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27 May, 2023 19:13

‘Romeo and Juliet’ nude scene ‘not child pornography’ – judge

The 1968 production of the William Shakespeare classic briefly featured nudity involving 15- and 16-year-old children
‘Romeo and Juliet’ nude scene ‘not child pornography’ – judge

A judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit brought by two actors from a 1968 film production of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ who claimed that a nude scene they shot in their teens constituted child pornography, and that they had been sexually abused while filming it.

Superior Court Judge Alison Mackenzie ruled in favor of the defendant Paramount Pictures this week after actors Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, who are both now 72, claimed in a legal filing that a scene in which Hussey’s bare breasts and Whiting’s buttocks were exposed amounted to child abuse.

Judge Mackenzie dismissed the claim on Thursday, saying the pair “have not put forth any authority showing the film here can be deemed to be sufficiently sexually suggestive as a matter of law to be held conclusively illegal.” 

Hussey and Whiting claimed during the case that the film’s director, Franco Zeffirelli, had initially said that nudity would not be required. But they said the since-deceased Zeffirelli later informed them that wearing flesh-colored garments would not be sufficient and he insisted that the teenagers perform nude, “or the picture would fail.”

The film was a major hit at the time of its release and has been featured in school syllabuses in several countries despite the brief nudity.

“We firmly believe that the exploitation and sexualization of minors in the film industry must be confronted and legally addressed to protect vulnerable individuals from harm and ensure the enforcement of existing laws,” said Hussey and Whiting’s lawyer, Solomon Gresen, following the verdict. Paramount Pictures has not commented on the ruling.

The director’s son, Pippo Zeffirelli, told The Guardian earlier this year that the actors’ decision to pursue a legal challenge was “embarrassing” and argued it was unrealistic for them to “wake up to declare that they have suffered an abuse that has caused them years of anxiety and emotional discomfort” some 55 years after the film was released.

Hussey and Whiting intend to refile the lawsuit in federal court, their lawyer said.