The stars of the 1968 film version of “Romeo & Juliet” filed a lawsuit against Paramount on Friday, alleging that the company sexually exploited them when they shot the movie as adolescents.
The leading actors, Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, are now in their early 70s and are seeking more than $500 million in damages from Paramount, Variety reported. This comes as a California law that temporarily suspended the statute of limitations for older claims of child sexual abuse expired on Dec. 31, meaning that in 2023, people over the age of 40 can no longer sue for child sexual abuse.
“What they were told and what went on were two different things,” Tony Marinozzi, who is a business manager for both actors, said in a statement to Variety. “They trusted Franco. At 16, as actors, they took his lead that he would not violate that trust they had.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in the Santa Monica Superior Court, alleges that the director, Franco Zeffirelli, guaranteed both actors that there would be no nudity in the film and that they would wear flesh-colored undergarments in the controversial bedroom scene. Instead, Zeffirelli allegedly told them to perform their scenes nude with body makeup on or the movie would “fail,” according to Variety.
In 2018, Hussey said in an interview with Fox that her nude scene was done “tastefully.”
“In Europe, it was very different,” Hussey said in the interview. “In America, it was very taboo. But in Europe a lot of the films had nudity. Nobody really thought much of it. But it was just the fact that I was 16 that got a lot of publicity.”
In a separate interview with Variety in 2018, she said the nude scene “was needed” for the film.
“No one my age had done that before,” Hussey said in the interview.
Paramount did not immediately respond to a request for comment.