Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting sue Paramount for alleged sexual exploitation

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Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting have accused Paramount studio bosses of sexual exploitation over their nude scene in 1968's Romeo and Juliet.

The actors, now in their 70s, filed a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures on 30 December in Santa Monica Superior Court, alleging that studio executives sexually exploited them and distributed nude images of adolescent children, according to Variety.

Hussey and Whiting, who were 15 and 16 years old, respectively, at the time of filming Romeo and Juliet, featured in a bedroom scene showing Whiting's buttocks and Hussey's bare breasts.

The actors' suit alleged that Romeo and Juliet's director Franco Zeffirelli allegedly assured them there would be no nudity in the film, with flesh-coloured undergarments worn in the bedroom scene. However, they claim he later pressured the pair into performing nude by insisting "the picture would fail" otherwise.

Further, the suit claims that the director showed Hussey and Whiting where the camera would be positioned to assure them that no nudity would be captured or released in the film. However, they were allegedly filmed nude without their knowledge.

In the complaint, Hussey and Whiting alleged they have suffered mental anguish and emotional distress since the shoot and the controversial scene has had a detrimental effect on their acting careers. They are seeking damages "believed to be in excess of $500 million".

"What they were told and what went on were two different things," the business manager for both actors, Tony Marinozzi, said in a statement to Variety. "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."

Zeffirelli passed away in 2019.