Fellowes' Romeo will put Twilight stars in the shade
23:21 GMT, 22 March 2012
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, stars of the Twilight movies, could soon find themselves replaced in the affections of teenage movie-goers by a pair of star-crossed, old school lovers who represent true romance, if Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes has his way.
The Oscar-winning writer has adapted Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet for the big screen, and it has just completed filming in Italy, with hot stars-in-the-making Douglas Booth (praised for his Pip in the BBC’s recent Great Expectations) and Hailee Steinfeld, who led the True Grit re-boot.
Fellowes said he and Ileen Maisel, the film’s producer, felt strongly that there hadn’t been a traditional version of Shakespeare’s tragedy for more than four decades, since Franco Zeffirelli shot an adaptation in the late Sixties.
Actor Douglas Booth could be set to replace Robert Pattinson as the teenage girls' favourite heartthrob after starring as Romeo in Julian Fellowes' new adaptation
Baz Luhrmann’s Nineties take on the tale, of course, was set in the modern day.
‘Love is life-shaping and moving,’ said Fellowes, adding that it was key to the film that Romeo and Juliet be chaste until they are married.
‘We did feel it would be nice to have romantic, married love, and that purity was an important part of the film. They don’t make love until they have been married.
‘One always sounds like “Disgusted of Cheltenham” when you have these kind of discussions, but there is room for an understanding of the power of love.’
He said he was asked if there was a bed scene in the movie.
‘The person said “Oh, that’s typical of today” and I responded that actually, Shakespeare wrote it. I’m not inventing it. It’s there in the play.’
Newcomer Douglas Booth has already received praise for his role as Pip in the BBC's recent Great Expectations
And anyway, the love scene is about as innocent as you can get because Ms Steinfeld is only 15 and doesn’t turn 16 until December. The director Carlo Carlei didn’t want her to do anything explicit.
Fellowes told me he has tried to preserve all the ‘famous moments’ but believes he has made it accessible and understandable, so the story is very clear.
Ms Maisel felt Romeo And Juliet could be seen as an antidote to the vampire and dystopian fiction that abounds now, referring to the Twilight films and the blockbuster The Hunger Games (starring Jennifer Lawrence, which opens today).
However, Fellowes refuses to diss them. ‘We grew up on Rock Hudson, Deborah Kerr and Doris Day, and they had their way of being in love,’ he told me.
Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld could become new teen favourites following the new Romeo and Juliet – replacing Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson above
‘And in a way, I feel the Twilight teenagers have found their kind of romance and love and, though different, it seems to me that we forget love is the great mover of lives — the Twilight teens are a great part of that.’
Romeo And Juliet was shot at Sacro Speco in Subiaco and Mantova, Italy, and is packed with stars such as Damian Lewis and Natascha McElhone (the Capulets), Lesley Manville (the Nurse) and Paul Giamatti (the Friar).
Dashing Ed Westwick plays Tybalt, Christian Cook is Mercutio, Tom Wisdom is Paris and Kodi Smit-McPhee is Benvolio.
Those lads, along with Booth, are dressed in killer outfits that (I predict) are going to drive their teenage girl fans into a frenzy.
I was also interested to learn that Nadja Swarovski — the woman behind the crystals — is one of the film’s main backers. It’s the first time her company has been involved in a film project.
Why Hannah is a man-hater
Kiss me, Kate star: Hannah Waddingham
Hannah Waddingham hates men. At least, that’s what she’ll be declaring — eight times a week — when she stars in Kiss Me, Kate.
Trevor Nunn has picked her to portray Lilli Vanessi, the fiery heroine in Cole Porter’s musical (the book was penned by Sam and Bella Spewack).
Lilli is a movie star who finds herself appearing in a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew. I Hate Men is one of the songs Lilli belts out when she’d rather be belting Fred Graham (her ex, and the show’s director — and her co-star) in the kisser.
Ms Waddingham is tall, so for the role of Fred an actor has to be found who’s 6ft or so. I gather Nunn and his casting director Pippa Ailion have their eyes fixed on someone.
Adam Garcia, the brilliant Aussie song-and-dance man, will play ladies’ favourite Bill Calhoun, and Clive Rowe and David Burt have been contracted to play the gun-toting gangsters who have that splendid show-shopping number Brush Up Your Shakespeare.
The show reunites Nunn and Ms Waddingham, who starred in his production of A Little Night Music. She was most recently in The Wizard Of Oz and Into The Woods, and also has a small role in the Working Title film of Les Mis.
Choreographer Stephen Mear will be putting the company through its paces and the show will run at the Chichester Festival Theatre from June 18.
Singing sensation Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton will be heading our way to attend one or two rehearsals when the musical version of the movie 9 To 5 kicks off a UK tour on October 12 at the Manchester Opera House.
So far, ten theatres have been booked for the tour, from Manchester to Birmingham’s New Alexandra in December.
Dolly was in the 1980 film version, with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, about female office workers getting their own back on a nasty, sexist male boss.
For the stage musical, Dolly wrote the music and lyrics, and when I caught it on Broadway three years ago I enjoyed many of her numbers, which ranged from rockabilly to rhythm and blues.
I also loved the droll Allison Janney (who played the Tomlin part), even though she couldn’t sing.
The show, I gather, was much improved on the road in the U.S. and has been redirected by Jeff Calhoun, who took over directing duties from Joe Mantello.
I guess if 9 To 5 works on tour it may come to the West End next year. We’ll see.
Watch out for…
Jim Broadbent, the Oscar-winning actor, who will join Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana in the as yet untitled courtroom thriller that John Crowley will begin directing soon on locations in London.
Broadbent was last seen as Denis Thatcher, opposite Meryl Streep’s Oscar-winning Mrs T, in The Iron Lady (which, by the way, has taken $100 million worldwide).
The Crowley film is about a trial involving a terrorist. Broadbent will play the (fictional) Attorney General.
Sally Dexter, who will play the White Witch in a new stage adaptation of C. S. Lewis’s enchanting tale The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.
Forbes Masson will appear as Mr Tumnus, with Brian Protheroe as the Professor.
All will be revealed, from May 8, in Rupert Goold’s adaptation of the Lewis classic, when it begins performances under a marquee in Kensington Gardens (by Kensington Palace).
Goold will direct the production with Michael Fentiman, and they will stage the show using actors, puppets and surround video techniques.
The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is being produced by the team behind the Peter Pan show that ran in Kensington Gardens three years go.
Lesley Manville, who has been working on location in Manchester with director Mat Whitecross on his rock ’n’ roll film drama Spike Island.
Lesley is a contender in the Olivier Awards best actress category for her heartbreaking performance in Mike Leigh’s play Grief, which ran at the National’s Cottesloe Theatre.