It seems Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting have a few regrets about appearing nude in the 1968 film Romeo and Juliet. But it has taken them over half a century to publicly verbalize their outrage. Now aged 70 and 71, they have united to sue Paramount Pictures for alleged child abuse as they were only 16 and 17 years old at the time.
The California Law that allows this limitation lapse could be in for big trouble. Olivia and Leonard are not the only allegedly wronged youngsters. The Boy Scouts and The Catholic Church are likely to have to brace themselves for the onslaught.
No Regrets at seeing the beautiful film
But back to the young lovers and what beautiful young lovers they were. As a teenager I remember being entranced by their beauty. I don’t remember glimpses of Leonard’s buttocks or Olivia’s breasts though, which are the issue here. The 1968 film by Franco Zeffirelli was so mesmerisingly beautiful that I think the young stars’ beauty, albeit partial nudity, blended into the whole cinematic experience.
I am surprised as being a naive young teenager myself about Olivia’s age, I would have noticed if it was out of place or unnecessarily showcased. At that age I had not seen a naked man or woman. Such was the protected nature of my adolescence. Olivia and Leonard now claim they too were innocents and duped into baring it all as they acted out the bedroom scene.
The director told them they “Would wear flesh coloured clothing”, then later it was “You will be nude, but no nudity will be in the finished clips”. It is understandable that being so young and new to stardom, that they would do whatever told to either be famous, make the best film, or both. Decisions at 16 can lead to regrets later on.
Regrets for your Teenage Actions
But it is confounding to their claims that in a 2018 interview Olivia insisted the nudity though rare at the time was necessary and also tastefully done. So, what happened? Have the last few years raised doubts, did she suddenly, in her late sixties, feel used? What changed in the last four years?
How much worse is the public flashing of young body parts these days? Many of today’s teens will regret texting their nude photos or posting them on social media? That is so much worse considering many bare-it all-even close ups of private parts that should stay private. They don’t call them that for nothing.
Certainly, what seems cool at a certain age is cringe-worthy when reviewed with the wisdom of distance and time. Regrets, I have a few myself. Things I did, people I hurt. It is a past with regrets, as many of us have.
Is it Regrets or Possibly about the Money?
Olivia and Leonard are either genuinely feeling it was abuse, embarrassed by the nudity, though they looked stunning, or want money for their old age. It’s a potential $500 million up for grabs. Is this about a money-hungry producer, an adult using children in 1968, or is it present day adults seeing a quick buck? I don’t know which, but something is amiss in the overall situation.
It is sad that it has come to this. Our young lovers once immortalized in beauty on the silver screen are now a couple of senior citizens seen in the less beautiful light of suing a movie company.
Tragic as Shakespearean Play
Yes, it is as tragic as a Shakespearean play because it reveals human nature in all its complexity at work. Shakespeare is still ever relevant because of his unique insight into humans in all their variety. His tragedies, and Romeo and Juliet is one of the best, feature human traits that lead to tragedy. For Macbeth it is ambition, for Hamlet it is indecisiveness, with Othello it is jealousy and King Lear showcases a father’s blindness to genuine love.
Romeo and Juliet is a story of two star crossed lovers who should not love each other. Their Italian families, the Capulets and Montagues, were sworn enemies. Bearing a grudge has ramifications for the next generation. Only after their children lay dead, do the families see the error of their ways. Regrets, they have a few. Romeo said, “A rose by any other name would smell so sweet.” Was it the forbidden fruit that added to the excitement of their love at first sight? The relationship was only 24 hours.
Would Romeo and Juliet have had Regrets?
History is full of people who defied their families to run away with the one they love. History is also full of people who acted on first impulses and married without thinking first. Lucille Ball maybe should have thought longer about the womanizing Desi Arnaz. Interestingly, she also sold her Desilu studios to Paramount Pictures who made the Romeo and Juliet film.
Would Romeo and Juliet have lived on to regret their hasty marriage? We will never know. Really, I don’t want to know. I prefer to remember the sweet beauty of their young love, not see it tarnished by regrets, if they are genuine. Olivia and Leonard may regret their present actions. Time will tell as it always does.
“For never was a story of more woe than Juliet and her Romeo.” It is still one of the greatest love stories of all time.
Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.