The stars of the 1968 “Romeo and Juliet” film claim in a new lawsuit they endured sexual abuse, sexual harassment and fraud over a nude scene, according to news reports.
Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting were under the age of 18 when they filmed the Franco Zeffirelli blockbuster, which was awarded multiple Oscar nominations, as well as wins for best cinematography and best costume design.
The fictional star-crossed lovers, who are now in their 70s, are accusing Paramount Pictures of sexual exploitation and distribution of nude imagery of children. They are seeking more than $500 million in alleged damages.
Paramount did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
“Romeo and Juliet,” an adaptation of the Shakespearian drama of the same name, follows two young, forbidden lovers from families in opposition.
According to the pair’s suit, they were supposedly promised there would be no nudity — just flesh-colored modesty garments — but in the final days on set Zeffirelli reportedly urged them to do a scene with only body makeup. He allegedly threatened “the picture would fail” otherwise, Variety reported.
At the time of filming, Hussey was 15 and Whiting, 16. They claim they “suffered mental anguish and emotional distress,” per Variety, and even lost job opportunities.
The typical statute of limitations on child sexual abuse lawsuits in California was temporarily suspended under a 2020 change in state law, resulting in an increase of cases against various organizations and people. Hussey and Whiting’s claim arrived Friday, just before the Dec. 31 deadline.
Tony Marinozzi, the business manager for Hussey and Whiting, told Variety that the actors were misled by Zeffirelli, who died in 2019.
“What they were told and what went on were two different things,” he said. “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.”
Their attorney, Solomon Gresen, said that such images of minors “are unlawful and shouldn’t be exhibited.”
“These were very young naive children in the ’60s who had no understanding of what was about to hit them,” he told Variety. “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.”
In prior interviews, Hussey defended the nudity, including in a 2018 interview with Variety in which she justified Zeffirelli’s directorial gaze that was once called “taboo.”
“Nobody my age had done that before,” she said. “It was needed for the film.”