Paramount Pictures Sued for $500 Million By Stars of 'Romeo & Juliet' Over Underage Sex Scene from 1968 Actors Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting were only 15 and 16 years old at the time the scene was shot.
The 1968 film Romeo & Juliet may have been a Shakespearean tragedy in more ways than one.
Five decades after the film created "a lot of fuss," per The New York Times, for displaying on-screen nudity, actors Olivia Hussey (then 15, now 71) and Leonard Whiting (then 16, now 72) are suing Paramount Pictures for $500 million.
The film showed Hussey's breasts and Whiting's buttocks.
According to the suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the actors claimed they suffered sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and fraud at the hands of director Franco Zeffirelli, who allegedly tricked them into filming the scene in the nude, per AP News.
Zeffirelli, who died in 2019, allegedly told the actors the sex scene was needed "or the picture would fail," and their modesty would be covered with makeup and camera angles. However, Hussey and Whiting claim they were filmed nude without their knowledge, which is "in violation of California and federal laws against indecency and the exploitation of children."
"These were very young, naive children in the 60s who had no understanding of what was about to hit them," said Solomon Gresen, an attorney for the actors, per Variety. "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."
Despite Hussey's recent lawsuit, she previously defended the scene, telling Variety in a 2018 interview that "it was needed" for the film.