Romeo and Juliet Child Abuse Lawsuit Will Be Dismissed by Judge | Movies
A California judge has announced she will dismiss a child abuse lawsuit brought by the two lead actors in the 1968 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.
Last December, Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, who were teenagers while filming Franco Zeffirelli’s Oscar-winning film, accused Paramount of sexual exploitation over a nude scene they said was instigated after learning it would not take place.
This week, Judge Alison Mackenzie suggested she would side with the studio in an interim decision, rejecting the claim that the film amounted to child abuse imagery while saying the plaintiffs had no correctly followed the rules of California law which allowed for a temporary stay of statute of limitations for oppression claims.
Mackenzie wrote that there was no compelling argument that the film was “sufficiently sexually suggestive in law to be considered permanently illegal” and that the plaintiffs had “chosen the language of federal and state law without offering no authority concerning the interpretation or application of these statutory provisions to works claimed to be of artistic merit”.
The actors, who were both under 18 at the time, reportedly plan to appeal and file a separate lawsuit related to the film’s recent Criterion DVD release which would not be affected by the statute of limitations. . “The children cannot consent to the use of these images,” said the couple’s attorney, Solomon Gressen. “They are profiting from these images without consent.”
He called them “very young, naive kids from the 1960s who didn’t understand what was about to hit them.”
Both actors submitted statements, saying they “acted like we were having sex” and suffered “mental anguish and emotional distress” in the years that followed and lost job opportunities. They reportedly sought $500 million in damages.
Paramount called their recollections “completely false and perjured testimony”.
“We have waited 55 years for justice to be served,” the actors said in a statement. “I guess we’ll have to wait longer.”
Zeffirelli died in 2019 and earlier this year his son Pippo Zeffirelli, who is also president of the Franco Zeffirelli Foundation, criticized the trial saying the scene was “far from pornographic”.