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Romeo and Juliet nude scene 1968: Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting sue Paramount


Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting were underage in 1968 when director Franco Zeffirelli instructed them to perform a scene in Romeo and Juliet nude. Now the two have sued the film studio.

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Director Zeffirelli with film lovers Hussey and Whiting during the shoot of "Romeo and Juliet": Did he deceive you?

Photo: Paramount Pictures / Album / akg-images

The two stars of the film »Romeo and Juliet« from 1968 have sued the film studio Paramount Pictures.

They're asking for more than $500 million in the lawsuit because they had to perform in a nude scene when they were teenagers.

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Movie couple Hussey and Whiting

Photo: United Archives / kpa Publicity / IMAGO

Olivia Hussey - then 15, now 71 - and Leonard Whiting - then 16, now 72 - filed the lawsuit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The allegations are: sexual abuse, sexual harassment and fraud.

Director Franco Zeffirelli, who died in 2019 at the age of 96, originally told the couple they would wear flesh-colored underwear in the bedroom scene on their wedding night near the end of the film, according to the lawsuit, first reported by industry magazine Variety.

The scene was on the program on one of the last days of shooting.

On the morning of the shoot, Zeffirelli told Whiting, who played Romeo, and Hussey, who played Juliet, that they would only wear make-up.

However, he assured them that the cameras would be positioned in such a way that no offensive nudity would be seen.

So they were filmed naked without knowing about it.

According to the indictment, this violates California and federal statutes governing morality and child abuse.

Accordingly, Zeffirelli told the young couple they had to play naked "or the film will fail" and their careers would be affected.

The two felt they had no choice but to play naked, as they were asked to do.

Whiting's bare bottom and Hussey's bare breasts are briefly seen in the scene.

The nude scene was discussed extensively even before the premiere, which included Queen Elizabeth II in the cinema.

Contemporary criticism judged it to be "shot with discretion" and "in no way offensive, at most touching," according to the Hamburger Abendblatt.

In Great Britain, however, the film was only shown to young people aged 16 and over.

Nevertheless, it became a great success.

Generations of students studying the Shakespeare play have seen it in class ever since—at least until Baz Luhrmann came up with a 1996 rewrite starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio.

»The better the director, the more a thing«

The lawsuit alleges that Hussey and Whiting endured decades of emotional harm and mental anguish.

Both careers did not go as the success of "Romeo and Juliet" would have suggested.

The injuries sustained and the revenue from the film since its release would warrant more than $500 million in damages.

Paramount's communications department initially declined to comment on inquiries.

In California, the statute of limitations for child abuse cases has been temporarily lifted.

This has led to numerous new lawsuits and the reopening of previously dismissed lawsuits.

In 1967, »Stern« columnist Sibylle Kasten attended the shooting of »Romeo and Juliet« in Italy.

"Zeffirelli is okay," she quotes Romeo actor Leonard Whiting as saying.

'But sometimes I think you become a thing with him.

The better the director, the more a thing.

Damn it, maybe I won't be an actor after all."

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Scene from "Romeo and Juliet": Much-watched literary adaptation

Photo: United Archives / kpa Publicity / IMAGO

In 2018, after she had just published her memoir (The Girl on the Balcony: Olivia Hussey Finds Life after Romeo and Juliet), Julia Hussey defended the bed scene in a Variety interview.

"Nobody my age had done anything like that before," she said, adding that Zeffirelli staged the scene tastefully.

»She was necessary for the film.«


Source: spiegel

All life articles on 2023-01-04

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