‘Romeo and Juliet’ stars sue Paramount for child abuse over nude scene in 1968 film

By , K24 Digital
On Wed, 4 Jan, 2023 09:12 | 2 mins read
‘Romeo and Juliet’ stars sue Paramount for child abuse over nude scene in 1968 film
The stars of Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 movie Romeo and Juliet Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. PHOTO/Courtesy

The stars of Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 movie Romeo and Juliet are suing over the nude scene they filmed when they were just 15 and 16 years old.

Olivia Hussey, 71, and Leonard Whiting, 72, filed a lawsuit Friday in Santa Monica Superior Court in California accusing Paramount Pictures of sexual harassment, fraud, sexual abuse, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Romeo and Juliet film

Hussey and Whiting, both British, say Zeffirelli originally told them there would not be any nudity in the film.

However, on the last day of filming, they claim he said the film 'would fail' unless they performed a scene nude while wearing body makeup.

'What they were told and what went on were two different things,' said Tony Marinozzi, a business manager for the actors, in a statement.

'They trusted Franco. At 16, as actors, they took his lead that he would not violate that trust they had,' the manager said.

'Franco was their friend, and frankly, at 16, what do they do?' Marinozzi added in a statement to the outlet. 'There are no options. There was no #MeToo.'

The lawsuit alleges the pair were filmed nude without their knowledge and they are now seeking damages 'believed to be in excess of 500 million.'

The lawsuit alleges Zeffirelli showed the actors where the camera would be placed but that no nudity would be filmed or released.

Hussey and Whiting thought 'they had no choice but to act in the nude with body makeup as demanded on the last day of filming.'

The movie was released in 1968 to critical acclaim and earned Zeffirelli an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.

He died in 2019 at the age of 96.

In a statement to Variety, Solomon Gresen, the attorney for the pair said the actors 'were very young naïve children in the '60s who had no understanding of what was about to hit them.'

The pair said the scene caused them long-term financial, physical, and emotional pain.

The film also cost Hussey and Whiting 'a lifetime of loss of earnings and other employment benefits and job opportunities,' according to the complaint.

'All of a sudden they were famous at a level they never expected, and in addition they were violated in a way they didn't know how to deal with,' Gresen said.

The $500 million in damages the pair is seeking matches the amount the film has made since its release in 1968.

According to Variety, the actors' lawsuit relies on a California law that temporarily suspended the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse claims.

That law had a December 31, 2022 deadline.

Hussey continued to pursue her acting career and even reunited with Zeffirelli to play Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the director's acclaimed 1977 mini-series Jesus Of Nazareth.

In an interview from 2018, Hussey claimed Zeffirelli referred to her as 'Boobs O'Mina' and that he had admitted she was the unrequited love of his life.

At the time, Hussey also said she 'loved playing Juliet' but that the press was 'exhausting.'

Whiting also went on to enjoy a career as an actor and singer in his native Britain.

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