The titular heroine of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet died at the tender age of thirteen, shortly after her brief, tumultuous affair with a short-tempered family rival came to an end. Despite her tragic and rather limited romantic resume, she’s become something of a Dr. Laura figure to lovelorn women, thousands of whom descend upon Juliet’s native town of Verona, Italy, each year to solicit her for romantic advice, pasting their often desperate pleas to a wall outside the famous balcony where, it is believed, Romeo made his legendary booty call.
This peculiar tradition provides the crux of the new romantic comedy Letters to Juliet. The film is the first bona fide starring vehicle for Amanda Seyfried, an actress accustomed to either ceding the spotlight to her co-stars in films like Dear John and Jennifer’s Body, or sharing it with an ensemble, as in HBO’s acclaimed (until recently, at least) series Big Love. We caught up with the reluctant star last week in Verona, where she spoke with us about love and destiny in Letters to Juliet, the “blood, guts, and love” of her upcoming Red Riding Hood flick, and her eager embrace of another Verona tradition, one even stranger than the letter-writing: grabbing the right breast of the town’s Juliet statue for good luck.