‘Romeo and Juliet’ child actors to sue Paramount Pictures over nude scenes in 1968 film
In a shocking turn of events, Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film Romeo and Juliet is the center of attention in a $500 million lawsuit against Paramount Pictures for alleged child abuse of the lead actors and their brief semi-nude scene.
The child actors — Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting — were 15 and 16 at the time of the film’s release and are now looking to sue the company.
The lead actors — who are now both in their 70s — in the Oscar-winning version of William Shakespeare’s tragedy filed a lawsuit in Santa Monica, US. The co-stars claimed that a scene in the film features their bare buttocks and breasts equating to sexual exploitation by the movie studio. Hussey and Whiting claimed that Paramount Pictures is guilty of distributing nude pictures of adolescents.
The lawsuit suggests Zeffirelli convinced Hussey and Whiting by telling them that without the scene “the picture would fail.” The suit also claims that Zeffirelli suggested there would be no actual nudity, rather both actors will be “covered by flesh-colored undergarments.”
“Defendants were dishonest and secretly filmed the nude or partially nude minor children without their knowledge, in violation of the state and federal laws regulating indecency and exploitation of minors for profit,” the suit stated.
“(Paramount) have images that they know are images of underage nudity that should be removed from the film. That would be the beginning for sure,” Solomon Gresen, representing the actors, said.
“Sexually explicit images of children are bad and they shouldn’t be tolerated. If they were under 16, then they’re under 16. It’s a sexually explicit image of an underage person, it should be forbidden.”
The complaint claims that the actors suffered mental and emotional distress since the film was released.
On the flip side, in an interview with Variety in 2018, Hussey defended the nude scene insisting that Zeffirelli had done it gracefully. “It was needed for the film,” she suggested.
However, there has been no statement issued by Paramount Pictures.