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Paramount sued for $500 million over 1968 ‘Romeo & Juliet’ nude scene

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British actress Olivia Hussey and actor Leonard Whiting star in Franco Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ circa 1967.

Keystone | Hulton Archive | Getty Images

Two stars of the 1968 film adaptation of “Romeo & Juliet” have sued Paramount Pictures for greater than $500 million over a nude scene the actors shot once they were teenagers, in keeping with a copy obtained by CNBC.

Leonard Whiting, 72, and Olivia Hussey, 71, claim director Franco Zeffirelli “secretly” filmed them nude or partially nude without their knowledge despite previous assurances that there could be no nudity exhibited within the Oscar-winning film. On the time of filming, Whiting, who portrayed Romeo, was 16, and Hussey, who portrayed Juliet, was 15.

The pair filed the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging sexual abuse, sexual harassment and fraud.

Paramount has not made any public statement concerning the suit and didn’t reply to a request for comment from CNBC.

In response to the filing, Zeffirelli, who died in 2019, initially told the actors that they might wear flesh-colored undergarments within the bedroom scene during which Whiting’s bare buttocks and Hussey’s bare breasts are briefly shown. Nonetheless, when the scene was shot in the ultimate days of filming, the actors were told they might wear only body makeup and that the camera could be positioned in a way that will not show nudity, in keeping with the suit.

The actors said they “believed that they had no alternative but to act within the nude in body makeup as demanded” and allege the scene was in violation of California and federal laws against indecency and the exploitation of kids.

Solomon Gresen, the actors’ attorney, said they’re searching for punitive damages of $100 million, but are possibly entitled to damages of greater than $500 million to match the quantity the film has earned since 1968.

“Paramount continues to display and take advantage of these images of nude minor children,” said Gresen. “They surely know higher. Time needs to be up.”

Upon its release, the film also proved a critical success, winning Academy Awards in the perfect cinematography and costume design categories and earning a nomination for best picture.

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