Need To Know: Matt Doyle & Seth Numrich

4.3.2011

By Phillip B. Crook

After turning the most famous love story ever told on its head, the actors can't seem to quit each other

Private Romeo director Alan Brown recalls how the pair arrived at a dinner party in January and spent most of the evening oblivious to the rest of room. 'We all laughed because they're in rehearsals 10 hours a day together, six days a week, and they were still talking mostly to each other,' Brown says. 'They auditioned for War Horse while we were still shooting, so I hold myself responsible.'

Brown's original script for Private Romeo called for a larger cast with more adult roles, but the film's budget forced him to pare it down to just eight 20-something actors -- a decision he's ultimately happy with because the smaller ensemble aligned his vision with the Shakespeare text perfectly. 'My first idea was to place it in a barracks, but then I thought, Romeo and Juliet really have to be young. The whole idea is that they're foolish youth.' He chose to revisit the play when he was fighting to overturn 'don't ask, don't tell' and says that although Private Romeo contains no references to the bill, his decision to cast two men as the leads was 'very political.'

From the grueling routine of daily drills to stolen moments in shadowy hallways, Private Romeo's isolated, martial backdrop is a pressure cooker complete with homophobia and hazing rituals. But even with strong themes typical of the gay film genre, Brown insists there would be no Private Romeo without Doyle and Numrich. 'Matt was at the callbacks for six hours,' he remembers. 'We kept mixing and matching him with people. But when Seth came in, I don't think we read him for anything but Romeo. I put him and Matt together, and there wasn't a question.'

War Horse opens April 14 at New York City's Vivian Beaumont Theater. For more information and the trailer of Private Romeo, which opens in theaters Feb. 10, click here.

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