Son of ‘Romeo And Juliet’ director rips $500M nudity lawsuit from stars: ‘Far from pornographic’
Pippo Zeffirelli, the son of the late famous Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, is extremely unhappy with the $500 million lawsuit filed by “Romeo and Juliet” actors Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, who claim they were subjected to teenage nudity under the direction of Zeffirelli.
“It’s a shame to hear that today, 55 years after filming, two elderly actors who owe their fame essentially to this film are waking up to say they suffered abuse that has caused them years of anxiety and emotional distress,” Pippo told The . Guardian in a statement.
Last week, Whiting and Hussey, now 72 and 71 respectively, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Paramount Pictures, alleging sexual abuse, sexual harassment and fraud after a nude scene was included in the year’s film. 1968.
At the time, Whiting, 16, and Hussey, 15, say Zeffirelli assured them their bodies would be obscured by the flesh-colored underwear and camera framing, but later, after filming the scene, Zeffirelli allegedly said the nudity of actors was necessary “or the picture. would fail”.
OLIVIA HUSSEY REMEMBERS THE CONTROVERSIAL ROLE IN ‘ROMEO AND JULIET’ AT THE AGE OF 16, DISCLOSES PERSONAL TRAGEDY
Franco Zeffirelli served as director on the set of Romeo and Juliet. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis)
“Zeffirelli himself was accused of being reactionary precisely because, repeatedly, he spoke out against pornography,” Pippo noted of his father. “The nude images in the film express the beauty, the transference, I would even say the sincerity of mutual giving and contain no morbid feeling”.
Tony Marinozzi, business manager for both actors, says the stars were put in a difficult position, according to Variety. “What was said and what followed were two different things … They trusted Franco. At 16, as actors, they took his lead so that he would not violate their trust. Franco was their friend and honestly, at 16, what do they do? There are no options. There was no #MeToo.”
In an interview with Fox News in 2018, Hussey claimed that because the filming was done “very tastefully”, she was relaxed on set.
Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting sued Paramount Pictures for more than $500 million on Dec. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Jacques Levy)
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“In Europe, it was very different. In America, it was very taboo. But in Europe, a lot of films had nudity. Nobody thought much of it. But it was just the fact that I was 16 that got a lot of publicity… The big crew that we worked on was down to just the very core people, a handful of people. It was done later in the day when it wasn’t busy. It was a closed group,” she described.
“It seems to me that during all these years, they have always maintained a deep relationship of gratitude and friendship towards Zeffirelli, publishing hundreds of interviews in the happy memory of their very fortunate experience, which was crowned with success around the world” , Pippo said of Whiting and Hussey.
Pippo Zefirelli has slammed the new lawsuit against Paramount Pictures and the statements made about his father. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)
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Pippo also noted that Hussey worked with his father again on “Jesus of Nazareth” while Whiting attended Zeffirelli’s funeral in 2019.
Lawrence Richard and Stephanie Nolasco of Fox News Digitals contributed to this story.
Caroline Thayer is an entertainment writer for Fox News Digital. Follow Caroline Thayer on Twitter at @carolinejthayer.