Swarovski is a name fairly well linked to the twin bastions of cinema and glamour; over the years the crystal company has collaborated on costume and jewelry design for everything from “The Wizard Of Oz” to the recent “Mirror Mirror.” Expanding into film production seems a natural step for the luxury brand to take and their production offshoot, Swarovski Entertainment, recently wrapped shooting on its first feature: an adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” shot in Italy and starring Hailee Steinfeld and rising British star Douglas Booth. (More details here.)
The project’s originator was producer Ileen Maisel, who brought the idea of making a traditional version of “Romeo and Juliet” set in medieval Italy to Julian Fellowes. The “Gosford Park”/”Downton Abbey” screenwriter and his wife Emma happen to be friends with Nadja Swarovski and, aware that her family-run company were contemplating the leap into film, suggested they invest in “Romeo And Juliet.”
“I said yes immediately,” says Swarovski. “We want to extend our presence within the film industry in a more proactive way by investing.” Asked why they would want to enter the notoriously risky world of finance and production, Swarovski says, “For us, creativity is the driver for commerce, so film seemed like a natural journey.”
“Romeo And Juliet” will not be, insists the glamorous chairwoman, “a two-hour Swarovski ad. Yes, there is crystal in the costumes and the jewelry but in a subtle yet impactful way.”
Fellowes adds, “It doesn’t feel like product placement; it’s organic and natural. It was interesting watching Nadja’s craftsmen coming into the costume department and showing the costume makers how to put the crystals onto Juliet’s ball dress and the like.”
In order to get the film to appeal to a young audience who likely view Shakespeare as tedious homework, Fellowes says he’s updated the language. “I’ve left it Shakespearean but opened it up so that it’s not obscure,” says the British scribe. “We’ve made sure to preserve all the famous stuff. I wanted to make it user friendly with a narrative that moves along quickly so that it can hopefully open up Shakespeare’s play to a whole new generation who’ve never had the traditional Romeo And Juliet.”
The film’s budget is $17 million, of which Swarovski has put up a “substantial” proportion, and Fellowes and Swarovski expect to see director Carlo Carlei’s first cut in June. Several territories have already been sold, including the UK, Australia and Germany, a promo reel was shown to other buyers yesterday and the plan is for a 2013 release. The company has several other projects in development, including an India-set love story entitled Paani which was announced in Cannes two years ago with Shekar Kapur attached to direct, but none are likely to move into production until after “Romeo and Juliet” is released.