A lawsuit concerning a nude scene in the 1968 movie “Romeo and Juliet” is to be dismissed, a judge ruled on Thursday. She stated that the film is safeguarded under the First Amendment.
Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, the movie’s leads, had launched the suit in December, claiming that they were manipulated into performing unclothed in a bedroom scene by director Franco Zeffirelli. At the time of production, Hussey was 16, and Whiting was 17.
Judge Alison Mackenzie approved Paramount’s request to discard the lawsuit, determining that the complainants had failed to adhere to a California law that momentarily waives the deadline for claims related to child sexual abuse.
Mackenzie also refuted the lawsuit’s claim that the scene in question constitutes “child pornography.”
She stated, “The plaintiffs have not provided any legal references indicating that the movie could be considered sexually explicit enough by law to be definitively deemed illegal.” The judge also noted that the plaintiffs’ arguments were based on select portions of federal and state laws without offering any legal context regarding how those laws apply to potential works of artistic merit, like the award-winning film in question.
Paramount moved to reject the suit based on California’s anti-SLAPP law, designed to eliminate trivial lawsuits aiming to suppress free speech. Mackenzie ruled that “Romeo and Juliet” falls under First Amendment protection and that the statute of limitations prohibits the lawsuit.
The lawyer for Hussey and Whiting, Solomon Gresen, indicated that he was seeking advice from appellate attorneys and was planning to file a new lawsuit in federal court. This new lawsuit will revolve around a Criterion Collection DVD of the film that was released in February. Gresen argued that the release’s 4K digital restoration would reset the statute of limitations.
Gresen stated, “Children cannot give their consent for the use of these images. Profits are being made from these images without consent.”
The controversial scene features a sustained shot of Whiting’s rear and a brief view of Hussey’s chest as she leaves the bed.
In their court testimonies on May 11, Hussey and Whiting detailed their experiences during filming. Hussey shared that during the scene, Whiting “came back to the bed, got under the covers with me, mounted me, and we simulated intercourse.” Whiting made a similar statement.
Paramount’s attorneys labeled these assertions as “utterly false and perjurious.” They contended that the film “portrays a completely different scene and sequence of events.”