When Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” premiered in 1968, a brief scene of hapless lovers waking up naked in bed together caused “a lot of fuss”, including high headlines, as film critic Roger Ebert described it. . Queen Elizabeth witnessed the scene at the London premiere.
The two Oscar-winning and critically acclaimed film has become a classic adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy and has been the staple of many English classes for decades.
But now, more than 50 years later, two of the main characters, Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, have sued Paramount Pictures, the film’s distributor, alleging that the bedroom scene was deceptively shot when she was a minor. assurance was given that no nudity would appear in the final product.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, places most of the blame for the hoax on Mr Zeffirelli, who died in 2019, but claims that Paramount Pictures “knew or should have known about the nude footage of the plaintiffs.” The bodies were taken secretly and illegally during the performance.”
The complaint stated that the company was “essentially repackaging pornography”.
Paramount representatives did not respond to requests for comment on the case.
In the scene, Mr. Whiting’s Romeo is getting out of bed and basking in the Veronese sun, his bare ass on screen for a few seconds. Juliet mostly stands tucked under the sheet before jumping out of bed – her bare chest briefly visible.
Tony Marinozzi, the manager of both actors, who are now 71 and 72, said that Ms Hussey was 16 and Mr Whiting 17 when the scene was shot. (The scene was filmed in September 1967, he said, but the lawsuit filed contains an incorrect date.)
According to the lawsuit, Mr Zeffirelli had told the actors that no nudity would be filmed and that they would wear nude underwear in the bedroom scene, but told the actors on the morning of shooting that they had to “play a game”. naked or the painting will fail.”
The lawsuit said the director “showed them where to set the cameras so that no nudity was filmed or photographed for use in Romeo & Juliet or elsewhere.”
The players filed the lawsuit just before the end of a three-year window that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations so that people who said they were sexually abused as a child in California could file a lawsuit. In recent days, the state has seen a flood of lawsuits under what’s called the California Child Victims Act before deadline expired on Saturday.
The lawsuit alleges sexual harassment and childhood sexual abuse, among other allegations.
The Franco Zeffirelli Foundation, a nonprofit in Italy dedicated to the director’s legacy, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In her 2018 memoir “Girl on the Balcony”, Ms. Hussey recalls filming the scene and writes that she confronted Mr. Zeffirelli after “a minor panic attack” when a make-up artist approached her to apply her full body makeup. and she assured him that she would wear a nightgown on stage.
“‘Although some things, you know, flowfrom another aspect, I want you to be ready’”, reminding the director Ms. Hussey.
In her memoirs, Ms. Hussey recalled that the scene was shot on a closed set, which meant that only key crew members were allowed to be present, but in one case a “dirty old man” had to be removed from the crew. she wrote.
In interviews at the time the memoirs were released, Ms. Hussey had expressed some approval of how the scene was shot, telling Variety that the scene was shot with pleasure. He told Fox News that it “isn’t all that important” and that the film’s production team has become “one big family.”
John C. Manly, a longtime attorney representing plaintiffs for alleged sexual harassment, said Ms. Hussey’s statements as an adult would likely make it harder for her to win the case.
Mr Marinozzi said Ms Hussey’s interviews about the scene showed that Ms Hussey was trying to “accept” the situation and express her pride in the film and her performance, but she herself was never proud of that scene.
“Because they were professionals, they did what they had to do,” he said.