach and Django Unchained. He frequently collaborates with Martin Scorsese, turning in versatile performances in movies like The Aviator, The Departed, and The Wolf of Wall Street. He partnered with Luhrmann again in his stylish 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Leo’s quest to win an Oscar was the stuff of internet legend, and this year, he finally got the gold statue for his intensely raw performance in The Revenant. His name has become synonymous with environmental activism, as he’s used his fame to raise awareness about climate control almost as often as he has to get a pet project greenlit. In short, his work since the mid-1990s has been so impressive, Romeo + Juliet now feels like a footnote in his incredibly prolific career.
Did you have a Leo poster in your room? Do you still vibe out to “Lovefool” when it comes up on your shuffle? Let us know in the comments!