Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, who shocked audiences with Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet in 1968, were still teenagers. The film was a hit and was nominated for four Academy Awards, but it also caused some controversy when it featured Whiting’s buttocks and Hussey’s bare breasts in a bedroom scene.
Hussey and Whiting, now in their 70s, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday, accusing Paramount of sexually exploiting them and distributing nude images of teenage girls.
The lawsuit alleges that Zeffirelli, who died in 2019, assured both actors that there would be no nudity in the film and that they would wear flesh-colored underwear in the bedroom scenes.
However, on the last day of filming, the director allegedly implied that they should perform nude with body makeup. “Otherwise, this movie will fail.”
Zeffirelli reportedly showed Hussey, then 15, and Whiting, 16, where the cameras were and promised that no nudity would be filmed or shown. Zeffirelli didn’t tell the truth, claiming Whiting and Hussey were filmed nude without their knowledge.
According to the lawsuit, Hussey and Whiting suffered mental and emotional distress and lost employment opportunities 55 years after the film was released. Hussey and Whiting gave excellent performances, but their acting careers after “Romeo and Juliet” were very limited.
He claims the damages “may be in excess of $500 million.”
“Nude images of minors are illegal and should not be shown,” the actor’s attorney, Solomon Gresen, said in an interview. “The 1960s was a time when children were young and naive, and they didn’t know what was going to happen. Suddenly, they were famous on a level they didn’t expect, and the violence they didn’t know how to deal with. It was.”
The lawsuit is based on a California law that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations on allegations of sexual abuse of older children. With the Dec. 31 deadline approaching, courts have been inundated with complaints against Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church and others.
Paramount did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a 2018 interview with Variety, Hussey defended the nude scene.
“No one at my age would have done that,” Zeffirelli said with a taste. “It was just what the movie needed”
In another Fox News interview in 2018, he said that while the scene was “taboo” in America, nudity was already common in European cinema at the time.