More than fifty years after the premiere of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, the lead actors sued the production company for millions in damages over a nudity scene. But there will be no trial in the US state of California.
The court in Los Angeles announced on Thursday that it will reject the lawsuit, Variety magazine reports. The judge Alison Mackenzie thus granted Paramount Pictures’ request to dismiss the lawsuit, according to Variety.
Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting were 15 and 16 years old during the filming of the film. Today they number 71 and 72. The lawsuit, in which they demanded a million dollars in damages, related to sexual harassment, fraud and causing mental distress. But the competent judge found that the film is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which, among other things, refers to freedom of speech. She also rejected the allegation that the nude scenes in the film would be equivalent to child pornography.
“Plaintiffs have provided no evidence to support that the film is sufficiently sexually suggestive to be considered illegal,” Judge Mackenzie also wrote. She also ruled that the case was time-barred, finding that the lawsuit did not meet the terms of a California law that temporarily removed the statute of limitations for past child sexual abuse lawsuits.
Players’ lawyer Solomon Gresen has already criticized the court’s decision. Minors cannot consent to explicit sexual acts, Gresen announced in a statement. He also announced plans to take the case to federal court after the film was re-released this year. The exploitation and sexualization of minors by the film industry must be stopped, Gresen wrote.
The film “will fail” without nudityThe two actors, who filed a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures in December, claimed that director Zeffirelli pressured them to film a nude scene in bed while filming the 1968 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s work. The director, who died in 2019, is said to have warned them that “the film will fail” if they don’t play the scene naked.
Since they were minors at the time, the filmmakers assured them that their naked bodies would not be visible later on in the film, they said. But in the film, for a few seconds you can see the bare breasts of the then 16-year-old Hussey and the bottom of the then 17-year-old Whiting. Before that, they filmed the love scenes dressed in skin-colored underwear.
“What they were promised and what happened afterwards were two different things,” he commented Tony Marinozzithe manager of both players. “They trusted Franco. At sixteen, they believed that he would not break the trust that had been built between them. Franco was their friend and, hand to heart, what could they do? They had no chance. There was no #MeToo movement then. “
The director’s son also recently commented on the lawsuit Pippo Zeffirellialso president of the Franco Zeffirelli Foundation, said in a statement that the love scene was “far from pornographic.”
“Zeffirelli himself was accused of being reactionary precisely because he repeatedly spoke out against pornography,” he added. “The naked images in the film express beauty, transference, I would even say frankness of mutual giving and do not contain any morbid feeling.”
Nominated for four Oscars, won twoThe film was a huge hit when it was made, but it was also extremely long-lived, as many generations of schoolchildren began to learn about Shakespeare’s tragedy with its help. The following year, the film was nominated for four Oscars, including best film and director, and won two, for photography and costume design. But the two main actors did not get major film roles after this film, reports the German news agency dpa.