Latest News

‘Romeo And Juliet’ director’s son criticises actors for nudity lawsuit

January 8th, 2023

The son of Romeo And Juliet director Franco Zeffirelli has criticised actors Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting for suing Paramount Studios for child abuse over a nude scene in the 1968 film.

Hussey and Whiting were 15 and 16 respectively when the film was made and alleged that Zeffirelli made them perform a sex scene in the nude, despite originally telling them there would be no nudity and they would instead wear flesh-coloured body suits. Zeffirelli allegedly told them that “the film would fail” if they didn’t perform the scene nude.

According to the lawsuit, Zeffirelli showed the two actors where the camera would be positioned, and assured them that no nudity would be captured or released publicly. The suit then claimed that the director was being dishonest on that occasion, and that Whiting and Hussey were filmed while they were naked without their knowledge.

The two actors, who are now in their 70s, are said to be seeking damages “believed to be in excess of $500million [£415m]”. They claim to have suffered “mental anguish and emotional distress” in the 55 years since Romeo And Juliet came out and had lost out on acting jobs as a result, having both experienced only limited careers in the industry.

Tony Marinozzi, who is a business manager for both actors, 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.”

Leonard Whiting (left) as Romeo Montague and Olivia Hussey (right) as Juliet Capulet in the 1968 production of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo And Juliet’ directed by Franco Zeffirelli. CREDIT: Getty

Now, Zeffirelli’s son Pippo, who is also the president of the Franco Zeffirelli Foundation, said in a statement that the sex scene was “far from pornographic” [via The Guardian].

“Zeffirelli himself was accused of being reactionary precisely because, over and over again, he spoke out against pornography,” he added. “The nude images in the film express the beauty, the transfer, I would even say the candour of mutual giving and do not contain any morbid feeling.”

Zeffirelli said he believed the film’s producers, John Brabourne and Anthony Havelock-Allan, had consent forms from the actors’ parents.

“It is embarrassing to hear that today, 55 years after filming, two elderly actors who owe their notoriety essentially to this film wake up to declare that they have suffered an abuse that has caused them years of anxiety and emotional discomfort,” he continued.

“It appears to me that in all these years, they have always maintained a relationship of deep gratitude and friendship towards Zeffirelli, releasing hundreds of interviews about the happy memory of their very fortunate experience, which was crowned with worldwide success.”

Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, who played the titular characters in 'Romeo and Juliet' (1968)
Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey in 2018. Credits: Tara Ziemba/Getty

Zeferelli also said that Hussey had gone on to work with his father’s miniseries Jesus of Nazareth, while Whiting had attended his funeral in 2019.

“Nude images of minors are unlawful and shouldn’t be exhibited,” the actors’ attorney, Solomon Gresen, had previously said [via Variety]. “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.”

Hussey and Whiting each won a Golden Globe for their performances in the film. One of Franco Zeferelli’s most successful films, Romeo And Juliet also won two Oscars.

NME has approached Whiting and Hussey’s representative for comment.

This content was originally sourced and posted at NME »
Disclaimer/Note: TGM Radio’s latest news posts are a collection of curated and aggregated, fresh content from the best news sources across the globe.

Comments are closed.