Romeo and Juliet actors sue film studio for $500MILLION over 'sexual abuse'

Romeo and Juliet stars Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting meet Queen Elizabeth II.
Romeo and Juliet stars Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting meet Queen Elizabeth II.

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting were just teenagers when they starred in the hit film

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isStars from the 1968 film version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ have filed a lawsuit accusing Paramount of sexually exploiting them.

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting were just teenagers when they starred in the hit film, but now in their 70s, they claim the production company distributed nude images of adolescent children.

Director Franco Zeffirelli, who died in 2019, allegedly told both actors there would be no nudity in the film and they would wear flesh-coloured undergarments in the bathroom scene.

In the final days of filming, the actors claim they were implored by the director to perform the scene nude with body makeup, “or the picture would fail”.

The Duke of Edinburgh talks to Olivia Hussey and Lenard Whiting, the young stars of Romeo and Juliet, before the Royal Film Performance at the Odeon, Leicester Square.
The Duke of Edinburgh talks to Olivia Hussey and Lenard Whiting, the young stars of Romeo and Juliet, before the Royal Film Performance at the Odeon, Leicester Square.

The film proved to be a hit as it was nominated for four Academy Awards, but also stirred controversy as a result of a bedroom scene which showed images of Whiting’s buttocks and Hussey’s breasts.

Hussey was 15 at the time while Whiting was 16 and both claim the director was being dishonest over his assurances that no nudity would be photographed or released in the film.

The suit alleges that Whiting and Hussey were filmed nude without their knowledge.

Tony Marinozzi, a business manager for both actors, told Variety: “What they were told and what went on were two different things.

“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.”

Hussey and Whiting say they have suffered mental anguish and emotional distress in the 55 years after the film’s release, also claiming they have missed out on job opportunities.

They are seeking damages “believed to be in excess of $500million.”

Paramount is yet to respond to the actors' claims.