Romeo y Juliet star sued over nude scenes in 1968 film | US News

The two stars of the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet are being sued for more than $500m (£417m) over nude scenes recorded as teenagers in the film.

British actresses Olivia Hussey, then 15 and now 71, and Leonard Whiting, then 16 and now 72, filed a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures alleging sexual abuse, sexual harassment and fraud.

Director Franco Zeffirelli, who died in 2019, initially told the pair that they would wear flesh-toned underwear for the bedroom scenes shot in the final days of filming, which would suit everyone.

But on the morning of the shoot, Zeffirelli told the couple they would only be wearing makeup, while still assuring them that the camera’s position would not show nudity.

However, their actions allege they were filmed nude without their knowledge, in violation of California and federal laws prohibiting the molestation and exploitation of children.

Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli smiles during a ceremony at the British embassy in Rome on November 24, 2004. [Zeffirelli, the legendary filmmaker who has directed stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Placido Domingo, is the first Italian to receive an honorary knighthood from Britain.]
Photo by Franco Zeffirelli in 2004

Zeffirelli told them they had to act nude “otherwise the movie would fail” and their careers would be harmed, the suit says.

The actors “believed they had no choice but to perform nude with body make-up as required”.

Whiting’s bare buttocks and Hussey’s bare breasts appear briefly in the scene.

The film and its theme song were a hit at the time, and generations of students of Shakespeare’s plays have since been screened.

Court documents say Hussey and Whiting suffered emotional damage and mental anguish for decades, and that neither of their respective careers mirrored the film’s success.

It said the actors were entitled to more than $500 million ($417 million) in damages, taking into account the pain and income the film has incurred since its release.

Paramount Pictures has yet to respond to news of the lawsuit.

It was brought under a California law that temporarily suspended the statute of limitations for child sex abuse lawsuits, leading to a flurry of new lawsuits and the revival of many previously dismissed lawsuits.

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