Romeo and Juliet Actors Sue Paramount Over Nudity in 1968 Movie

Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, the stars of Oscar-winning film 'Romeo and Juliet,' are suing Paramount Pictures for sexual abuse over a nude scene they appeared in.

Romeo and Juliet Actors Sue Paramount Over Nudity in 1968 Movie
Image credit: variety

Facts

  • Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, the stars of Oscar-winning film 'Romeo and Juliet,' are suing Paramount Pictures for sexual abuse over a nude scene they appeared in.
  • The suit claims that the director, Franco Zeffirelli, initially assured them there would be no nudity, but later asserted the necessity of nudity for a scene "or the picture would fail." Whiting and Hussey were 16 and 15 respectively at the time of production.
  • The pair also claim that they were previously assured that flesh-colored undergarments would be worn during the scene — a promise which didn't materialize. Furthermore, the suit alleges that Zeffirelli showed the actors where the camera would be angled, saying that no nudity would be captured. However, Hussey's breasts and Whiting's buttocks appeared in the final film.
  • Solomon Gresen, the actors' attorney, has commented that nude images of minors are "unlawful and shouldn't be exhibited," and said of the movie that "very young naive children" were sent into stardom in a manner they never expected and were violated in a way "that they didn't know how to deal with."
  • California temporarily suspended the statute of limitations for child sex abuse in the state until Dec. 31, 2022, enabling this case to be filed. The actors, now both in their early seventies, are suing for in excess of $500M USD on the grounds of the suffering caused and the revenue brought in by the film since its release.

Sources: BBC News, Guardian, Forbes, Variety, and Associated Press.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by The Guardian. This lawsuit is the result of unresolved wounds caused by exploitation. Zeffirelli's predatory infatuation with a young Bruce Robinson — who played Benvolio in the 1968 movie — has already been noted, but this was only part of the unprofessional and inappropriate film making practices behind Romeo and Juliet. A lot is riding on the lawsuit, which may see many more stand up for how they were historically treated in Hollywood.
  • Narrative B, as provided by Law and Crime. Hussey previously commented in 2018 that the nude scene wasn't a big deal, and even called for greater understanding of the context of nudity within European films at the time of Romeo and Juliet's production. The words may well undermine the suit as, although it is undeniable that both actors were minors and the case will likely make it to jury, allegations that the actors felt the filming was exploitative have not been consistent.