Romeo and Juliet movie sexual exploitation lawsuit dismissed

A judge has dismissed the lawsuit involving 1968’s Romeo and Juliet, saying the stars don’t have enough evidence on their side.

Romeo and Juliet lawsuit

A judge has put a dagger in the heart of the lawsuit involving the stars of 1968’s Romeo and Juliet, siding with Paramount Pictures in deciding that its use of underage nudity actually falls under the First Amendment and that the stars “had not complied with the provisions of a California law that temporarily suspended the statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims.”

In her statement regarding her decision in the Romeo and Juliet lawsuit, judge Alison Mackenzie said, “Plaintiffs have not put forth any authority showing the film here can be deemed to be sufficiently sexually suggestive as a matter of law to be held to be conclusively illegal…Plaintiffs’ argument on the subject is limited to cherry-picked language from federal and state statutes without offering any authority regarding the interpretation or application of those statutory provisions to purported works of artistic merit, such as the award-winning film at issue here.”

Both Leonard Whiting (Romeo) and Olivia Hussey (Juliet) are planning to file an appeal, with their representative pointing to the Criterion Collection’s February release as only pushing the issue into the spotlight yet again, stating, “Children cannot consent to use of these images…They’re profiting off these images without consent.” Whiting and Hussey were both seeking $500 million in the Romeo and Juliet lawsuit, with reports saying that the actors “suffered mental anguish and emotional distress in the 55 years since the film’s release, and have also lost out on job opportunities.” They also said that Paramount and director Franco Zeffirelli (who died in 2019) were guilty of “sexually exploiting them and distributing nude images of adolescent children.”

On the lawsuit, the business manager for the Romeo and Juliet stars said one of the biggest problems comes from the time in which the movie was produced. “They trusted Franco. 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.”

Romeo and Juliet is generally considered one of the best Shakespeare adaptations in cinema history. The film would also be nominated for four Academy Awards, winning two.

What is your opinion on the judge’s ruling on the Romeo and Juliet lawsuit? Do you agree with the decision or find it disgraceful? Give us your thoughts.

Source: Variety

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Mathew is an East Coast-based writer and film aficionado who has been working with 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.