Olivia Hussey: 5 Things About The Star Of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ At 15 Who’s Suing for $500M Over Nude Scene

More than fifty years after a teenage Olivia Hussey filmed a nude scene for 'Romeo and Juliet,' she and her costar have accused the studio of sexually exploiting them in a new lawsuit. Here's what we know.

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  • Olivia Hussey (b. Apr. 17. 1951) is an English actress.
  • She appeared as Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.
  • In 2023, she and her costar, Leonard Whiting, sued Paramount for more than $500 million over the film’s nude scene.

Olivia Hussey received critical acclaim and the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year for her role in 1968’s Romeo and Juliet. However, 55 years after she starred opposite Leonard Whiting in Franco Zeffirelli’s film adaptation of the William Shakespeare play, Olivia, 71, and Leonard, 72, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court over the film’s nude scene, alleging sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and fraud, per the Associated Press.

Olivia, 15 at the time of Romeo and Juliet’s filming, and Leonard, who was 16, claim that director Zeffirelli assured them that they would be no nudity in the film and that they’d wear flesh-covered undergarments. But in the final days of filming, the director – who died in 2019 – allegedly pressed for them to do the bedroom scene in the nude with body makeup, “or the Picture would fail,” per Variety. Zeffirelli allegedly showed them how the camera would be positioned, assuring them that no nudity would be recorded or released in the film. However, the movie’s final cut showed Whiting’s buttocks and Hussey’s bare breasts.

Leonard and Olivia in Romeo and Juliet (Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock)

According to Variety, Hussey and Whiting claim they’ve endured “mental anguish and emotional distress” in the half-century since the film’s release and that they’ve lost out on job opportunities. They’re seeking damages “believed to be in excess of $500 million.” The lawsuit, per Variety, relies in part on a California law that temporarily suspended the statute of limitations for older claims of child sexual abuse.”

As the courts figure this out, here’s what you need to know about Olivia.

She Is The Daughter Of An Opera Singer

Olivia Hussey (neée Osuna) was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is the first child of Argentine opera singer Andrés Osuna (aka Osvaldo Ribó) and Joy Hussey, an English legal secretary. Her parents separated when she was two, and she grew up in her mother’s native land. In the late 1960s, she began acting and quickly found success.

Olivia in 2007 (Picture Perfect/Shutterstock)

She’s Played Mary and Mother Teresa

Olivia’s breakout performance was in 1968’s Romeo and Juliet. Following that, she appeared in roughly fifty more roles over the next half-century. She played Mary in the 1977 television mini-series Jesus of Nazareth, appearing in four episodes, per IMDB. She would portray another religious icon in 2003, taking on the main role of Mother Teresa in a TV movie of the same name.

As of 2023, her last role was in 2015’s Social Suicide.

Olivia Has Some Serious Horror Credentials

Horror fans know Olivia Hussey’s name because the slasher genre might not exist without her. Olivia played Jess in 1974’s Black Christmas, essentially becoming the first modern “Final Girl.” She also appeared in 1979’s The Cat and the Canary and 1995’s Ice Cream Man. However, Olivia’s most notable contributions to the horror genre came in 1990 – when she played Norma Bates in Psycho IV: The Beginning and Audra Phillips Denbrough in the Tim Curry-led television adaptation of Stephen King’s It.

“For some reason, IT was not a very good experience for me,” she said in an interview published on Morbidly Beautiful. “I shot Psycho IV in Florida, where I was treated very well, and everybody was so kind. Mick was a pleasure to work with. I shot 2 to 3 weeks there, and then I flew immediately to Vancouver to shoot on IT. That was a very cold set, and I didn’t enjoy it at all. Tim Curry was a doll. He was very sweet, and all the actors were lovely.”

(I B L/Shutterstock)

She Has Worked In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Olivia has also worked as a voice actress, lending her talents to a few DC cartoon series (Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond) and a pair of Star Wars video games. Olivia voiced Master Yuon Par in Star Wars: The Old Republic and a pair of characters in 2000’s Star Wars: Force Commander.

“It’s completely different,” she told Morbidly Beautiful about voice acting. “I wouldn’t say I’m really a great voiceover actor. Because there are some who do voiceover work that is just completely amazing. Some use different accents and tones. I mean, it’s incredible. You know, people like Hank Azaria who does so many voices on The Simpsons. And he’s great in one of my all-time favorite movies The Birdcage. I’d say he is a great voiceover talent, as well as a great actor.”

Leonard Whiting left, and Olivia Hussey arrive at the screening of “The Producers” at the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival Opening Night (Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

She Defended The Nude Scene In 2018

As Variety pointed out when first reporting about Olivia and Leonard’s lawsuit, she defended the nude scene in a 2018 interview with the publication. “Nobody my age had done that before,” said Olivia. Variety noted that nudity was “commonplace in European films,” but the nude scene was frowned upon by some in the U.S. ”

“It was needed for the film,” she said. “Everyone thinks they were so young they probably didn’t realize what they were doing. But we were very aware. We both came from drama schools, and when you work, you take your work very seriously.”

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