Judge Dismisses ‘Romeo and Juliet’ 1968 Stars’ Lawsuit Over Underage Nude Scene

"It’s on many porn websites," Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting’s attorney Solomon Gressen tells The Messenger of a 'Romeo and Juliet' scene.


A judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by Romeo and Juliet (1968) stars Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, which alleged that late director Franco Zeffirelli coerced them into performing "child pornography."

According to court documents obtained by The Messenger, Judge Alison Mackenzie granted Paramount's motion to dismiss the case on Thursday, finding that the film is protected under the First Amendment and the lawsuit is barred by the statute of limitations.

"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," wrote Mackenzie in her decision. 

She continued, "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."

Although the lawsuit was filed in January under a California Law that suspends the window for reporting childhood sexual assault, Paramount filed a motion under the state's anti-SLAPP statute, which makes early dismissal possible for claims challenging protected speech.

When reached for comment by The Messenger, Hussey and Whiting's attorney Solomon Gressen pointed to a screenshot of the topless underage actress with a watermark for an adult entertainment site.

"This is from a pornography website, taken from the movie," said Gressen, adding: "It's on many porn websites."

Hussey, who was 16 at the time, showed her naked breasts in the scene, and Whiting, then 17, showed his butt.

"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 Gressen in a statement.

Gressen told Variety that he plans to file a separate federal lawsuit based on a Criterion Collection 4K restoration released on DVD in February, which he said resets the statute of limitations.

Romeo and Juliet, Franco Zeffirelli, Olivia Hussey, Leonard Whiting
Franco Zeffirelli directs Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting while filming 1967's Romeo and Juliet (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)
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