Judge tosses ‘Romeo and Juliet’ child sex-abuse suit
A California judge said she will file a lawsuit over a nude scene in “Romeo and Juliet,” because the 1968 film is protected under the First Amendment.
Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting – both 72 and the titular stars of the Franco Zeffirelli flick – claimed they were forced to perform nude in the film’s bedroom scene while underage.
They accused Paramount Pictures of sexually abusing children and distributing nude images in their December suit, which sought more than $500 million in alleged damages.
Judge Alison McKenzie on Thursday granted Paramount’s motion to strike the lawsuit.
McKenzie rejected Hussey and Whiting’s argument that nudity could be considered “child pornography”. The judge also found that the couple did not comply with 2020 California law which temporarily tolled the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits.
According to court documents obtained by The Post, McKenzie wrote that there was no evidence the film contained “sufficiently sexually suggestive material to be completely illegal as a matter of law.” .
Paramount requested the lawsuit be dismissed under the state’s anti-SLAPP statute, which allows defendants to attack allegedly meritless complaints that could undermine free speech.
Solomon Grayson, a lawyer for Hussey and Whiting, said he plans to appeal the decision.
“I was furious,” Grayson told The Post on Friday. “I think the anti-woman bias in this country is real, and it’s something I’ve dedicated my career to trying to right the wrongs.”
He added: “Taking pictures of naked children is offensive. Asking them to take off their clothes is insulting. Distributing them and making money is offensive. “
Grayson also plans to file a federal claim, after this Criterion Collection DVD A February re-release of “Romeo and Juliet,” including a 4K restoration of the film.
The Post has contacted Paramount for comment.
The couple said they were misled by Zaffirelli, who died in 2019. They claimed that she had promised that there would be no nudity.
But days before the wrap, he allegedly asked the two to do a bedroom scene in body makeup only, allegedly threatening that the “picture would fail” if they didn’t agree.
The actors said in their suit that they are suffering “mental distress and emotional distress” and have lost job opportunities.
Hussey and Whiting provided separate accounts to the court this month of their experiences filming the scene, which featured a shot of Hussey’s breasts and Whiting’s behind.
Whiting said he “got under the covers with Plaintiff Hussey, got on top of her and we acted like we were having sex.” Hussey has also given a similar statement.
Paramount called the pair’s statements “absolutely false”, saying the film “represents an entirely different scenario and sequence of events.”
Zeffirelli’s son, Pipo, called the claims “disgraceful” in a January statement.
“It is shameful to hear that today, 55 years after filming, two veteran actors who owe their notoriety to this film, wake up to announce that they have suffered an abuse that has led to many There has been anxiety and emotional discomfort over the years,” she said.