1968‘s Romeo & Juliet’ stars Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting file new lawsuit over underage nude scene


The stars of 1968’s “Romeo & Juliet,” Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, have filed a new lawsuit against Paramount Pictures and the Criterion Collection over the home release of the film.

The new filing seeks “preliminary and permanent injunction that the Digital Release not be distributed with the Digital Photos included.”

The “Digital Photos” refer to images taken during the filming of “Romeo & Juliet” by director Franco Zeffirelli that featured both actors nude while underage that are included in the 2023 release “had been digitally enhanced such that, unlike the Original Work, the Digital Release depicted their private areas in such high detail that the gratuitous display was lewd and lascivious and demeaning to them.”

The actors are seeking “damages in a sum according to proof that is adequate to compensate Hussey and Whiting for the general injuries suffered as hereinabove alleged,” including “emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, and mental anguish.”

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Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey posing together

Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, the stars of the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli directed “Romeo & Juliet” have filed a new lawsuit seeking the stop of distribution of what they claim are digitally enhanced images that display nudity that was photographed while both were underage.

For both Hussey and Whiting, the suit alleges that nothing in the agreement allowed for Paramount, operating under the name B.H.E. Productions Ltd., to “recreate, republish, or redistribute photographs of her performance in the [‘Romeo & Juliet’] in any other medium or format than 35 mm analogue cinematographic photographs.”

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Tony Marinozzi, a representative for both Whiting and Hussey, provided a statement on behalf of the actors.

“With regards to the initial lawsuit with Paramount, things didn’t work out as planned. For valid reasons, we then terminated the attorneys who represented us in that case,” the statement began, referring to a previous lawsuit from the stars.

They continued, “… After an exhaustive search by our manager, Tony Marinozzi, we found two passionate lawyers Bill Romaine and Zishan Lokhandwala, who after examining our situation, expressed a sincere and realistic optimism in filing new causes (different from the initial lawsuit) of action against Paramount and Criterion for their 2023 digitally vividly enhanced re-creation of our images from the original 1968 ‘Romeo and Juliet’ film…which they had no consent to do.

“This case seeks damages for Paramount’s and Criterion’s use of the product which has further humiliated us with its digitally enhanced private photos, which serve as a constant and painful reminder of Zeffirelli’s betrayal.”

It concluded, “The facts, evidence, and law on our side….and by the grace of God, we are confident that our voices will continue to be heard in our fight for accountability and firmly believe that Divine Justice will be done.”

William Romaine and Zishan Lokhandwala of Romaine and Lokhandwala Law Group, the lawyers representing Hussey and Whiting, also spoke with Fox News Digital via phone regarding the case.

“On December 30 2023, our office did send Paramount’s counsel a letter that notified them among other things that they needed to cease and desist, remove the images that have been depicted in the 2023 digital film, which they never had consent to. And by the way, we received a rebuff letter from Paramount’s counsel that they would not be removing the images from the film on January 19, 2024,” Lokhandwala said.

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Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey hugging in a scene from Romeo and Juliet

According to lawyers for Whiting and Hussey, they sent a cease and desist letter to Paramount demanding the studio to remove the objectionable images in December 2023.

Romaine further explained that the current filing is separate from Hussey and Whiting’s previous lawsuit.

“We want people to understand our suit relates only to the digital recreation. The clients felt [after they saw it] that effectively turned what was a classic into a porn flick. That’s really the difference,” he said.

He continued, “The emphasis on the youthful nudity is exploitative and our clients feel like there’s absolutely no excuse for that. The story doesn’t need it, they’ve never consented to those nude pictures being in the film, even back in the 1968 film. Zeffirielli persuaded them to be photographed in the nude, there’s nothing in the contract about it, there’s nothing in the script.”

Lokhandwala also noted, “This case is about the dignity in remembrance of two beloved individuals. We all, as people, should have the right to dignity in our remembrance and legacy. No company – no matter how powerful – should be abl to affect another person’s remembrance and legacy without their consent.”

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Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in costume for Romeo and Juliet

Per the actors’ lawyers, Hussey and Whiting never gave written consent for the nude scene or the photos taken related to it.

Representatives for Paramount, and Criterion did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment about the new filing.

Hussey and Whiting had previously filed a lawsuit last year against Paramount Pictures claiming that the nude scene in question in the 1968 film was child pornography and that the pair had been sexually abused while filming it, and seeking $500 million in damages.

The judge ruled that the film scene was under the protection of the First Amendment, explaining that Hussey and Whiting “have not put forth any authority showing the film here can be deemed to be sufficiently sexually suggestive as a matter of law to be held to be conclusively illegal.”

In that suit, the actors claimed that Zeffirelli originally told them they would not film nude and would wear flesh-colored garments instead. However, when it came time to film the scene, the director allegedly insisted the two teenagers be nude, “or the Picture would fail.”

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Black and white photo of Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey being directed by Franco Zeffirelli

In a previous lawsuit, Whiting and Hussey allege that Zeffirelli insisted the two teenagers be nude “or the Picture would fail.”

Zeffirelli died in 2019, but his son released a statement denouncing the initial lawsuit.

“It is embarrassing to hear that today, 55 years after filming, two elderly actors who owe their notoriety essentially to this film wake up to declare that they have suffered an abuse that has caused them years of anxiety and emotional discomfort,” Pippo Zeffirelli told The Guardian in a statement.

The new filing reiterates the claims against Zeffirelli, noting Hussey and Whiting, “became convinced, as a result of a major change in societal norms popularly known as the ‘Me Too Movement’ persuaded them that they had been victims of Zeffirelli’s ‘grooming’ of them as illicit targets of his sexual proclivity while they were minors and began to believe that the ‘ambiance of the film’ excuse given by Zeffirelli for his insistence that they perform without clothing was not a creature of his genuine artistic conceit, but rather of his sexual desire.”

Black and white photo of Franco Zeffirelli with Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting

Hussey and Whiting’s new filing reiterates their claims against Zeffirelli, including allegations of “grooming.”

As Romaine said on behalf of his clients, “It’s one thing for them to tolerate, and that’s the best word you can use, tolerate, the inclusion of pictures that Zeffirelli told them would never be shown publicly, would never belong to anybody but Zeffirelli, even not have any photographs of their nudity,” but “then to turn it around in 2023 and turn that into a lewd exposition of their juvenile intimate areas, that was it, that was when they realized this was wrong, this should not be. And so that’s what this suit is all about, really has nothing to do with what happened in 1968 other than as background.”

The next court date for the case is in June, where lawyers will speak with the judge for a case management conference hearing.

Original article source: 1968‘s Romeo & Juliet’ stars Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting file new lawsuit over underage nude scene



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