Few films are as iconic as William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. In 1960, the British playwright’s timeless work was brought to the big screen in what is remembered as one of the greatest movie musicals of all time. The film’s breathtaking score and unforgettable songs have made it an all-time favorite. It is now 45 years since the film’s premiere, and the tale of the star-crossed lovers continues to hold up as a testament to the timeless nature of Shakespeare’s words and the magic of Hollywood.

There is another Shakespeare play that is just as iconic: the musical Vanity Fair. Like Romeo & Juliet, it is also set in Verona, and tells the story of a rich, spoiled businessman who meets a poor, independent-minded artist who challenges his worldview. The film’s famous songs – “Spring Will Bring Spring” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” – have become part of popular culture in the wake of the movie’s premiere in 1968. The film went on to win three Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay (Tony Award-nominated Liza Minnelli).

The parallels between these two legendary films are more than just superficial. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, both feature iconic performances from two of the most talented actors of all time: Jack Nicholson in the role of the businessman and Robert Pattinson as the artist. While working on his first feature film, Kubrick was impressed by the young British actor who played the dual role of the artist and musician in the Shakespeare play. He decided to give him a call and cast him in one of his next movies. Two years after its premiere, the director returned with another gem, 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which he again worked with Robert Pattinson. (Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is often considered one of the greatest films of all time. It won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.)

If you have yet to see either film, then this is your chance. Today is the 45th anniversary of both films’ premieres, and to celebrate, Vogue and Vanity Fair have collaborated to gift you with a cinematic double dose. We are taking you back in time to the halcyon days of the early 1970s, when a pair of Hollywood greats came together to bring you one of the most iconic film sagas of all time. Enjoy a front row seat as we take you on an exclusive tour of the filming locations of both films – a journey that takes you from one of the most beautiful cities of the Italian Riviera to the sprawling backlots of Elstree Studios in England. And don’t forget: in the words of the Bard, “the sun is now up, and the lights are now on.” Let’s go back in time to sunny, sleepy, happy little Verona…

Verona: The Place And The People Of Lust And Revenge

Before we begin our time travel expedition, allow us to take a quick moment to discuss the fascinating history of Verona. Founded in 218 BC, the city grew to become one of the most important cultural hubs in the ancient world. (In fact, it was the capital of the Roman Empire from about AD 30 to 70.) In addition to being the birthplace of the Roman language, the city was also where the poet Ovid lived and worked. To this day, Verona is synonymous with Roman ruins, ancient theaters, and quaint, cobbled streets. It is quite the tourist attraction, full of young, adventurous visitors who flock there to drink in the city’s beautiful, though slightly seedy, atmosphere.

The film and literature scenes undoubtedly love Verona as much as the tourists. Its picturesque streets and piazzas have been the backdrop to some of the greatest films and literary works of all time. Even now, 45 years after its premiere, audiences still flock to see it as one of the most romantic films of all time, ranking it at number nine on the list of the most watched foreign films in France.

Let’s take a drive down memory lane and revisit some of the locations that were either used or inspired by the film. The first scene filmed at the Cinecittà Studios, in Rome, was the famous “birthday party” sequence in which Juliet’s father celebrates his daughter’s birthday with a grand party that soon devolves into chaos as the feuding Capulet and Montague families begin shouting insults at each other. The two sets that were used for this sequence were the Teatro Brumaro and the Teatro dell’Opera. (You can see photos of both sets on our Instagram account @vanityfairvogue.) The Roman ruins in the Cinecittà Studios are also the setting for one of the film’s most haunting sequences: the fateful meeting of Romeo and Tybalt on the Spanish Steps. The young lovers first see each other when Romeo spots Tybalt’s sword resting on the ground. The exchange that follows is one of the most iconic in movie history:

“Look, Romeo! A sword! Get thee behind me, Satan!”

“Thy chain is not a chain, Tybalt, but a rainbow.””

The next scene, which takes place at Friar Lawrence’s hermitage, is where Romeo first hears–and then proceeds to act on–the news that Juliet has been kidnapped. The scene was shot near Pisa in Tuscany, and it is here that he runs distractedly around the hermitage, searching for the elusive, flower-loving girl.

From Pisa, we move to the Siena City Centre. This was the filming location of the opening party, where Juliet’s family members gather to toast her engagement to Romeo. (A wedding that never happened because the Montagues and Capulets refused to grant them their truce.) The party was filmed at the Teatro Piccolo, the Palazzo Publico, and the streets around Piazza San Francesco.

Many of the film’s iconic one-liners were improvised by Nicholson and Pattinson. During a table read of the script, the two actors ad-libbed jokes and changed lines to create something new. As screenwriter Paul Auster explains on the DVD commentary, “Stanley would say: ‘OK, here’s the line. Let’s see if you can think of a one-liner. Remember: it’s gotta be good. It’s gotta be fresh. It’s gotta be unique. And it’s gotta work within the narrative framework of the scene.’ So they would come up with these one-liners and I would sort of sit there and write them down. And sometimes they would be gems, and sometimes they would be duds, but you just had to trust your instinct and go with what was happening in front of you.”

The Best Friend Scene: A Tour Of Nicholson’s Pad

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Jack Nicholson invites Robert Pattinson to stay at his bachelor pad, Casa Gucci. In the course of one evening, the actor takes Pattinson on a walk through his history as a Hollywood star and introduces him to some of his most memorable characters. The three-handed sword fight that ensues is one of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history and the stuff of legends. (It was, incidentally, the last collaboration between Nicholson and director Peter Bogdanovich before Bogdanovich’s death in 2019.)

As the tour begins, Nicholson leads his guest to a door inscribed with the name BRUMARO on it. It is, in fact, the director’s own home, which he shares with his wife, Grace, and their black cat, Max.

The actor greets his guest and leads him to the dining table, where a six-pack of beer and two filled glasses are waiting. Pattinson is surprised to see both, and asks, “You don’t usually drink beer, do you?”

“Only on special occasions,” replies Nicholson. “Sit down and take a look at my friend’s collection of autographs.”

Nicholson then proceeds to introduce his guest to some of his most memorable film characters. He picks up a pair of autographed photos of Marlon Brando and plays dramatically with them, holding them over his head as he recites Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. (A Taming Of the Shrew sculpture can be found in the entrance hall of the house.)

Pattinson finds the exercise hilarious and asks Nicholson if he could have his own personal autographed photo to put on his wall. The actor graciously agrees and signs a photo of himself holding a sword, in full costume as Jay Gatsby from the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby. (This photo can also be found on our Instagram account @vanityfairvogue.)

The tour then continues through the house and back to the garden, where Nicholson displays his extensive collection of classical music CDs and his guest takes a seat at the grand piano, playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. (A performance by the film’s protagonist is also intercut with the scene.)