’68 Romeo and Juliet stars come after Criterion over exploitation claims

Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, the stars of 1968’s Romeo and Juliet, are coming after both Paramount and The Criterion Collection.

Last Updated on February 21, 2024

Romeo and Juliet

Nearly nine months after a judge dismissed a case involving the stars of 1968’s Romeo and Juliet — who claimed they were sexually exploited by Paramount and the film’s director — both Leonard Whiting (Romeo) and Olivia Hussey (Juliet) are again suing the studio, this time alongside boutique label The Criterion Collection, who released the Shakespeare adaptation last year.

The lawsuit (via EW), like the failed one, seeks to stop exploitation and distribution of images of the actors in Romeo and Juliet, as it contains footage of both — who were teenagers at the time of filming — in partial nudity. They, too, maintain that profits are being made off of their images in a modern format, something they could not consent to due to their age and technology at the time. According to the claim, “Among other things, the digital photos rendered, in extremely high-definition detail, the contents of several analog color photographs taken in the private studio in the presence only of key photography personnel while Hussey and Whiting were minors during the production of the original project, depicting Hussey’s complete naked breasts and Whiting’s complete naked buttocks.”

One of the reasons the initial lawsuit surrounding Romeo and Juliet failed had to do with a lapsed statute of limitations. However, both Whiting and Hussey appear to believe that Criterion’s February 2023 release (spine #1,171) does not fall under this due to when it hit shelves, thus reigniting their interest in legal action. While Criterion’s inclusion in the lawsuit will absolutely be a significant and unique moment in their history, both Whiting and Hussey have primarily targeted Paramount. They also stated, “We and our new lawyers extended the olive branch to Paramount in hopes that they would settle this legal matter, but unfortunately, it appears that they do not want to take responsibility for their participation in the digital enhancement, production, and distribution of the 1968 film,” a reference to Criterion’s DVD and Blu-ray release.

For the most part, despite the nudity in the film, Romeo and Juliet is without damning enough controversy to “cancel” it, and it is available to stream or rent on numerous services. Criterion’s release has also earned strong reviews for its transfer.

Romeo and Juliet would be nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and stands as one of the finest Shakespeare adaptations to ever be put on screen.

Whose side are you on in the latest Romeo and Juliet lawsuit? Do you think Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey have a case this time? Give us your take below.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

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Mathew is an East Coast-based writer and film aficionado who has been working with JoBlo.com periodically since 2006. When he’s not writing, you can find him on Letterboxd or at a local brewery. If he had the time, he would host the most exhaustive The Wonder Years rewatch podcast in the universe.