Judge throws out ‘Romeo and Juliet’ child sex abuse costume
A California judge has said she will sue over a nude scene in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, finding the 1968 film is protected by the First Amendment.
Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting – both 72 and the titular stars of Franco Zeffirelli’s film – have claimed they were forced to perform naked in the film’s bedroom scene when they were underage.
They accused Paramount Pictures of sexual exploitation and distribution of nude images of children in their December lawsuit, which sought more than $500 million in alleged damages.
Judge Alison Mackenzie granted Paramount’s motion to have the trial dismissed on Thursday.
Mackenzie dismissed Hussey and Whiting’s argument that the nude scene could be considered “child pornography”. The judge also found that the couple failed to comply with a 2020 California law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for child sex abuse lawsuits.
According to court documents obtained by The Post, Mackenzie wrote that there was no evidence the film included “sufficiently sexually suggestive in law to be considered permanently illegal.”
Paramount requested the lawsuit be dismissed under the state’s anti-SLAPP law, which allows defendants to file allegedly baseless complaints that could infringe on free speech.
Solomon Gresen, attorney for Hussey and Whiting, said he planned to appeal the decision.
“I was angry,” Gresen told The Post on Friday. “I think the anti-woman bias in this country is real, and it’s something I’ve dedicated my career to trying to right the wrongs.”
He added: “It is abusive to take images of naked children. It’s abusive to tell them to undress. It’s abusive to distribute them and make money.
Gresen also plans to file a federal claim, following the Criterion Collection DVD re-release in February of “Romeo and Juliet,” which includes a 4K restoration of the film.
The Post has contacted Paramount for comment.
The couple said they were misled by Zeffirelli, who died in 2019. They claimed he promised there would be no nudity.
But just days before the end, he reportedly urged the two to perform the bedroom scene with only body makeup on, apparently threatening “the picture would fail” if they didn’t agree.
The actors said in their lawsuit that they “suffered from mental anguish and emotional distress” and lost job opportunities.
Hussey and Whiting provided the court with separate descriptions of their experiences filming the scene this month, which showed a photo of Hussey’s breasts and Whiting’s behind.
Whiting said he “got under the covers with plaintiff Hussey, climbed on top of her, and we acted like we were having sex.” Hussey made a similar statement.
Paramount called the couple’s statements “completely untrue”, saying the film “depicts a completely different scene and sequence of events”.
Zeffirelli’s son Pippo called the claims “embarrassing” in a January statement.
“It is embarrassing to hear that today, 55 years after the filming, two elderly actors who owe their notoriety mainly to this film wake up to declare that they have suffered an abuse that has caused them years of anxiety. and emotional discomfort,” he said.