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‘Romeo and Juliet’ Actors Revive Lawsuit Over Controversial Scenes From Classic 1968 Film

‘Romeo and Juliet’ Actors Revive Lawsuit Over Controversial Scenes From Classic 1968 Film

Actors Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting are suing Paramount Pictures and Criterion Collections over their nude scene in Romeo and Juliet. In the 1968 film, Whiting’s bare butt and Hussey’s bare breasts are shown in a bedroom scene. The movie is directed by the late Franco Zeffirelli

In their suit, Hussey and Whiting claim that the companies have unlawfully spread their naked images. This happened through the redistribution of the Oscar-winning film. Hussey and Whiting are now in their 70s.

“Nothing in the agreement” for the original release gave Paramount a right to recreate photographs of their work. That was for any medium beyond 35-mm analog cinematographic photographs, Entertainment Weekly reports.

‘Romeo and Juliet’ Lawsuit Points Out Actors’ ‘Private Areas’

“Hussey’s and Whiting’s private areas shown in those photographs were arguably obscured by their extremely low resolution of that presentation in the Original Work,” according to the lawsuit.

“Hussey and Whiting acquiesced in the inclusion of the Original Photos in the Original Work … because [the two] did not feel that the presentation … so far exceeded Zeffirelli’s undertaking as to be actionable as a breach of that undertaking,” the suit states, according to the New York Post.

Hussey and Whiting sent a statement to Entertainment Weekly. In it, they said that they put out an “olive branch” to Paramount. They were looking to settle the case, but that didn’t work. Hussey and Whiting say that the effort was rejected.

“Our fight for accountability will now involve a new lawsuit and a more rigorous effort in the media, which up until this time we had sought to avoid,” Hussey and Whiting said. “The facts, evidence, and law are all crystal clear in this matter, and we believe that over half a century of mental incarceration for this traumatic event has been quite enough.”

Previous Lawsuit From Whiting, Hussey Gets Tossed

Last year, Whiting and Hussey sued Paramount Pictures. They alleged sexual exploitation and distribution of nude imagery of children. But the suit was tossed. A judge ruled that the scene in question could not be classified as child pornography. In addition, the claim that they filed missed a deadline. That comes from a USA Today report.

At the time of the movie’s filming, Hussey was 15 and Whiting was 17. But the courts saw this as a First Amendment situation. It protects the film. Also, the statute of limitations has run out as well.

Besides Hussey and Whiting, other cast members included Michael York, John McEnery, Bruce Robinson, and Milo O’Shea.

When it comes to movie reviews for this version of Romeo and Juliet, late Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert thought highly of it. In 1968, Ebert wrote in part, “It is a deeply moving piece of entertainment, and that is possibly what Shakespeare would have preferred.” Ebert was quite complimentary of Zeffirelli’s work and that of Hussey and Whiting.

Roger Ebert Wrote About Nude Scene

Ebert did have a paragraph or two on the scene in question. “A lot of fuss has been made about the brief, beautiful nude love scene,” Ebert wrote. “I doubt whether anyone could see it and disapprove of it, but apparently someone has. The Chicago Board of Education I am informed, objects to the nudity and will not approve the film for educational use after its commercial run. This is stupidity.

“If Chicago’s educators could show me a city filled with students who rejoice in Shakespeare, I would yield the point,” Ebert wrote in 1968. “But they cannot, and Zeffirelli is so far ahead of them, so much richer and deeper, so much more inspired in his interpretation of our greatest poet, that the Board of Education cannot fly with him and must find excuses in half a dozen frames of a joyous film.”