Judge dismisses child molestation lawsuit against Romeo and Juliet
A California judge said she would file a lawsuit over a nude scene in Romeo and Juliet, noting the 1968 film was 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 appear nude in the film’s bedroom scene when they were minors.
They accused Paramount Pictures of sexually exploiting and distributing nude images of children in their December lawsuit, which allegedly sought more than $500 million in damages.
Judge Alison Mackenzie on Thursday granted Paramount’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Mackenzie dismissed Hussey and Whiting’s argument that the nude scene could be considered “child pornography.” The judge also found that the couple had not followed a 2020 rule California Law This temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims.
According to court documents obtained by The Post, Mackenzie wrote that there was no evidence that the film “was sexually suggestive enough on legal grounds to be considered outright illegal.”
Paramount moved to dismiss the lawsuit under the state’s anti-SLAPP law, which allows defendants to file allegedly baseless complaints that could undermine freedom of expression.
Solomon Gresen, an attorney for Hussey and Whiting, said he plans to appeal the decision.
“I was angry,” Gresen told the Post on Friday. “I think the misogynistic bias in this country is real, and I’ve dedicated my career to trying to right the wrongs.”
He added: “It is abusive to take pictures of naked children. It is insulting to tell them to undress. It is abusive to distribute these and make money from them.”
Gresen also plans to file a federal lawsuit thereafter Criterion Collection DVD Romeo and Juliet re-released in February, including a 4K restoration of the film.
The Post has reached out to Paramount for comment.
The couple said they were misled by Zeffirelli, who died in 2019. They claimed he promised there would be no nudity.
But just days before the end, he reportedly urged the two to perform the bedroom scene with only body makeup on, and reportedly threatened “the film would fail” if they didn’t agree.
The actors said in their lawsuit that they “suffered mental anguish and emotional distress” and lost job opportunities.
Hussey and Whiting submitted separate accounts to the court this month of their experiences filming the scene, which featured a shot of Hussey’s breasts and Whiting’s bottom.
Whiting said he “had gotten under the covers with plaintiff Hussey, climbed on her and we pretended to have intercourse.” Hussey made a similar statement.
Paramount called the couple’s statements “completely false” and said the film “shows a completely different scene and sequence of events.”
Zeffirelli’s son Pippo called the claims “embarrassing” in a January statement.
“It is embarrassing to hear that today, 55 years after filming, two elderly actors who largely owe their fame to this film are waking up to declare that they suffered an abuse that left them scared and emotionally uneasy for years.” , he said.