(Jacob Bruns, Headline USA) A new frontier of #MeToo litigation has opened up for exploited former child actors seeking to retroactively sue producers who filmed them in nude or partially-nude scenes, the Guardian reported.
Recently, Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, who starred in a 1968 rendition of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that featured both of them partially nude, have decided to sue Paramount to the tune of $500 million for child abuse. (Editor’s note: The offending scene is available here uncensored for those who choose to view it.)
At the time Hussey and Whiting were 15 and 16, respectively.
The pair, now both in their early 70s, has alleged that sexual abuse, sexual harassment and fraud all took place on set despite reassurances from Director Franco Zeffirelli that nude scenes would not be in the final cut.
“What they were told and what went on were two different things,” said Tony Marinozzi, the pair’s business manager, according to Fox News.
“They trusted Franco,” he continued. “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 their experience was emblematic of the sort of exploitation that Hollywood has long turned a blind eye to.
“Nude images of minors are unlawful and shouldn’t be exhibited,” Gresen argued.
“These were very young naive children in the ’60s who had no understanding of what was about to hit them,” he added. “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.”
But Hussey has changed her tune in recent years. As recently as 2018, she defended the artistic merit of the controversial scene.
“I think because it was done very tastefully,” she said at the time. “And in Europe, it was very different. In America, it was very taboo. But in Europe a lot of the films had nudity. Nobody really thought much of it.”
“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” she added.
Other child actors of the era may be closely watching to see how the lawsuit unfolds.
Although Shields was only 14 at the time and Atkins was 18, they spent much of their time in the nude, with Shields saying the costume department taped her hair to her body to cover her breasts.
“Never again will a movie be made like that,” Shields said on her “Now What?” podcast via iHeartRadio. “It wouldn’t be allowed.”