Romeo & Juliet stars sue over teen nude scene in movie

Romeo & Juliet stars sue over teen nude scene in movie

  • US News
  • January 4, 2023
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LOS ANGELES (AP) – The two stars of 1968’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ sued Paramount Pictures Tuesday for more than $500 million over a nude scene in the film, which was filmed when they were teenagers.

Olivia Hussey, then 15 and now 71, and Leonard Whiting, then 16, now 72, filed complaints in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging sexual abuse, sexual harassment and fraud.

Director Franco Zeffirelli, who died in 2019, initially told the two that in the bedroom scene, which comes late in the film and was shot in the final days of shooting, they would be wearing flesh-colored underwear, according to the suit.

But on the morning of the shoot, Zeffirelli told Whiting, who played Romeo, and Hussey, who played Juliet, that they would only wear body makeup, but still assured them that the camera would be positioned so they would not show nudity would become a suit.

Yet they were filmed nude without their knowledge, in violation of California and state laws against indecency and child exploitation, the lawsuit says.

Zeffirelli told them they had to appear nude “or the film would fail” and their careers would be hurt, the lawsuit said. The actors “believed they had no choice but to appear nude and made up, as was requested.”

Whiting’s bare buttocks and Hussey’s bare breasts are shown briefly during the scene.

The film and its theme song were huge hits at the time and have since been shown to generations of high school students studying the Shakespeare play.

"Romeo and Juliet" Film director Franco Zeffirelli (left), actors Olivia Hussey (centre) and Leonard Whiting are seen following the film's Paris premiere in Paris September 25, 1968. ‘Romeo and Juliette’ director Franco Zeffirelli (left), actors Olivia Hussey (center) and Leonard Whiting are seen following the film’s Paris premiere in Paris September 25, 1968.

AP Photo/Eustache Cardenas, file

The court filing states that Hussey and Whiting endured decades of emotional harm and anguish, and that both had careers that did not reflect the film’s success.

Given the suffering and revenue the film has brought in since its release, the actors would be entitled to more than $500 million in damages.

An email seeking comment from Paramount representatives was not immediately responded to.

The lawsuit was filed under a California law that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, which has led to a multitude of new lawsuits and the revival of many others that were previously dismissed.

Hussey defended the scene in a 2018 interview with Variety, which first reported on the film’s 50th anniversary lawsuit.

“Nobody my age has done that before,” she said, adding that Zeffirelli shot it tastefully. “It was needed for the film.”

The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they come forward publicly, as Hussey and Whiting did.

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