Swarovski crystals have a long history in film. The Austrian bling behemoth founded in 1895 has added imperative glitz to Hollywood’s most beloved movies from The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy’s ruby slippers) to Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Audrey Hepburn’s tiara) and Black Swan (Natalie Portman’s gown). But with the October 11 release of Carlo Carlei’s new Romeo & Juliet, starring Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth, Swarovski will take on a new—but no less glittering—aspect of filmmaking: producing.
“I never would have been motivated to enter the film industry; it seems so incredibly complex and challenging,” Nadja Swarovski, the founder of production company Swarovski Entertainment, says. “But we approached it from the point of view of supporting creativity, so that’s where there’s a natural evolution.”
As a longtime employee of her family’s company and a member of the Swarovski Crystal Business Executive Board since 2012, Swarovski’s been responsible for strengthening the company’s ties with designers in the fashion world but also those who work on movie sets and costumes. With the creation of Swarovski Entertainment, however, the company is taking a more active role by producing films that not only need its artistic allegiance but its financial support.
“Any movie we produce should be aligned with our values, including integrity, honesty and positivity,” Swarovski says. “Our product is very positive and we want to create that same impact on the movies we’re producing, whether that’s letting the customer walk away enlightened by having learned something or uplifted by feeling something positive, or inspired by seeing something so beautiful.”
Romeo & Juliet should do just that. This latest production of the Bard’s timeless story of star-crossed lovers is a dreamy, lavish take on the tragedy with strong performances from Steinfeld and Booth and a supporting cast including Paul Giamatti, Ed Westwick and Damian Lewis. And while an older crowd might think Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet the pinnacle of modern Shakespeare, Carlei’s film could very well be the definite version for a new generation; indeed when Booth’s smoldering Romeo is introduced, chiseling a sculpture, his shirt undone to his navel, even a diehard Luhrmann fan could be forgiven for muttering, “Leo who?”
It was more than just the torrid tale of teenage love that brought Swarovski to the project, though. In addition to the convenient tie-in for the jewelry company—a Romeo & Juliet-inspired line will be in shops around the release—her old friend Julian Fellowes, Oscar-winning screenwriter and creator of Downton Abbey, wrote the film.
“Nadja is an extraordinary person; she drives herself as hard as anyone,” Fellowes says. “To be born into a great business is one thing, but to work as hard as if you’re coming up from the streets, well, I don’t know too many people who fit that.” He goes on: “She was a great addition to the production team of Romeo. She has a very strong visual sense and she wasn’t a sleeping partner. She was a very active participant in the whole production process.”
Indeed, Swarovski notes that spending time on the film’s Italian set was just the sort of involvement she’d hoped for on her first film. “For me, it was incredibly insightful and a huge learning experience,” she says. “It was wonderful to see how the cast could just go from being natural right in their roles and to work with the costume designer and see all the little Italian ladies sewing away. This entire creative process was so fulfilling and satisfying.”
Satisfying enough that Swarovski is already planning her next project, a fashion-focused film penned by The King’s Speech writer David Seidler, to be followed by a series of documentaries and films created for children. With her first film about to be released, Swarovski seems to be wasting no time taking on new tasks.
“I don’t have a specific movie in mind. I just have that specific emotion in mind,” Swarovski says of the films she plans to produce. “I want people to walk away from a movie feeling empowered and inspired. That’s important.”
After all, she says, it’s her family’s century-old reputation on the line. “If your last name is the name of the business, you certainly make sure it goes in the right direction,” she says with a smile. “Failure is not an option.”
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