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Damian Lewis joins Julian Fellowes' scripted Romeo & Juliet

The Misanthrope

Story by Jack Foley

DAMIAN Lewis, Natascha McElhone and Stellan Skarsgard have joined the ever expanding cast of the Julian Fellowes’ scripted new adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

They will join True Grit star Hailee Steinfeld, who had already been cast as Juliet, Douglas Booth as Romeo, Paul Giamatti as Friar Laurence, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Benvolio and Ed Westwick as Tybalt.

Lewis has been cast as Lord Capulet, McElhone as Lady Capulet and Skarsgard as Prince of Verona.

Further new additions include Lesley Manville (The Nurse), Christian Cooke (Mercutio), Tomas Arana (Lord Montague), Laura Morante (Lady Montague) and Leon Vitali (Apothecary).

Fellowes (who won as Oscar for Gosford Park) has written the adaptation, which will reportedly remain true to its original period setting but has been designed to draw a younger, new-generation audience.

Carlo Carlei is directing the film, which began shooting 10 days ago on location in Italy.

Commenting on what to expect from his screenplay, Fellowes said: “We felt that it had been quite a long time since there had been a romantic, traditional rendition of the piece.

“People have made Romeo since then – and some very good ones – but they were set in modern Ohio or whatever. This isn’t that. This is the romantic medieval love story as conceived by Shakespeare.

“We felt that really what we needed was just to make it slightly more accessible to today’s generation. That, I hope, is all we’ve done. My dream would be that you watch it and you think you’ve watched the whole thing written by Shakespeare.”

Elaborating further, Fellowes said that he has tightened the play to fit into a standard two-hour feature running time, but that he did very little re-writing since the themes of young love are universal.

“Every generation is interested in love… I mean, there is something about young love that is heartbreaking, and I think every teenager in the world would agree. All of that is very powerful.

“The point about teenage love is it’s before cynicism comes in to reshape one’s attitudes. You love when you’re young in a way that you’ll probably never love again.”

Fellowes is currently writing the third season of Downtown Abbey having also recently completed a new ITV drama about the Titanic.

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