Stars of the 1968 Romeo and Juliet film sue Paramount for $500million for ‘forcing them into a sex scene when they were just 15 and 16 years old
Olivia Hussey, 71, and Leonard Whiting, 72, filed a lawsuit last Friday, December 30, in Santa Monica Superior Court in California accusing Paramount Pictures of sexual harassment, fraud, sexual abuse, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
According to Hussey and Whiting, they said Zeffirelli originally told them there would not be any nudity in the film.
However, on the last day of filming, they claim he said the film ‘would fail’ unless they performed a scene nude while wearing body makeup.
‘What they were told and what went on were two different things,’ said Tony Marinozzi, a business manager for the actors, in a statement.
‘They trusted Franco. At 16, as actors, they took his lead that he would not violate that trust they had,’ the manager said.
‘Franco was their friend, and frankly, at 16, what do they do?’ Marinozzi added in a statement to the outlet. ‘There are no options. There was no #MeToo.’
The lawsuit alleges the pair were filmed nude without their knowledge and they are now seeking damages ‘believed to be in excess of $500 million.
The lawsuit alleges Zeffirelli showed the actors where the camera would be placed but that no nudity would be filmed or released.
Hussey and Whiting thought ‘they had no choice but to act in the nude with body makeup as demanded on the last day of filming.’
The movie was released in 1968 to critical acclaim and earned Zeffirelli an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. He died in 2019 at the age of 96.
In a statement to Variety, Solomon Gresen, the attorney for the pair said the actors ‘were very young naïve children in the ’60s who had no understanding of what was about to hit them.’
The pair said the scene caused them long-term financial, physical, and emotional pain.
The film also cost Hussey and Whiting ‘a lifetime of loss of earnings and other employment benefits and job opportunities,’ according to the complaint.
‘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,’ Gresen said.
According to Variety, the actors’ lawsuit relies on a California law that temporarily suspended the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse claims. That law had a December 31, 2022 deadline.