Judge Throws Out The Child Abuse Lawsuit Over The Nude Scene In 1968’s “Romeo And Juliet”
Waaaayyy before Sam Levinson’s insatiable need to force his audience into watching naked “high schooler,” there was Franco Zeffirelli, who directed the 1968 Romeo and Juliet film. The film features a scene where we see the bare butt of Leonard Whiting (Romeo) and the bare breasts of Olivia Hussey (Romeo), and well, they were underage at the time. Olivia was 15, and Leonard was 16. And back in January, Olivia and Leonardo, who are now both 72, filed a $500 million lawsuit against Paramount Pictures for sexually exploiting them as minors and for distributing nude images of children. But word just dropped that the judge is throwing out the case.
In their lawsuit, Olivia and Leonardo explained that Franco Zeffirelli, who died in June 2019, told them that they wouldn’t have to go nude for the bedroom scene and that they’d get to wear flesh-colored undergarments. But when it came time to shoot, Franco did a total of 180 and told them that they were only going to wear body makeup and assured them that their naked bits would not make it to the screen. They also claim that Franco told them that without real nudity, “the picture would fail.” Ah yes, surely the film’s four Academy Award noms were all thanks to T and A! The pair also claimed that they suffered emotional and mental distress as a direct result of their exploitation and that despite the film doing really well, they feel their careers went downhill after its release because they “lost out on job opportunities.” They were seeking $100 million in punitive damages, but their lawyer claimed that they could receive up to $500 million in damages since that’s what they believe the film has made since coming out in 1968.
Yesterday Judge Alison Mackenzie decided to throw out Olivia and Leonard’s case after the conclusion that the film is “protected by the First Amendment,” as reported by Variety.
Judge Alison Mackenzie granted Paramount’s motion to throw out the suit, finding that the plaintiffs had not complied with the provisions of a California law that temporarily suspended the statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims.
Mackenzie also rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the nude scene amounted to “child pornography.”
“Plaintiffs 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 to be conclusively illegal,” the judge wrote. “Plaintiffs’ argument on the subject is limited to cherry-picked language from federal and state statutes without offering any authority regarding the interpretation or application of those statutory provisions to purported works of artistic merit, such as the award-winning film at issue here.”
According to the Guardian, Olivia and Leonard are planning to appeal the judge’s decision and file a separate lawsuit “pinned to the recent Criterion DVD release of the film which would not be affected by the statute of limitations.”
I think many probably paused when Judge Mackenzie declared that the scene is not “sufficiently sexually suggestive.” Tell that to all the kids who were scandalized during that scene while watching it in school!