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Sexual abuse allegations made against Paramount in $100 million Romeo and Juliet lawsuit – Deadline

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Nearly 55 years after Franco Zeffirelli’s Oscar-nominated adaptation Romeo and Juliet came out, the film’s then-young stars are now suing Paramount Pictures for over $100 million for alleged sexual abuse, neglect, and more.

“Defendants were dishonest and secretly filmed the minor children nude or partially nude without their knowledge, in violation of state and federal laws regulating said child sexual abuse and exploitation,” Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting’s lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer physical pain and mental pain, along with extreme and severe mental anguish and emotional distress,” says the lawsuit (read here) about the Best Picture Oscar-nominated film based on the classic tale of the doomed lovers of William Shakespeare. to say.

In a Shakespearean own drama and estimating that the studio made more than $500 million from Zeffirelli’s adaptation, Hussey and Whiting are seeking punitive and exemplary damages of more than $100 million. With Encino attorney Solomon Gresen handling the case, the pair are also looking into “compensatory damages, economic and non-economic as per the evidence, along with return of economic benefit to Paramount.”

Seemingly confusing a December 1967 date with 1968, the year the film was released, the December 30, 2022 filing details:

At the time of filming, Mr. Whiting (Romeo) was a child under the age of 16 and Mrs. Hussey was also a child under the age of 15. The complainants were informed by Mr. Zeffirelli that there would be no nudity filmed or displayed and that the plaintiffs would wear flesh-colored underwear during the bedroom/love scene. However, on the morning of filming the bedroom scene in the second week of December 1968, the last days of photography, the minor children. The Claimants received body makeup and were informed by Mr. Zeffirelli that they must act nude or the picture would fail. Millions were invested. They would never again work in any profession, let alone Hollywood. Zeffirelli showed them where the cameras would be set so that no nudity was filmed or photographed for use in Romeo and Juliet or anywhere else. The plaintiffs believed they had no choice but to act nude in body makeup, as required in the final days of filming.

Paramount did not respond to Deadline’s request for comment on the seven-grievance process.

Subject to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the past, Zeffirelli died in 2019 and is therefore not a defendant in this lawsuit.

Causing an uproar at the time for the nudity in the film, Romeo and Juliet it was a box office success when it was released in March 1968. Nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, the film took home trophies for Best Cinematography and Costume Design. Both Whiting and Hussey won Golden Globes for their performances.

Also in 2018, Hussey spoke about the need for nudity in the film. Amidst the publicity for her newly published memoir, she told Fox News that nudity was “no big deal”. O Jesus of Nazareth The veteran also noted in another interview that same year that although she and Whiting were young, they were both theater veterans and “we were very attentive”.

Obviously, she and Whiting have a different point of view on the matter now.

“It took a lot of courage for both Olivia and Leonard to address the sexploitation/sexualization (of minors) that occurred then and unfortunately continues to permeate our society today,” the duo’s manager Tony Marinozzi told Deadline today about the lawsuit. . “The #MeToo movement and other similar support groups have provided a platform for Olivia and Leonard to finally hold those responsible for these abuses accountable.”

Marinozzi has been Hussey, 71,’s manager since October 2020 and has worked with Whiting, now 72, since February 2022.

The timing of the filing late last week in Los Angeles Superior Court came just hours before the expiration, on Dec. 31, of the nearly three-year extension of California’s statute of limitations stay on child molestation charges.