Leonardo DiCaprio: Why a Studio Objected to Him Kissing Natalie Portman

Leonardo DiCaprio and Natalie Portman are both huge celebrities so many studios would want them to kiss onscreen. However, one studio hated a screen test they did together. Here’s the reason why Portman didn’t get a role in one of DiCaprio’s classic films.

Leonardo DiCaprio in a suit
Leonardo DiCaprio | Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Natalie Portman auditioned for a role in one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s earlier films

Today, DiCaprio and Portman both have well-known romantic roles under their belts. DiCaprio played romantic leads in the period pieces Titanic and The Great Gatsby. In addition, Portman played Senator Amidala in Attack of the Clones, the Star Wars film which is arguably the most romance-focused. However, their early careers were different.

DiCaprio didn’t become a romantic lead until he starred in Baz Luhramann’s Romeo + Juliet. In the film, he played Romeo Montague. According to BuzzFeed, Portman was considered for the role of Juliet, however, it ultimately went to Claire Danes. During an interview, Portman explained why she didn’t appear in the film.

A trailer for Romeo + Juliet

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“It was a complicated situation and it had to do with at the time I was 13 and Leonardo was 21 and it wasn’t appropriate in the eyes of the film company or the director Baz [Luhrmann],” Portman said. “And it was kind of a mutual decision that it just wasn’t going to be right at the time and I think the film came out really, really beautifully and Claire Danes did a really, really beautiful job. It just wasn’t the right time, you know?”

In a separate interview with The New York Times, Portman went into greater detail about how people at 20th Century Fox were upset when they saw her kiss DiCaprio in a screen test. “Fox said it looked like Leonardo DiCaprio was molesting me when we kissed,” Portman said. Around the same time, she also turned down the title role in an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita because it dealt with underage sexuality.

A scene from Romeo + Juliet

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How casting a younger actress would have stayed true to William Shakespeare’s play — and offended modern sensibilities

Shakespeare penned Romeo and Juliet over 400 years ago. Obviously, cultural standards have changed significantly over that span of time. In the play , Juliet is 13 years old. Over the course of the play, she falls in love and gets married.

It’s not clear how old Romeo is supposed to be, however, it’s no longer culturally acceptable or legal for a 13 year old to get married in many countries. Casting a young Portman in the part would reflect the text of the play, however, it would make many people very uncomfortable by promoting a retrograde attitude toward marriage.

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Some adaptations of Romeo and Juliet try to remove this dated element from the story. For example, Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” is loosely based on the play and doesn’t mention Juliet’s age. Romeo + Juliet doesn’t either, which makes sense. After all, it’s a modernization of the story — and it reflects modern values.