Actors from the 1968 film “Romeo and Juliet” have filed a lawsuit against Paramount Studios, which produced the film, for allowing the movie to be released with scenes showing them nude when they were minors.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Santa Monica Superior Court by stars Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, accuses Paramount of sexual exploitation and distributing nude images of adolescent children.
In a copy of the suit provided to CNN, the complaint alleges that the film’s director Franco Zeffirelli, who died in 2019 and is not named as a defendant in the suit, assured the actors that there would be no nudity, and that they would be able to “wear flesh colored undergarments during the bedroom/love scene.”
However, according to the complaint, Zeffirelli later told Hussey and Whiting – who were 15 and 16 at the time, respectively – that ‘they must act in the nude or the Picture would fail.”
The complaint also alleges that the actors were given body makeup and were told exactly where the camera would be positioned, and though the director assured them that no nudity would be photographed or released in the film, that is not what happened.
The scene that was included in the film and shown in theaters featured images of both Whiting’s buttocks and Hussey’s bare breasts, the complaint states.
CNN has attempted to reach legal representatives for Paramount Studios and Zeffirelli’s son for comment.
The lawsuit seeks damages Hussey and Whiting say are believed to be in excess of $500 million. The actors both claim the scene has caused them mental anguish and emotional distress in the 55 years since the film’s release.
Since it was filed at the end of 2022, it is not affected by the expiration of a California law that temporarily suspended the statute of limitations for older claims of child sexual abuse.
The actors, now both in their 70s, also maintain they have lost out on job opportunities as a result.
“What they were told and what went on were two different things,” Tony Marinozzi, a business manager for both actors, told Variety. “They trusted Franco. At 16, as actors, they took his lead that he would not violate that trust they had. Franco was their friend, and frankly, at 16, what do they do? There are no options. There was no #MeToo.”
The actors’ attorney, Solomon Gresen, told the outlet that the nude scenes were shot when his clients “were very young naive children in the ’60s who had no understanding of what was about to hit them. All of a sudden they were famous at a level they never expected, and in addition they were violated in a way they didn’t know how to deal with.”
CNN has reached out to both Hussey and Whiting’s representation for additional comment.
CNN’s Stella Chan contributed to this report.