Stars of Franco Zeffirelli's 'Romeo and Juliet' file complaint for underage nudity

Stars of Franco Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ file complaint for underage nudity

1968 by Franco Zeffirelli adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is at the center of a lawsuit filed by the main actors of the film. Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting have sued Paramount Pictures for sexual exploitation and child abuse over the use of nude footage in the film, which was captured when they were 15 and 16, respectively. They are seeking damages amounting to more than $500 million, according to The variety.

In the film, Romeo and Juliet are briefly shown partially nude on their wedding night. In the lawsuit, Hussey and Whiting, now 71 and 72, claim their consent was violated by Zeffirelli, who died in 2019.

The complaint alleges that the director decided at the last minute to ditch the flesh-colored blankets the actors were told they could wear while filming the bedroom scene. Claiming that “the image would fail” if the couple didn’t perform naked, Zeffirelli reportedly encouraged them to use body makeup instead. Whiting was shot from behind, while Hussey was included in forward-facing footage with her breasts exposed.

Additionally, Hussey and Whiting claim that Zeffirelli showed them where the camera would be placed while filming the scene to assure them that they would not actually be filmed naked. But Zeffirelli would have misled the couple, who claims to have been filmed naked without their knowledge.

“What they were told and what happened were two different things,” Tony Marinozzi, who is chief commercial officer for Hussey and Whiting, explained in a statement to The variety. “They trusted Franco. At 16, as actors, they understood that he wouldn’t violate that trust that they had. Franco was their friend, and frankly, at 16, what do they do? There are no options. There was no #MeToo.

In a separate interview, Solomon Gresen, a lawyer for Hussey and Whiting, said: “They were very young, naive kids in the ’60s who didn’t understand what was about to hit them. All of a sudden they were famous on a level they never expected, plus they were violated in a way they didn’t know how to handle.

Paramount representatives did not return immediately rolling stonerequest for comment.

The lawsuit claims that both actors suffered significant emotional distress and mental anguish in connection with the film; they also claim that it caused them both to miss opportunities to pursue their acting careers, despite the film’s success. Zeffirelli’s take on Shakespeare’s classic play was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, while he was also nominated for Best Director. The film ultimately won two Oscars, one for Best Cinematography and another for Best Costume Design.

Although the nude scenes caused controversy when the film was released, Hussey herself brushed it off in a 2018 interview with The variety to celebrate Romeo and Juliet50th anniversary. “Nobody my age had done that before. It was necessary for the movie,” she said at the time.

Around the same time, she echoed the point of FoxNews. “Leonard wasn’t shy at all,” she said. “In the middle of filming, I completely forgot that I had no clothes.”


In January 2020, the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits for childhood sexual assault in California was suspended for three calendar years. the Romeo and Juliet A complaint against Paramount was filed just before the December 31, 2022, deadline for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a civil abuse complaint, regardless of age.

Now that the statute of limitations has resumed, survivors must file their claims before they turn 40, or within five years of the date they discover – or reasonably should have discovered – the damage caused by the alleged childhood sexual abuse.

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