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‘Romeo And Juliet’ Stars Sue Paramount For Child Abuse Over Nude Scene In 1968 Film

By Zainab Pervez in News On 5th January 2023
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The stars of the 1968 film “Romeo and Juliet” are suing Paramount Pictures for at least $100 million over a nude scene filmed when they were teenagers, accusing the studio behind the Oscar-winning adaptation of the William Shakespeare play of sexual abuse.

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In a new legal case, the English actors, now in their 70s, claim director Franco Zeffirelli encouraged them to do nude scenes despite previous assurances that they would not have to.

The suit was filed just ahead of a key deadline. A California law temporarily suspending the statute of limitations for older claims of child sexual abuse expired as 2022 came to a close, meaning people older than 40 could no longer sue for child sexual abuse in 2023.

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The two actors are seeking damages of more than $500m, based on suffering they say they have experienced and the revenue brought in by the film since its release. 

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They claim Zeffirelli, who died in 2019, initially told them they would wear flesh-coloured underwear in the bedroom scene. But on the morning of the shoot, they allege the director told them they would wear only body make-up, while assuring them the camera would be positioned to not show nudity.

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In the final film, Whiting's bare buttocks and Hussey's bare breasts were briefly shown during the scene.

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Zeffirelli told them they must act in the nude "or the picture would fail" and their careers would be hurt, the pair claim in the lawsuit. The actors "believed they had no choice but to act in the nude in body makeup as demanded". Paramount has not yet publicly responded to the claim.

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The lawsuit claims Paramount violated California and federal laws against indecency and the exploitation of children.

“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 said child sexual abuse and exploitation,” the filing states. “Plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer physical pain and mental pain along with extreme and severe mental anguish and emotional distress.”

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“What they were told and what went on were two different things,” said Tony Marinozzi, who is a business manager for both actors. “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.”

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In a 2018 interview with Variety, Hussey defended the nude scene.

“Nobody my age had done that before,” she said, adding that Zeffirelli shot it tastefully. “It was needed for the film.”

In another 2018 interview with Fox News, she said that the scene was “taboo” in America, but that nudity was already common in European films at the time.

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