Westminster’s resident village idiot, Nadine Dorries is back with yet another prime example of the adage that its better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.
The object of Dorries’ ire, on this occasion, is Julian Fellowes who’s recently cast a 14 year old actress, Hailee Steinfeld, in the role of 14 year old Juliet in, of course, Romeo and Juliet.
My morning began with radio interviews regarding the re-make of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet by the great Julian Fellowes, starring 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld.
I will admit to being a Shakespeare purist, I love Shakespeare. I like to see Macbeth set in the middle of a mock wood, not on a minimalist black and white habitat-esque stage. I want to see it as Shakespeare meant it to be seen and there is no doubt that Shakespeare saw Juliet as being fourteen years old. A story of an all consuming teenage love wildly beyond all reason, two star crossed lovers, which ends in death.
The problem is, Julian Fellowes has scripted a graphic nude love scene using a fourteen year old actress with a nineteen year old male lead and I am afraid that is just wrong on a number of levels. It would be much more appropriate to use an older actress who looks younger. Am I arguing against myself? I don’t think so. The artistic situation created by the Bard is unique and should be seen within its own context of a sixteenth century play when there were no laws regarding underage sex and no welfare state.
The scene and the age of the actress will become the focus of the film. The talk will be all be of the underage actress and the message will be one that will romanticise to all young girls what is, in fact, under age sex. In a world of AIDS, Chlamydia and single parenthood, where we already have the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Western Europe and the highest numbers of abortions, that is not a responsible message to put out.
There are, as Mr Plug points out, one or two problems with Dorries’ argument…
I read with interest your blog on the forthcoming Julian Fellowes film version of Romeo and Juliet. Your worry about a fourteen year old girl being allowed to film a “Graphic sex scene” is touching. However….there is a slight problem. She moaned and whined about wikileaks recently….however….the extract from the script that she is referring to was leaked itself. It was also an extract from a script that was stolen BEFORE a fourteen year old girl was cast in the lead role. Shakespeare did not SEE Juliet as fourteen Mrs Dorries….he wrote her as a fourteen year old. It is specifically written within the text. You moan that you want to see Shakespeare as he meant it, well, again I might point out that he probably didn’t see either the advent of film, the moral compass of a nation four hundred years or so later or the ridiculous posturing of a desperate politician who wants to go on a moral crusade despite being overdrawn in the Royal Bank of Morality herself. There WERE laws regarding underage sex…..the definition of underage was different back then to now.
That said, where Dorries’ argument descends into pure farce is the point at which she lauds Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film of Romeo and Juliet.
One also has to question, given that the Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet must still be the greatest, the most artistic and pure, is Fellowes looking for his own platform on which to challenge Zeffirelli for that crown and just going one step too far?
Zeffiirelli’s beautifully filmed production, of course, includes a bedroom scene in which Romeo (Leonard Whiting) leaves the bed to stand naked, in a rear shot, in front of the full length window that leads to the balcony, after which Juliet (Olivia Hussey) turns over, exposing both naked breasts.
When the scene was filmed, Leonard Whiting was seventeen years old.
Olivia Hussey was fifteen years old and Zeffirelli had to be given legal permission for Hussey to appear nude in the film before shooting the scene, which is quite obviously post-coital.
Now what was Dorries’ saying about Julian Fellowes?