With the help of icons like Kristen Stewart, Yara Shahidi and Emma Watson.
For over 50 years, tire company Pirelli has been putting out a calendar featuring some of the most famous faces of its time. In these five decades, the annual Pirelli Calendar has established itself as an iconic, highly-anticipated collaboration between these celebrities and the world’s most renowned photographers. First launched in 1964, the calendar has become known for its thematic concepts: in 1968, Harri Peccinotti took inspiration from the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Allen Ginsberg; in 1990, Arthur Elgort produced the first Pirelli Calendar shot entirely in black and white and devoted to the Olympics; and in 2011, Karl Lagerfeld created a calendar inspired by classical Greek and Roman culture.
For 2020, famed Italian photographer Paolo Roversi decided to take on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, focusing exclusively on the tragic heroine. Featuring eight artists and actresses from around the world, the calendar reimagines several contemporary versions of Juliet, each with their own specific grace, power and allure. Claire Foy, Kristen Stewart, Emma Watson, Indya Moore, Yara Shahidi, Chris Lee, Rosalia and Stella Roversi (the photographer’s daughter) each channel the rebellious literary star in different ways, with elaborate costumes, hair and makeup helping complete the modern-day interpretation.
“I was looking for a pure soul, someone full of innocence that combined strength, beauty, tenderness and courage,” Roversi said in a press release. “I found this in the glimmer of an eye, in the gestures and words of Emma and Yara, Indya and Mia and in the smiles and tears of Kristen and Claire…in the voices and chants of Chris and Rosalía. In Stella, we have the innocence. There’s a Juliet in every woman.”
In addition to the photography, Roversi also created a short film in which each star reads Juliet’s lines from the play. Ever the iconoclast, Kristen Stewart decided to read a bit of Romeo’s part as well. “There are Juliets absolutely everywhere, and also I feel like I am Romeo, I am Juliet,” she said in a behind-the-scenes video. Over the course of the six-month shoot, Roversi also asked each of the eight stars a series of questions about love, romance and loss. Of Claire Foy, he asks if she remembers her first love. “I do, yes,” she answers. “It didn’t end well. That was a real tragedy for me, it ended really well for him… I think. I fell in love all the time as a child and it was always unrequited. And that became a habit; it was never successful for me. And then my first successful love was a disaster and tragedy.”
Indya Moore, a transgender model and actor, spoke of how she sees the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’s love reflected in the trans community’s fight for love and acceptance.
“The politics around, like, loving trans people, it reminds me of Romeo and Juliet. It symbolizes prejudice. It symbolizes violence around love,” she says, going on to add, “I think we trespass convention when we create a black Juliet. I think this trespasses convention because the conventional Romeo and Juliet are a white couple. So when you make them black, you’re trespassing convention. When you make Juliet trans you trespass convention, because Juliet was not trans.”
Pirelli’s 2020 calendar has come a long way from its earlier iterations, many of which sexualised and objectified women in a way the brand is now making an effort to lean away from.
“Society is changing very, very fast and the Pirelli calendar too is changing,” Roversi told Reuters. “It couldn’t stay the same since 30 years (ago) … it is interesting to see how the Pirelli calendar is following the evolution of society and photography, of the aesthetic, of the idea of beauty of women.”