Behind the Scenes of Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’: The Unusual Incident Involving a Kidnapping

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During the making of Baz Luhrmann’s groundbreaking film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo + Juliet,” unexpected real-life drama unfolded behind the scenes. The hairstylist Aldo Signoretti, renowned for his work with Federico Fellini, was kidnapped and held for ransom. Although specifics about the duration of Signoretti’s kidnapping are not mentioned, Luhrmann recalls the event, emphasizing the dangers they faced and the necessity of rescuing him.

The kidnappers demanded a $300 ransom for Signoretti’s release, a sum that Luhrmann considered a bargain. Makeup artist Maurizio Silvi, regarded as the unsung hero in this situation, delivered the ransom money to the abductors at a hotel. Signoretti was subsequently thrown out of the car by the kidnappers, resulting in a broken leg. Despite the ordeal, Signoretti later collaborated with Luhrmann on “Moulin Rouge,” alongside Silvi, who played a crucial role in his rescue, earning Signoretti his first of three Oscar nominations.

Mexico served as the primary filming location for “Romeo + Juliet,” chosen for its cost-effectiveness and atmospheric potential. Luhrmann expresses his deep appreciation for the country despite the difficulties they faced. He reflects on how the film’s production was challenging due to extended filming periods, hurricanes destroying sets, illnesses among the crew, and Luhrmann himself enduring a high fever.

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Despite the setbacks, Luhrmann used the chaos to his advantage, incorporating elements such as storms into the film’s scenes. For instance, Mercutio’s death scene, featuring Harold Perrineau, benefited from a storm that devastated the production. The stormy beach scene, captured amidst chaos, contributed to the film’s distinctive aesthetic, offering an intense and dramatic visual experience that would have been unachievable without the actual weather conditions.

Despite the tumultuous production, “Romeo + Juliet” ultimately achieved success, grossing significantly more than its budget and becoming a well-regarded adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy. The behind-the-scenes turmoil, while challenging, contributed to the film’s unique style and memorable scenes. “Romeo + Juliet” remains available for rental or purchase on Apple TV in the U.S.