The ultimate great-day-in-English-class movie, Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. The film's then-young leads are no longer known for their '90s teen careers: Leonardo DiCaprio finally took home an Oscar for The Revenant, and Claire Danes has scored Emmys for her very adult roles in Homeland and Temple Grandin. But we'll always remember this pair as two beautiful, tragically in love teens making eyes at one another behind a fish tank. Still, if things had gone just a little differently, a different actress would have been wearing Danes' angel wings. And it would have been way, way creepy. According to an old interview with Natalie Portman (recently dug up by Yahoo! in honor of R+J's anniversary) the Black Swan Oscar-winner was in contention for the role of starry-eyed Juliet in Luhrmann's modern adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy. However, there was one important reason why she didn't ultimately take the part: Portman was 13 at the time, and both she and the film's producers thought it wildly inappropriate for her to be making out with 21-year-old DiCaprio.
Smart move, producers. Romeo + Juliet is a pretty steamy movie, and putting a child in the role of Juliet would make many squeamish. (I'm already squeamish thinking about it.) It's worth noting that Portman was, technically, Juliet's age; in Shakespeare's original work, Juliet is supposed to have "not yet seen the age of 14." Romeo's age is never specifically mentioned, though many people assume he's slightly older than his love. Still, I don't have to rattle off all the reasons we shouldn't live by the rules of Shakespeare's world — or explain why casting a 13-year-old as the love interest of an adult is icky. The producers made a smarter move by casting then-17-year-old Danes, and given the plethora of awards collected by these actors in the years following Romeo + Juliet, this casting call clearly worked out for the best.