Tort Law

'Romeo and Juliet' actors file child-abuse suit for 1968 nude scene filmed while they were teens

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GettyImages-Romeo and Juliet

Actors Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting played the title roles in the 1968 film Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

The actors who were teenagers when they portrayed Romeo and Juliet in the 1968 film Romeo and Juliet are relying on a California law to sue Paramount Pictures for filming them in the nude.

Actors Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting are relying on the California Child Victims Act, which suspended the statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging child abuse, report Fox News, Variety, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The filing deadline under the law was Dec. 31, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Dec. 30 suit says Hussey was age 15 at the time, and White was age 16; their current manager told the New York Times, however, that the actors were 16 and 17. They allege that director Franco Zeffirelli assured them that there would be no nudity filmed or shown but later told them that “the picture would fail,” and “they would never work again” if they did not act in the nude during a bedroom scene.

Zeffirelli allegedly told the teens that the cameras would be set so that no nudity would be filmed for use in the film or anywhere else. The claim was dishonest, and the teens were secretly filmed in the nude without their knowledge, the suit says.

The $100 million suit alleges sexual harassment, fraud, childhood sexual abuse, appropriation of name and likeness, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and unfair business practices.

Hussey has defended the nude scene in 2018 interviews with Variety and Fox News.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” she said in the Fox News interview. “And Leonard wasn’t shy at all! In the middle of shooting, I just completely forgot I didn’t have clothes on.”

Giuseppe Zeffirelli, a son of the late director Zeffirelli, said in a statement noted by the New York Times the nude scene was “as far from pornography as you can imagine.”

“It is embarrassing to hear that today, 55 years after filming, two elderly actors who owe their notoriety essentially to this film wake up to declare that they have suffered an abuse that has caused them years of anxiety and emotional distress,” the statement said.

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