‘My first day was a sex scene’: A disturbing history of teen actors and nudity


S.Spoiler alert: Romeo and Juliet does not have a happy ending. But Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, at least until recently, were.The 1968 film was a huge commercial success and became a middle school staple. that star, Olivia Hussey And Leonard Whiting, even though he dated briefly, was a dream come true when it came to publicity. But now, the pair are suing studio Paramount for $500 million over Zeffirelli’s handling of scenes in which two actors, then 16 and 17, appeared partially naked. became. According to the lawsuit, the actors “were told by Mr. Zeffirelli that if they didn’t perform naked, the picture would be ruined.”

Like the music industry, the film industry tends to cover up such incidents with the excuse of “a different era.”This can be seen as a concerted effort to keep a lid on what many suspect is a can of worms. Can represent the long feared can opener.

The film industry, especially late 20th century productions, is now in need of a reassessment, and perhaps a reassessment. For example, how should 12-year-old Jodie Foster portray a girl forced into prostitution in Taxi Driver?Or 1971’s Jenny Agter Naked Swimming Walkabout, when she was just 16? The scene was filmed with Agutter’s knowledge and consent, and although neither Foster nor Agutter have expressed any regret or resentment in these roles, the actors have matured enough to give that consent. How old do you have to be to be considered shy and should I be allowed to change my mind later?

Or Nastassja Kinski? When she was 13, German author Wim Wenders cast her in her 1975 Wrong Move, in which she appeared topless in sexual situations (once an adult, Kinski worked with Wenders again in Paris, Texas, Faraway and So Close). The 14-year-old was portrayed naked in Hammer Horror to the Devil, her daughter co-starring Christopher Lee. At 17, she starred in the sex-her comedy Stay As You Are, playing her teenage lover Marcello, who was in her mid-50s at the time, Mastroianni’s regularly naked (Lolita she ‘forbidden’ romances in the style of . In 1997 Kinski said: nude thing. And it just ripped me apart.

Lawsuit... Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey in a less controversial scene in Romeo and Juliet.
Lawsuit… Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey in a less controversial scene in Romeo and Juliet. Photo: Collection Christophel/Alamy

A scouring through the remnants of European cinema from the 1970s and 80s reveals a number of well-forgotten but disturbingly exploitative films, among them “erotic dramas” and child sexual abuse. Some seem to blur the lines between Many are still in circulation. Some contrast liberal-minded European cinema with down-to-earth Hollywood, including Olivia Hussey. “In Europe,” she said told Variety in 2018looking back at Romeo and Juliet, said, “There was nudity in a lot of movies. No one really thought much about it.”

But the claim that ‘this was Europe’ is less compelling than the claim that ‘it was another era’. Especially since US movies used young actors in sexually suggestive content. Brooke Shields Filmed Naked To Be Owned By Playboy sugar and spice magazine In 1980, at the age of 14, she starred in the controversial Calvin Klein Jeans sexual advertising campaign (“Do you want to know what’s between me and my Calvin? Nothing?”). is not”).

In the meantime, her breakout movie came along. In Pretty Baby, she played the 12-year-old daughter of a sex worker in a New Orleans brothel in 1917. The director was indeed European Louis Mull, but the story was American Polly Pratt. Started and co-written by. Pratt was influenced not only by the work of photographer EJ Belloc, who captured the New Orleans red light district, but also by his exploitative 1970s film industry. Shields’ character has a sexual relationship with Belloq (played by Keith Carradine) and poses naked for him.

US TV host Ronna Barrett and others called the film “child porn”. “A straight gaze is full of contradictory sexualities.” people magazine Shields has never directly accused others of being underage.She said she was “protected by my naivety” during the Calvin Klein controversy, and in 2021, she told the Guardian She added, “I was not personally hurt” by Pretty Baby. I think older actresses need to play younger roles. ”

Posing Naked... Shields as a 12-year-old in Louis Malle's Pretty Baby (1978).
Posing Naked… Shields as a 12-year-old in Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby (1978). Photo: PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy

Pretty Baby also raised the issue of censorship. overlaps with British Film Censorship Board Two scenes in which Shields is fully nude were cut (Malais initially resisted). .

After Pretty Baby, 14-year-old Shields starred in The Blue Lagoon, where he and then-18-year-old Christopher Atkins played an abandoned teenager on a deserted island. Shield’s old body doubles pose their own problems. As with the film’s box office successes prior to the similarly questionable film deluge, it appears that they are meant to escape as much teenage nudity as they can. , and Paradise, a Blue Lagoon imitation in which 17-year-old Phoebe Cates performed nude scenes of herself. told People magazine At the time, “If a girl wants a career, she has to be willing to strip. is angry with the filmmaker who used a body double to insert an extra nudity scene without her consent.

Perhaps the most extreme precedent for Hussey and Whiting’s lawsuit is French actor Eva Ionesco, whose mother Irina photographed her and, from the age of five, photographed her naked and in sexual situations to others. Before the age of 13, Ionesco was depicted naked on the covers of Italian Playboy magazine and German magazine Der Spiegel, and was not mentioned in several European films.After a string of lawsuits, a French court issued an order Irina Ionesco Pay damages of over €80,000 to my daughter, destroy or give away the negatives and refrain from “displaying, selling or transmitting” Eva’s images without her consent.

Whiting and Hussey’s Romeo and Juliet complaints seem pretty mild. In the controversial Romeo and Juliet scene, Whiting’s buttocks are visible and, for a moment, Hussey’s breasts are exposed. It pointed outIn 2018, Hussey said: But we knew better. ”

Jodie Foster, Robert De Niro, and Martin Scorsese created
Jodie Foster, Robert De Niro, and Martin Scorsese created “Taxi Driver,” in which 12-year-old Foster played a girl forced into prostitution. Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

As we have seen, many parties involved in such cases have said similar things, but that does not necessarily invalidate their claims. Jonathan Wheeler, Attorney Specializing in Child Abuse Cases: “Someone was abused and it was on record and I thought ‘I didn’t think I was at the time’ or ‘I thought I had a great experience on set. and later say they think they’ve been exploited, it may not matter. ”

The trend today is to be more open and honest about teenage sexuality, as seen on shows such as HBO. euphoria and Netflix’s sex educationBut protection for young actors is stronger today, largely as a result of the #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein scandals.Those who play teenagers are almost always over the age of 18 and often have a no nudity clause in their contracts. Introducing the Onset Intimacy Coordinator also helped.

The contested Romeo and Juliet scene would probably play out very differently today, says Ita O’Brien, a leading intimacy coordinator who worked on sex education. would have been,” says O’Brien. “So we’re doing rehearsals, so there’s no surprises when we get to that.” Communication and consent, not just with parents and guardians, but with actors and filmmakers, is essential, and actual nudity becomes necessary. “For example, if it’s inappropriate for someone to be naked, have them wear a leotard and tights, put them behind a screen, put a light behind them, and do it all in silhouette.” .”

Yet the urge to sail near the wind never goes away. More worms can emerge from this can.Actor in Channel 4’s provocative teen series skinfor example, questioning how they were placed in exposure and sexual situations. I asked

Her Skins co-star Raya Lewis agreed, “It was a little too much for me.” Speaking about “all the anxiety that comes with it,” Lewis noted her body image issues, adding, “My first day was a sex scene.” Her Kaya Scodelario, who was 14 when she started her Skins, recently posted this. on TikTok: “At the time, staying safe wasn’t really an issue.” statement: “We are deeply and unequivocally sorry that our cast members felt uncomfortable or were not treated with respect while working with Skins. We are committed to the continuous evolution of effective and enjoyable working conditions.”

The cast of Skins.
The cast of Skins. Photo: Channel 4

Many of Euphoria’s young actors expressed similar concerns About the level of nudity in the show. Sydney Sweeneyfor example, she said she asked for less nudity in certain scenes, and showrunner Sam Levinson obliged. [a nude scene]”He didn’t make me,” she said.

However, as a result of the Hussey/Whiting affair, Zeffirelli’s assertion that a Romeo and Juliet movie would fail if the actors did not appear naked was shown to be false.Many have managed adaptations without crossing the line – especially Baz Luhrmann in 1996 Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes version It replaced Zeffirelli’s as the freshest take.

It somehow feels fitting that this issue was raised by Shakespeare’s story, which remains one of the most enduring accounts of young love and sexuality in an entire culture. The challenges facing filmmakers are arguably the same as those faced by playwrights. That is, how to deal with such problems within the social norms of the time. It’s no exaggeration to say that Shakespeare deciphered it. After 500 years, the other attempts seem very old.

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