Son of famed Romeo and Juliet director slams stars over ‘sexual exploitation’ lawsuit
Director Franco Zeffirelli’s son spoke out against a $500 million lawsuit alleging nude scenes of minors in his father’s 1968 film Romeo and Juliet.
Pippo Zeffirelli said it was “embarrassing” that actors Olivia Hussey, 71, and Leonard Whiting, 72, had waited 55 years to claim they scarred their lives from the film, which they claim was the Italian Director pressured her to film a nude sex scene when they were just 15 and 16.
Zeffirelli also pointed out that Hussey willingly collaborated with his father on later films and that Whiting attended Zeffirelli’s funeral in 2019.
Hussey and Whiting filed a lawsuit in Santa Monica Superior Court in California last month accusing Paramount Pictures of sexual harassment, fraud, sexual abuse and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.
Pippo Zeffirelli (right) said it was “embarrassing” that Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting waited 55 years to claim they were drawn by his father (left) Franco’s film
Olivia Hussey, 71, and Leonard Whiting, 72, filed a lawsuit against Paramount Studios in California, seeking damages “estimated to exceed $500 million” (pictured in 2018).
In a statement on Sunday, Zeffirelli also said that he felt the nudity in the film was not pornographic and that his father was an outspoken critic of pornography.
“Zeffirelli himself has been accused of being reactionary precisely because he has repeatedly spoken out against pornography,” he said.
“It is embarrassing to hear that today, 55 years after filming, two elderly actors who are largely known for this film are waking up to say they suffered an abuse that left them scared and emotionally uncomfortable for years. “
“It seems to me that over the years they have always maintained a relationship of deep gratitude and friendship with Zeffirelli, publishing hundreds of interviews on the happy memory of their very fortunate experience, crowned with worldwide success,” he said.
The lawsuit alleges that the teens “had no choice but to appear nude with body makeup on the final day of filming,” despite originally being promised that no nudity would be filmed or released
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli (pictured with Hussey and Whiting at the film’s Paris premiere), the film was released to critical acclaim in 1968 and earned the Italian filmmaker an Oscar nomination for Best Director. Zeffirelli died in 2019 at the age of 96
The actors both said the elder Zeffirelli originally told them there would be no nudity in Romeo and Juliet.
But on the final day of shooting, they claimed he said the film “would fail” unless they performed a nude scene while wearing body makeup.
“What they were told and what happened were two different things,” Tony Marinozzi, the couple’s chief executive, said in a statement.
“You trusted Franco. At 16, as an actor, they assumed he wouldn’t violate that trust they had,” the manager said.
“Franco was her boyfriend and to be honest, what are you going to do when you’re 16?” Marinozzi added in a statement to the outlet. “There are no options. There was no #MeToo.”
The lawsuit alleged the couple were filmed nude without their knowledge, and they are now seeking damages “estimated at over $500 million.”
Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting on the set of the 1968 film production of Romeo and Juliet
In the lawsuit, Hussey and Whiting accuse Paramount Pictures, which released the film, of sexual harassment, fraud, sexual abuse and intentionally inflicting emotional distress
In the lawsuit, Zeffirelli claimed he showed the actors where the camera would be placed, but that no nudity would be filmed or released definitively.
The actors said they felt “they had no choice but to act naked and with body makeup on the last day of shooting, as was requested on the last day of shooting.”
The film was released in 1968 to great acclaim and earned Zeffirelli an Oscar nomination for Best Director.
He died in 2019 at the age of 96.
In a statement to Variety, Solomon Gresen, the couple’s attorney, said the actors were “very young, naïve kids in their ’60s who didn’t understand what was going to hit them,” and that the scene caused them long-term financial problems. physical and mental pain
In a statement to Variety, Solomon Gresen, the actors’ attorney, said they were “very young, naive kids in their ’60s who didn’t understand what was about to hit them.”
The couple said the scene caused them long-term financial, physical and emotional pain.
They said the film also cost Hussey and Whiting “a lifetime in lost income and other employment benefits and employment opportunities,” according to the complaint.
“All of a sudden, they were famous at a level they never expected, and they were also being abused in ways they didn’t know how to handle,” Gresen said.
The $500 million in damages the couple is seeking is equal to the amount the film has earned since its release in 1968.
According to Variety, the actors’ lawsuit is based on a California law that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse claims.
This law had a deadline of December 31, 2022.
The actors’ lawsuit relies on a California law that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse claims. This law had a deadline of December 31, 2022
The $500 million in damages the couple is seeking is equal to the amount the film has earned since its release in 1968
Hussey continued her acting career and even reunited with Zeffirelli to play Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the director’s acclaimed 1977 miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth.
In a 2018 interview, Hussey claimed that Zeffirelli called her “Boobs O’Mina” and admitted that she was the unrequited love of his life.
At the time, Hussey also said she “loved playing Juliet” but that the press was “tiring.”
Whiting also made a career as an actor and singer in his native Britain.
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