Actors Who Starred in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in 1968 Sue For Child Abuse Over Nudity That Was Shown In Film

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, who played Shakespearean characters as adolescents in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film Romeo and Juliet, have filed a lawsuit against Paramount for child abuse due to the nudity that can be seen in the picture. According to a story from Variety, they are asking for compensation “believed to be in excess of $500 million.”

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Whiting was 16 years old when he made his debut in the film, while Hussey started out as a 15-year-old but became 16 while the movie was being shot. Zeffirelli, who passed away in 2019, was the cinematographer who captured Whiting’s butt and Hussey’s naked breasts for the famous scene called “It was the nightingale, and not the lark.”

The performers, who are now in their 70s, claim that they were under the impression that there would be no nudity in the film, but that on the day of filming, they were coerced to expose themselves under the threat that  “or the Picture would fail.”

“What they were told and what went on were two different things,” said Tony Marinozzi, the business manager for both actors. “They trusted Franco. At 16, as actors, they took his lead that he would not violate that trust they had. Franco was their friend, and frankly, at 16, what do they do? There are no options. There was no #MeToo.”

The lawsuit is based on a recent measure passed in California that temporarily extended the statute of limitations for filing sexual assault allegations for older claims.

According to the pairs’ attorney, Solomon Green, “Nude images of minors are unlawful and shouldn’t be exhibited. These were very young naive children in the ’60s who had no understanding of what was about to hit them. 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.”

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The year 2018 was the most recent year in which Hussey defended the nudity in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. She described the sequence as tasteful and “needed for the film” in an interview that she gave to Variety, in which she added that “nobody my age had done that before.”

She added, “It wasn’t that big of a deal. And Leonard wasn’t shy at all! In the middle of shooting, I just completely forgot I didn’t have clothes on.” She also adds that she described Zeffirelli as a “genius. He just brought things to life. That’s what I loved about Franco. He hired always the most perfect person to do the role, which ever role it was. And then he let that actor do what they felt.”

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