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Romeo star is more than just a pretty face ; more : CinemaFilm extra At the age of 21, Douglas Booth looks set to be one of the country's biggest...

October 12, 2013

YellowBrix

Romeo star is more than just a pretty face ; more : CinemaFilm extra At the age of 21, Douglas Booth looks set to be one of the country's biggest exports, with four big movies already in the can. The actor talks to Susan Griffin about tackling Shakespeare and reeling from first love

t's not just actresses who are judged by their looks.

ISometimes it happens to men, too. Take Douglas Booth, the 21- year-old whose features have already graced Burberry's promotional campaigns.

One of the things you get most is, 'You're too good-looking to play this part','' says Booth.

My, but he's beautiful: all high cheekbones, feline eyes and pouty mouth, but he acknowledges his genetic luck with a shrug, rather than any sense of cockiness.

I'm not going to moan about anything but it's often seen as a hindrance, something you've got to fight against. I'm sure it's helped in other ways, though.

The Burberry campaign came about when the company's creative director, Christopher Bailey, spotted him playing an arrogant youth in Julian Fellowes's 2009 movie From Time To Time.

Fellowes in turn remembered the young actor when casting Romeo in a new telling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which he has adapted and co-produced.

In the time since we worked together he's found a tenderness, a sympathy and a strength that informed his Romeo and made him, quite simply, heart-breaking, says Fellowes.

In turn, Booth reveals the writer's take on the classic tale has opened the Bard up to him.

To be honest, I never fell in love with Shakespeare the way I did when I read Julian's script, says the Londonborn actor who beat more than 300 other hopefuls to win the part.

But just as Fellowes has found himself embroiled in controversy over Downton Abbey's historical inaccuracies, Shakespeare enthusiasts will no doubt be enraged over his decision to tamper with the dialogue.

I think 80 per cent of it is the real Shakespeare and 20 per cent is Julian's adaptation, says Booth. But I think he's made it appealing to modern audiences and what will make me happy is if this creates a bridge for people to not feel threatened by Shakespeare.

In 1996, Baz Luhrmann directed Romeo + Juliet, in which Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes played the star-crossed lovers. While that was lauded for its contemporary interpretation, Fellowes's version marks the first time since Franco Zeffirelli's classic 1968 film that the action has played out in a traditional setting.

The costumes totally immerse you in the world and we were in these beautiful locations where it was meant to be set, says Booth, who doesn't believe teenagers have changed so much since the 16th century.

To prove his point, he brought a newspaper clipping to his screen test with the Oscar-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Juliet.

It was about a teenager who was cleaning his shotgun. His girlfriend was there, they were both 15 and the gun went off and killed her. He was so full of grief he instantly turned the gun on himself, says Booth. I wanted to show that Romeo and Juliet's tragic ending isn't out of the ordinary, like a totally mythical, unrealistic thing.

The son of an English father and half-Spanish, half-Dutch mother, the dyslexic Booth struggled at school. I was never particularly confident as a child but I discovered drama was something that made me happy, he said.

Unfortunately, he had to wait to shine on stage as the same children were always cast in the school play.

Then, aged 12, he got his moment when he was cast as Agamemnon in a school musical.

I thought, 'This is fun, I can do this!''' says Booth, who then joined the National Youth Theatre and studied at the Guildhall every Saturday throughout his teenage years. Following Romeo and Juliet, there are numerous movies to promote next year, such as sci-fi epic Jupiter Ascending, with Channing Tatum, the big-screen version of the play Posh and Darren Aronofsky's epic Noah, in which Russell Crowe plays the title character and Booth's father. ? .M: info: Romeo And Juliet is out now.

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