‘Romeo and Juliet’ stars sue Paramount over expletive scene in 1968 film

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Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey of Romeo and Juliet are suing Paramount Pictures over a nude scene in the 1968 picture, which was shot while they were teenagers.

Whiting and Hussey, who were 16 and 15 at the time of filming, accused the studio of exploitation, sexual harassment, fraud, sexual abuse, carelessness, and the dissemination of nude photos of minors in a lawsuit filed Dec. 30 in Santa Monica, Calif., and seen by EW.

The performers, who are now in their 70s, claim that in the five decades since the film’s debut, they have endured mental pain and emotional misery, as well as missed out on career possibilities.

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“Paramount had a responsibility to safeguard its young children workers from child and sexual exploitation,” according to the complaint.

They are seeking damages “believed to be in excess of $500 million,” per the suit.

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in ‘Romeo and Juliet’
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Hussey and Whiting’s case states that Romeo and Juliet director Franco Zeffirelli informed them there would be no nudity in the movie and that they would wear flesh-colored underwear instead. Zeffirelli reportedly pressured them to shoot the bedroom scene naked with body makeup or the movie “would fail.”

Hussey and Whiting claim Zeffirelli misrepresented where the camera would be and videotaped them nude without their knowledge. Hussey’s breasts and Whiting’s buttocks appeared in the film.

“What they were told and what went on were two different things,” Tony Marinozzi, a business manager for both actors, told Variety. “They trusted Franco. At 16, as actors, they took his lead that he would not violate that trust they had. Franco was their friend, and frankly, at 16, what do they do? There are no options. There was no #MeToo.”

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A California legislation temporarily delayed the statute of limitations for child sexual assault lawsuits.

Whiting and Hussey’s attorney told Variety, “Illegal to display nude photos of children. These innocent 1960s kids didn’t know what was coming. Suddenly, they were renowned and assaulted in ways they couldn’t handle.”

Hussey previously defended the naked scene. In 2018, she said it “was done nicely” and “wasn’t a huge problem.”

EW’s request for comment from Hussey and Whiting went unanswered.

Romeo and Juliet was a financial and critical triumph and nominated for four Oscars. Hussey starred in Black Christmas, Death on the Nile, and Undeclared War. The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Say Hello to Yesterday, and War Is Hell were further films starring Whiting. Social Suicide (2015) reunited the two.

 

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