Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, who starred in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, are suing the film’s distributor, Paramount Pictures, to stop people from streaming the movie.

The stars say the film’s digital version, which Paramount designed for home-viewing, contains graphic photographs of the couple taken during the film’s infamous nude scene.

“[The photos] have been digitally enhanced such that, unlike the Original Work, the Digital Release depicted their private areas in such high detail that the gratuitous display was lewd and lascivious and demeaning to them,” the suit claims.

Some of the pictures were allegedly taken by Zeffirelli, who assured 17-year-old Whiting and 15-year-old Hussey they wouldn’t be shared with the public.

“Zeffirelli persuaded them to be photographed in the nude, there’s nothing in the contract about it, there’s nothing in script,” the pair’s lawyer told Fox, continuing,

“It’s one thing for [Whiting and Hussey] to tolerate the inclusion of pictures that Zeffirelli told them would never be shown publicly, would never belong to anybody but Zeffirelli. But to turn it in 2023 into a lewd exposition of their juvenile intimate areas — that was when they realized this was wrong.”

This isn’t the first time the pair has sued Paramount for exploitation. Last year, they unsuccessfully accused the distributor of allowing Zeffirelli to coerce them into filming Romeo and Juliet’s nude scene.

It was during this first case, Vulture reports, that Whiting and Hussey discovered an unknown photographer had also taken clandestine photos of them while nude on set.

“Hussey was stunned,” the magazine writes. “Zeffirelli had promised her the set would be closed that day. As far as she knew, the set photographer had been sent out once the shoot began.”

The award-winning movie catapulted its stars into the spotlight — where both of them floundered. Hussey became addicted to diet pills and struggled with agoraphobia. Whiting told Vulture he didn’t like how the nude scene sexualized him for the rest of his career. At the time, both actors considered the scene “artistic.”

Zeffirelli, for his part, became known as a ground-breaking director. Paramount Pictures’ website praises his daring choice to cast actors as young as Shakespeare had written his characters.

“The youthfulness and inexperience of the leading players works beautifully in the more passionate sequences (some of these breaking further ground by being played in the nude),” the site reads.

The entrenched depravity illustrated in sentence astounds me. How could filming a nude scene with underage actors be praised as art?

I am equally convicted for my own participation in an industry that glorifies sex and violence. While I might feel privately guilty for watching a movie with gratuitous violence or vulgarity, I rarely feel my conduct is hurting others.

Whiting and Hussey’s experience reminds me that our culture’s ever-increasing appetite for shock and perversion leaves behind people who have been physically victimized — not just spiritually or psychologically wounded.

Perhaps this is your gentle reminder to be extra aware of the entertainment you pay for this week. Join me in committing to withhold time and money from gratuitous, profane or lewd entertainment — for our own sake and the sake of our neighbors.

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