Then-Teenage `Romeo and Juliet' Stars Sue Paramount Over Film's Nudity

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SANTA MONICA (CNS) - The then-teenage stars of the 1968 film "Romeo and Juliet" are suing Paramount Pictures, seeking more than $500 million in damages, saying they were duped into appearing partially nude in one of the movie's scenes.

The lawsuit, filed electronically over the weekend in the Santa Monica branch of Los Angeles Superior Court by Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, alleges sexual harassment, childhood sexual abuse, fraud, negligence, infliction of emotional distress and other violations.

Paramount Pictures officials could not be reached late Tuesday for comment. As of Tuesday afternoon, the lawsuit was still pending in the court system, and had not been formally processed and filed.

According to the lawsuit, Whiting was 16 years old when he played Romeo in the film, opposite Juliet portrayed by Hussey, who was 15 at the time. They claim they were told by the film's director, Franco Zeffirelli, "that there would be no nudity filmed or exhibited, and that plaintiffs would be wearing flesh-colored undergarments during the bedroom/love scene."

"However, on the morning of the shoot of the bedroom scene in the second week of December 1968, the very last days of the photography, the minor children plaintiffs were given body make-up and told by Mr. Zeffirelli that they must act in the nude or the picture would fail," according to the lawsuit. "Millions were invested. They would never work again in any profession, let alone Hollywood."

The suit alleges that Zeffirelli told the teens that cameras would be positioned in such a way that "no nudity would be filmed or photographed for use in `Romeo and Juliet' or anywhere else," and the teens believed "they had no choice but to act in the nude with body make-up."

Partially nude images of both performers appear briefly in the film during the love scene.

As a result, the performers contend that they "have suffered and will continue to suffer physical and mental pain, along with extreme and severe mental anguish and emotional distress." They also argue they have incurred expenses "for treatment by psychotherapists and other health professionals."

"The knowing and repeated use of sexual images of minor children is the worst of behaviors in our society and must be eradicated," the suit states.

Whiting is now 72 years old. Hussey is 71. Zeffirelli died in 2019.

"Romeo and Juliet" won Oscars for cinematography and costume design. It was nominated for best picture and best director for Zeffirelli.

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