Romeo and Juliet’s leading performers from the 1968 film adaption have accused Paramount Pictures of sexual harassment in connection with the movie’s nude scene.
According to the Associated Press, the movie’s leads, Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting filed the lawsuit on Friday, December 30, accusing the studio of fraud, sexual harassment, and abuse of power. The costars asserted that director Franco Zeffirelli, who passed away in 2019, informed both actors that the movie would not feature any nudity and that the two actors would dress in flesh-colored underwear for the bedroom scene.
The lawsuit claims that Zeffirelli afterward advised the actors to record the scene while nude or the movie would not succeed. Hussey and Whiting were both 15 years old at the time of the production.
Tony Marinozzi, the performers’ business manager, told Variety on January 3 that what they were told and what actually transpired were two different things. They believed in Franco. At age 16, they followed his example and trusted that he wouldn’t betray their confidence. They were friends with Franco, and at age 16, what are they supposed to do? There aren’t any choices. #MeToo did not exist.
Hussey has previously defended the contentious nude scene in the 1968 version of the critically acclaimed love drama, which was a box office hit. The Shakespeare adaption went on to receive four nominations for Academy Awards and won the year’s top prizes for best costume and best cinematography.
Hussey discussed her part in the movie with The Guardian in August 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary of the movie. At the time, the native of Argentina commented, “I liked portraying Juliet.” The PR was the only element I didn’t enjoy. I was this crazy tiny thing, and it was exhausting.
55 years after the movie’s initial release, Hussey and Whiting, both of whom are now in their 70s, have filed a case with the Santa Monica Superior Court. Variety reports that until the deadline of December 31, 2022, California law has temporarily postponed the statute of limitations for older accusations of child sexual assault.
The case also claims that since the premiere of the movie, the performers have experienced mental pain and emotional hardship. Despite their standout performances in the Oscar-winning film, the duo claims they have missed out on career chances. According to the Associated Press, the two are requesting $500 million in damages.