Camaron Engels, best known for Netflix teen show “Malibu Rescue,” and cast in the streamer’s upcoming series “Clickbait,” is to play Romeo in a new film adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet,” produced by Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov and Igor Tsay, whose movie “Searching” raked in $75 million.
The project, with the working title “R#J,” is directed by Carey Williams, who won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018 for his short “Emergency.” Francesca Noel, who appeared in the Sundance Labs film “Selah and the Spades,” will play Juliet.
“I’m thrilled to be presenting a timeless classic in a never before seen fashion, and giving people of color an opportunity to see themselves onscreen in these iconic roles. There have been many versions of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but there’s never been one quite like this,” Williams said.
Variety has been given exclusive images from the production, which shot in Los Angeles shortly before the coronavirus shutdown.
The film is the first major project to come out of Bekmambetov and Tsay’s newly formed production company Interface Films. It will be the first of several mainstream projects produced by Interface to employ the Screenlife format, which has been nurtured by Bekmambetov’s company Bazelevs. Interface plans to spend more than $10 million on Screenlife films this year.
Screenlife movies focus on how people use their laptops and mobile screens to interact with each other. The first film to employ the format was “Unfriended,” which grossed $65 million worldwide in 2015. This was followed by “Searching,” starring John Cho, which took $75 million. Bekmambetov was a producer on both films, while Tsay served as an executive producer on the latter movie.
Bekmambetov said the company had adopted “the startup accelerator model” and was “applying it to the film industry in an effort to create a competitive production development landscape for aspiring film producers and disrupt the way the new digital films are made, financed, and distributed in time of crisis.”
Bekmambetov and Tsay reflected on how the Screenlife format was suited to the restrictions on production during the coronavirus crisis.
Bekmambetov said: “A couple of years ago Screenlife seemed something extravagant, an artist’s pursuit, now it’s arguably the only way to shoot movies, and who knows maybe in a half year it will become a new normal.”
Tsay said that cinema had always been more than just motion pictures. “It’s the reflection and the indicator of the current reality,” he said. “Given the unprecedented circumstance we’re going through now (…) we must go on searching for safe and creative ways to do so. Screenlife is the best way to tell stories in films now.”
Noel is represented by D2 Management and Buchwald.