Judge to Dismiss Suit Over Romeo and Juliet Nude Scene

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting argued they've suffered emotional distress
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2023 2:25 AM CST
Updated May 25, 2023 5:50 PM CDT
Romeo and Juliet Stars Sue Over Infamous 1968 Nude Scene
Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting speak in a Paris hotel on Sept. 19, 1968, about the British film "Romeo and Juliet."   (AP Photo/Jean-Jacques Levy, File)
UPDATE May 25, 2023 5:50 PM CDT

A judge has decided that a nude scene involving underage actors in the 1968 film Romeo and Juliet was not child pornography, rejecting a lawsuit filed by the stars. Superior Court Judge Alison Mackenzie agreed Thursday with a motion filed by Paramount Pictures, the defendant, to dismiss the suit, the AP reports. The suit doesn't show the scene "can be deemed to be sufficiently sexually suggestive as a matter of law to be held to be conclusively illegal," the Los Angeles County judge wrote, adding that the film is protected by the First Amendment. An attorney for the actors criticized the ruling and said a version of the suit will be filed in federal court.

Jan 4, 2023 2:25 AM CST

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting are infamously seen partially nude in the 1968 movie version of Romeo and Juliet, filmed when the actors were just 15 and 16, respectively. More than half a century later, Hussey and Whiting are suing Paramount for sexual exploitation and distributing naked images of adolescent children, Variety reports. California recently suspended the statute of limitations on child sex abuse lawsuits. The lawsuit claims Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, who died in 2019, assured them they'd be wearing flesh-colored undergarments when the scene was filmed but then, on the final day of filming, told them that if they didn't perform the scene naked while wearing just body makeup, the movie would fail, People reports.

The suit also claims Zeffirelli showed them the camera placement and promised they wouldn't be filmed or seen in the movie naked, but that he was lying, and Hussey and Whiting were filmed naked without their knowledge. "At 16, as actors, they took his lead that he would not violate that trust they had. Franco was their friend, and frankly, at 16, what do they do? There are no options. There was no #MeToo," says their business manager. Adds their attorney, "These were very young naive children in the ’60s who had no understanding of what was about to hit them. All of a sudden they were famous at a level they never expected, and in addition they were violated in a way they didn’t know how to deal with.” (More lawsuit stories.)

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