‘Romeo and Juliet’ Stars Sue Paramount for Sexual Abuse Over Teen Nude Scene in 1968 Film

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting say director Franco Zeffirelli pressured them to do a nude scene on the last day of shooting

Leonard White and Olivia Hussey
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The former teen stars of the 1968 Paramount Pictures production of “Romeo and Juliet” have sued the studio, claiming the film’s nude scene amounted to sexual harassment, fraud, sexual abuse and intentional infliction of emotional distress upon the title actors, who were just 15 and 16 years old at the time.

Franco Zeffirelli, the famed Italian director of films and opera, had told the teens that nudity would not be required, and that flesh-colored garments would be used for a bedroom scene, according to the lawsuit. But when the time to shoot the scene arrived in the last days of production, Zeffirelli pressured them to switch to body makeup, then shot their naked bodies without their knowledge, telling them his camera angles prevented exposure.

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting were 15 and 16 years old, respectively, when the footage was taken, according to the lawsuit filed late last week in California Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed at the 11th hour of a California amnesty period allowing child sexual abuse lawsuits with expired statutes of limitations. Before the law expired Dec. 31, a former teen girlfriend of Steven Tyler also filed a civil lawsuit, claiming sexual abuse and assault by the Aerosmith frontman in the early 1970s.

Hussey is now 71 years old, while Whiting is 72. They are seeking unspecified damages.

“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 indecency and the exploitation of minors for profit,” the lawsuit states.

A representative for Paramount did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Hussey and Whiting say they suffered “physical and emotional pain, along with extreme and severe mental anguish and emotional distress” since the release of “Romeo and Juliet” shot them to instant fame. They also claim a “a lifetime of loss of earnings and other employment benefits and job opportunities.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this story.