Stars of 1968 ‘Romeo and Juliet’ film file new lawsuit over nude scene

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, the actors who played the lead roles in the 1968 film adaptation of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, have filed a new lawsuit against Paramount Pictures and Criterion Collections, the companies that distributed the film. The lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday, February 15, 2024, accuses the companies of unlawfully spreading their naked images featured in a bedroom scene in the film. The lawsuit is a revival of a previous legal action that was dismissed by a judge last year, who ruled that the nude scene did not constitute child pornography and that the claim was filed too late.

Hussey and Whiting, who are now both in their 70s, claim that they were sexually exploited and defrauded by the director of the film, Franco Zeffirelli, who died in 2019, and by Paramount Pictures, the studio that produced the film. They allege that Zeffirelli, who was in his 40s at the time, coerced them into doing the nude scene, despite their initial reluctance and his prior assurances that they would not have to. They also allege that Paramount Pictures, which had the exclusive rights to distribute the film, violated their contract by allowing Criterion Collections, a home-distribution company, to release a digital version of the film in February 2023, which showed their naked images in high definition. Hussey and Whiting, who were 15 and 16 years old respectively when they filmed the scene, say that they have suffered emotional and mental distress for decades as a result of the nude scene, and that they are seeking damages of more than $500 million, based on the revenues generated by the film and the harm caused to them.

A response from Paramount Pictures and Criterion Collections

Paramount Pictures and Criterion Collections have not yet issued a public response to the new lawsuit filed by Hussey and Whiting. However, in their previous response to the first lawsuit, they argued that the nude scene was not child pornography, as it was not sexually explicit or obscene, and that it was artistic and faithful to the original Shakespeare play. They also argued that the lawsuit was barred by the statute of limitations, which requires claims to be filed within three years of the alleged wrongdoing. The judge who dismissed the first lawsuit agreed with these arguments, and ruled that Hussey and Whiting had failed to show that the nude scene was child pornography, and that they had waited too long to file their claim.

A statement from Hussey and Whiting’s representatives

Hussey and Whiting’s representatives, Tony Marinozzi and David Propper, issued a statement to the media, explaining why they decided to file a new lawsuit, and expressing their confidence in their case. They said that they had tried to settle the matter with Paramount Pictures, but that the studio had rejected their offer. They also said that they had new evidence and arguments to support their claim, and that they had filed the lawsuit under a California law that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases. They said that they were determined to hold Paramount Pictures and Criterion Collections accountable for their actions, and that they hoped to achieve justice and closure for Hussey and Whiting, who had been traumatized by the nude scene.

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