Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave star in Gary Winick’s romance drama Letters to Juliet, where they embark on a mission to find the lover Redgrave’s character left behind in Tuscany 50 years earlier.
The key is the longstanding tourist tradition of writing letters to Juliet, Shakespeare’s tragic heroine in Romeo and Juliet. Girls come to Verona from all over the world to leave lovelorn letters at Juliet’s balcony, which are answered by Juliet’s "secretaries." Director Gary Winick gave it a shot himself, just to see, before committing to the major production with one of his most admired actresses.
“I wrote to the secretaries from New York asking for advice. You send the letter and you know Juliet doesn’t exist, never did, but there are these secretaries who do and they answer. I just did it. The film pitch was that a letter got stuck in the wall and 50 years later gets answered, and that person comes to find (the) person they were in love with. Everyone said ‘Wow, this is great.’ That became a really big focus and it was a great role for an older actress. Vanessa Redgrave was our first choice. She would come back to Verona to look for her Lorenzo.”
Redgrave avoided the cliché of longing.
“We discussed it in the rehearsals, but Vanessa didn’t want it to go in that direction. She shouldn’t be feeling a longing for her lover, or getting to a place where she would just want to go home. Vanessa said she feels it’s an adventure and that it shouldn’t escalate. She was able to build the longing even though it wasn’t plotted out and the wonderful actress that she is, she did by degrees arrange these moments.”
Seyfried plays an American visitor to Verona who is enchanted by the idea of a living Juliet legacy. She sets Redgrave’s character on her search across Italy, as she weathers her own romantic upheavals.
“Another layer that I liked and tried to make sure came across was the mother/daughter relationship of Vanessa and Amanda, their friendship. Amanda brought so much to the role, sophistication, nuance, and experience.”
Winick’s career as a director of chick flicks soared back in 2004 with the international success of 13 Going on Thirty with Jennifer Garner. But he has noticed that usually reliable romance films are harder to make now.
“Because of that film I will always get work. And Jennifer Garner, we want to make something together this fall. But movies have changed, things got kind of weird. When we did 13 Going On 30, we just did it. Now everyone is attached but things are only kind of green lit. It’s unfortunate because they keep making bad movies, either way. They should make fewer movies and better ones. And considering the demographic that rules the theatres, the young boys, and every movie I made was the exact opposite.”
Perhaps most especially Letters to Juliet.