Romeo + Juliet was one of the most iconic romantic films of the ’90s. With Leonardo DiCaprio as the protagonist, Natalie Portman was going to play the role of Juliet but something happened.
Leonardo DiCaprio was already beginning to be one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood when he starred in Romeo + Juliet in 1996. He co-starred in that film with Claire Danes, who were the tragic couple in the story. However, before the choice of said actress, the originally chosen one had been Natalie Portman.
Back then, Leonardo DiCaprio was on the cusp of his burgeoning career. The actor had already accumulated an impressive portfolio, but it was with “Romeo + Juliet” that he truly solidified his status as the quintessential heartthrob of youthful romanticism.
Director Baz Luhrmann had initially cast DiCaprio in the role of Romeo. However, the part of Juliet was originally intended for the iconic and exceptional Natalie Portman. So, what led to her replacement?
At that time, Natalie Portman was a rising teenage star in the film industry. Her breakthrough in “The Professional” (1994) had opened doors to numerous leading roles. Playing Juliet could have been a significant leap forward in her career, but circumstances intervened.
Portman was just 13 years old when she was cast as Juliet. However, the issue arose when Leonardo DiCaprio was subsequently brought on board. The glaring issue was the age gap: he was 21, and she was a mere teenager.
In essence, not only was there a substantial age difference, but one of them had reached the age of majority while the other remained a minor. Surprisingly, they attempted rehearsals together before realizing the gravity of the situation.
It was during these rehearsals that the unmistakable problem came to light. “Fox said it looked like Leonardo DiCaprio was abusing me when we kissed,” Natalie Portman candidly shared.
“It was a complex situation. I was only 13, and Leonardo was 21 at the time. It wasn’t deemed appropriate by the film company or our director, Baz,” recounted the acclaimed actress from “Black Swan.” Consequently, she had to withdraw from the project, making way for Claire Danes to step into the role.