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Romeo and Juliet child actors sue Paramount Pictures for child abuse over their nude scene in 1968 film

Romeo and Juliet child actors sue Paramount Pictures for child abuse over their nude scene in 1968 film

Olivia Hussey was 15 and Leonard Whiting 16 when they starred in the Oscar-winning version of William Shakespeare’s tragedy.
04 Jan, 2023

The actors who played star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film are suing Paramount Pictures for child abuse over their brief nude scene, their lawyer said Tuesday.

Olivia Hussey was 15 and Leonard Whiting 16 when they starred in the Oscar-winning version of William Shakespeare’s tragedy.

The actors, now both in their 70s, claim in a suit filed in Santa Monica last week that a bedroom scene in which buttocks and bare breasts are visible amounts to sexual exploitation by movie studio Paramount, and that the company was guilty of distributing nude pictures of adolescents.

The suit says Zeffirelli — who died in 2019 — cajoled them into performing the scene, telling them without it “the picture would fail”, having originally insisted there would be no actual nudity, with both actors covered by flesh-coloured underwear.

 Photos: IMDb
Photos: IMDb

“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 says.

The complaint, which claims damages of hundreds of millions of dollars, says the two performers have suffered mental anguish and emotional distress in the five-and-a-half decades since the film came out, and that both had only limited professional success in its wake.

Both won Golden Globes for their performances.

Solomon Gresen, representing the actors, told AFP the years that have elapsed since the film was made did not lessen the damage done, especially as it has been re-released since.

“(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,” he 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.”

December 31 was the final date for historical child sex abuse lawsuits to be filed in California under a temporary waiver of the statutes of limitation.

A raft of claims were lodged during the waiver, including one last week by a woman who says she was the teenage lover of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler in the 1970s.

There was no immediate response from Paramount to AFP’s request for comment.

Variety reported that during its 2018 interview with Hussey, she had defended the nude scene, which she insisted Zeffirelli had done tastefully.

“It was needed for the film,” she told the outlet at the time.

Comments

Sarah Jan 04, 2023 11:20am
America is a sex obsessed nation.
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Love Your Country Jan 04, 2023 11:28am
Both have just woken up (or they are trying to make headlines and a little bit of money perhaps). Statute of limitations?
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Kris Jan 04, 2023 11:51am
Lived with mental agony for 55 years? Ok. Making a mockery of the American legal system.
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Zak Jan 04, 2023 11:52am
Variety reported that during its 2018 interview with Hussey, she had defended the nude scene, which she insisted Zeffirelli had done tastefully. “It was needed for the film,” she told the outlet at the time. That will lose them the case.
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Abdul Basit Jan 04, 2023 11:58am
There shouldn't be any limitation for filing such lawsuits to start with
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P. Nag Jan 04, 2023 11:59am
Loved the film. Its music still mesmerise me, particularly the party scene.
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SAk Jan 04, 2023 12:10pm
I will watch it now. Curiosity… There will be millions like who never knew if such movie existed.
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Mehwar Jan 04, 2023 12:32pm
@Sarah might be true…but they might not be the only ones I guess…
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M. Emad Jan 04, 2023 12:33pm
'Romeo and Juliet' (1968) was a nice film.
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Shani Jan 04, 2023 12:33pm
It was an excellent film! Shakespeare's words were spoken with flair. Score was excellent too! I was doing Romeo & Juliet for my O'Levels in 1991 and only after watching this film that I was able to get A grade for English Literature.
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Mehwar Jan 04, 2023 12:35pm
@Zak why are some people always ready to defend the abusers?
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Mehwar Jan 04, 2023 12:36pm
@Love Your Country and you can sleep well after defending the abusers.
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NYS Jan 04, 2023 12:49pm
Now remake this version to get more sensation and sue after half century
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Aamir Latif Jan 04, 2023 01:14pm
Million of dollars to gain if they win the lawsuit is not a bad idea in the age of 70's, yet they reap the profits of the great classic, what a flimsy argument after 50+ years
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Zak Jan 04, 2023 01:35pm
Did not even notice.
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Bilal Jan 04, 2023 01:52pm
So basically you gained a lot out of that movie and now you want some more..
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SayNoToPlastics Jan 04, 2023 01:58pm
They should sue their greedy parents first .
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Furqan Sikander Jan 04, 2023 02:03pm
@Mehwar Person just pointed out the fact. Why use fiery words on facts
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Ibu Jan 04, 2023 02:11pm
@Sarah So is Pakistan.
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Dr.Daraliya Jan 04, 2023 02:38pm
Money is welcome at any age and at any time.
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Tahir Raouf Jan 04, 2023 03:08pm
Tomorrow they will sue the medical team who delivered them for watching them nude without their consent
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Pakistani Jan 04, 2023 03:18pm
Looks like they have learnt drama from PDM.
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Sohail Jan 04, 2023 03:28pm
bari jaldi khayal agaya inko.....
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zakir hussain Jan 04, 2023 03:29pm
His parents who signed the contract papers on behalf of a minor are first respondents.
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Babu Jan 04, 2023 03:35pm
They should sue their parents for allowing them to work and getting a hefty sum from the producer.
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Sane Mind1st Jan 04, 2023 04:00pm
I am going to sue the nurse who slapped my bare bottom when I came out of my mom's womb. Support, anyone?
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Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Jan 04, 2023 04:00pm
Too little, too late. Why were they silent for the last 55 years or more?
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Agrippa-the Skeptic Jan 04, 2023 04:00pm
@Mehwar, touché!
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ELAINE POMERANSKY Jan 04, 2023 04:18pm
All nonsense, they should have sued their parents if they felt so strongly.
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S.A.M. Jan 04, 2023 04:28pm
We used to watch Shakespeare’s plays in school to prepare for English literature exams.
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Zaidhaq Jan 04, 2023 04:31pm
It wasn't illegal then
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Henchi Jan 04, 2023 04:48pm
They should sue their parents for allowing it.
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shoaib Jan 04, 2023 04:54pm
Somebody need money in the 70's.
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Bunny Jan 04, 2023 05:42pm
whats the point in all this now . why waste tax payers money like this .
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JustWasif Jan 04, 2023 05:57pm
It time to be a "ME TOO" member... Get money and enjoy the remaining old age
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Pro West Jan 04, 2023 09:48pm
With the advent of Joyland and Churailz, not to mention the 'stage drama' scene, not long before such scenes appear in 'Pakistani' (foreign funded) movies.
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Anonymouseee Jan 05, 2023 12:12am
And they wake up now?
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