Time has evolved amazingly. society is not the same as it was in the 1960s, and so much that was once accepted as okay is now considered abuse or controversy. At the time that the film, “Romeo and Juliet” was filmed the lead actor and actress were only 16 years old. This would have been fine, only the director included a nudity scene. Fast forward to today, and they are suing Paramount for child abuse.
Romeo and Juliet sexual abuse
In 1968, a rendition of the Shakespeare play, “Romeo and Juliet” was created as a movie. The parts of the tar-crossed lovers were played by Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. This was to put their names on the map, and at 16 years old many up-and-coming actors and actresses would jump at the chance. They were 16 years old and eager to act. However, they may not have anticipated exactly what the director expected of them.
The director of the Oscar-winning 1968 Romeo and Juliet movie was Franco Zeffirelli. When he cast Leonard and Olivia as his leading roles, he assured them there would be no nude scenes. So, they let their guard down and signed the contracts. Later on, he went against that, and he encouraged them to do it. Olivia and Leonard, who are now in their 70s, have now decided to sue Paramount productions for sexual abuse, seeing as Franco passed away in 2019.
Olivia and Leonard were young and naive teenagers when they starred in Romeo and Juliet. This is a highly volatile and impressionable age for everyone with many life lessons to bat. Moreover, many people say they were manipulated into taking their clothes off for the camera, including the actors. According to reports, Franco started off by saying there wouldn’t be a nude scene. But then he changed his mind and told them they would be wearing flesh-colored underwear while filming so their body parts were hidden.
The morning of the shoot started off as planned. Olivia and Leonard were expecting to find their flesh-colored underwear waiting for them in their dressing room. But then, Franco told them he decided against that and had scheduled makeup artists to put makeup on their bodies. This was obviously met with disdain, but Franco convinced them the camera would not show their nude bodies. But in the final result, you can clearly see Olivia’s breasts and Leonard’s backside in the nude scene.
According to their claim, they both “believed they had no choice but to act in the nude in body makeup as demanded”. Furthermore, Franco had allegedly told them that if they refused to shoot in the nude, “the picture would fail”.
Romeo and Juliet take aim at Paramount
And so, Olivia and Leonard are suing Paramount Productions for $500 million in damages they endured after filming the nude scene. They also called for the revenue that the movie had earned since it was filmed. Their lawyers claimed that Paramount was responsible for breaking Californian child laws on indecency and the exploitation of children.
“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,” reads the court document. “So, Plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer physical pain and mental pain along with extreme and severe mental anguish and emotional distress.”
Lastly, their manager, Tony Marinozzi, said: “What they were told and what went on were two different things. “They trusted Franco. 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.”
- “‘Romeo And Juliet’ Stars Sue Paramount For Child Abuse Over Nude Scene In 1968 Film.” That Viral Feed. Zainab Pervez. January 5, 2023.
- “Paramount sued for $500 million over 1968 ‘Romeo & Juliet’ nude scene.” CNBC. Stefan Sykes. January 4 2023.