The stars of 1968's Romeo and Juliet are suing Paramount Pictures for alleged sexual abuse and the distribution of nude images of underaged children.
According to a new report from Deadline, actors Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey accused the studio of negligence and sexual exploitation, specifically related to late director Franco Zeffirelli's inclusion of a bedroom scene featuring images of the Hussey's breasts and Whiting's buttocks when they were 15- and 16-years-old, respectively.
“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 said child sexual abuse and exploitation,” lawyer Solomon Gresen stated on behalf of Whiting and Hussey in court documents obtained by the publication. The lawsuit then went on to claim that Zeffirelli — who died in 2019 — had initially assured the pair that they would be wearing flesh-colored undergarments during the film's controversial love scene, but told them to perform naked during the last days of filming.
"Plaintiffs were given body make-up and were told by Mr. Zeffirelli that they must act in the nude or the Picture would fail. Millions were invested. They would never work again in any profession, let alone Hollywood," the document continued. "Zeffirelli showed them were the cameras would be set so that no nudity would be filmed or photographed for use in 'Romeo & Juliet' or anywhere else."
“Plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer physical pain and mental pain along with extreme and severe mental anguish and emotional distress," the filing alleged before estimating that the Oscar-winning Shakespearean adaptation has grossed around $500 million since its release. As such, Whiting and Hussey are currently seeking $100 million in “compensatory, economic and non-economic damages according to proof, along with disgorgements of the economic benefit to Paramount.”
Paramount Pictures has yet to publicly address the lawsuit. In the meantime though, you can read Deadline's full report about the case here.
Photo via Getty / Bettmann
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