LOS ANGELES – A judge in California on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit brought by the lead actors in the 1968 film adaptation of Romeo And Juliet against Paramount Pictures over a scene in which their characters wake up in bed together nude.
The actors, Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, asserted in the lawsuit filed in 2022 that they were underage at the time of filming, and that the movie’s director, Franco Zeffirelli, assured them that they would be wearing flesh-coloured undergarments during the bedroom scene.
But on the morning of the shoot, the lawsuit claimed, he told the teenage actors that “they must act in the nude or the picture would fail”.
Their suit claimed that Paramount, the movie’s distributor, “knew or should have known images of plaintiffs’ nude bodies were secretly and unlawfully obtained during the performance”.
In court papers, lawyers for the actors wrote that the scene should not be considered protected speech because it qualified as “child pornography”.
Hussey was 16 when the scene was filmed, and Whiting was 17, said Mr Tony Marinozzi, a manager for the actors.
A lawyer for Paramount disputed the actors’ assessment of the film, which won two Oscars, arguing in court papers that the scene is not lewd or lascivious, and adding that their claims are too old to bring in court.
“The reality that the film is not child pornography is, of course, also supported by the fact that the film is extremely famous, has been in distribution for 55 years, and has been viewed or possessed by millions of Americans (including students studying Shakespeare in school), without any contention by law enforcement, plaintiffs or their parents that it is ‘child pornography’,” the lawyer, Mr Richard Kendall, wrote.
Zeffirelli died in 2019, but one of his sons whom he adopted as an adult, Giuseppe, said the scene was “as far from pornography as you can imagine”.