Leonard Whiting

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Leonard Whiting
Born (1950-06-30) 30 June 1950 (age 72)
London, England
Occupation(s)Actor, singer
Years active1966–1975, 1990–1995, 2015
(m. 1971; div. 1977)

Lynn Presser
(m. 1995)

Leonard Whiting (born 30 June 1950) is a British born, semi-retired actor and singer best known for his teenage role as Romeo in Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet,[1] a role which earned him the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor in 1969.[2]

Early life[edit]

Whiting was born on 30 June 1950,[3] in Wood Green, moving with his two sisters to Holloway, another area of North London, England. The only son of Peggy Joyce (O'Sullivan) and Arthur Leonard Whiting, he has English, Irish and some Romani ancestry. Whiting's love of performing was encouraged at his local Church and Primary School, St Josephs R.C Highgate, where he and sister Linda acted in the school's nativity plays. Leonard went on to attend St. Richard of Chichester School, Camden Town, leaving in 1967, before his 17th birthday, to begin work on Romeo and Juliet (1968).[4][5][6][7][8]


Whiting had some success as a child singer, almost winning Butlin's Talent Contest (he came second) hosted in the holiday camp's packed out Gaiety Theatre.[9] Whiting was later spotted by a theatrical agent at the Connaught Rooms Holborn, where he was performing at a Jewish wedding at the age of 12. He only sang one song ("Summertime") which he had rehearsed as a one-off song with the group Teal Lewis and the Fourtunes, who provided the evening's entertainment. This appearance, was set up by his father to get him noticed. After hearing him sing, the agent suggested he try out for Lionel Bart's Oliver! which constantly needed replacements for its child performers.[9] Whiting played the Artful Dodger in the long-running London musical for 15 months, and for 13 months in 1965–1966 appeared at Laurence Olivier's National Theatre in the production of William Congreve's Love for Love opposite Olivier, which toured Moscow and Berlin.[10][11][12]

Director Franco Zeffirelli described his discovery, from 300 youngsters who had auditioned over a period of more than three months as: "He has a magnificent face, gentle melancholy, sweet, the kind of idealistic young man Romeo ought to be."[9] Olivier did an uncredited narration in the 1968 production of Romeo and Juliet for Zeffirelli.

He played the male lead, opposite Jean Simmons in the 1971 film,[13] Say Hello to Yesterday, a romantic comedy, filmed on location in and around London, set over one day, with him pursuing a bored housewife, twice his age storyline.

In the mid-1970s, his voice caught the attention of Abbey Road and The Dark Side of the Moon engineer Alan Parsons, who was in the process of recording what was to be the first album by the Alan Parsons Project, Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Whiting performed lead vocals on the song "The Raven"[14] and he also narrated the introduction of the five part musical rendition of The Fall of the House of Usher on the original 1976 album, which was then replaced by Orson Welles on the 1987 remixed version.

Whiting was cast as the Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in London's Westminster Theatre between 27 November 1978 and 17 January 1979. This was a Ken Hill production with the Pharaoh played by Whiting in the style of Elvis Presley.[15][16]

In 1990, Whiting provided the voice of the Urpney scientist Urpgor in the children's animated television series The Dreamstone.[17] After voicing the character for three seasons, he was replaced by Colin Marsh for the fourth and final season.

In 2014, he reunited professionally with his friend Olivia Hussey for Social Suicide (2015), their first film together in the 46 years since the Franco Zeffirelli production of Romeo and Juliet.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Whiting dated his teenage co-star Olivia Hussey for a time and the two have remained close.[6] In 1971, he married US model Cathee Dahmen[19] and in 1972, they had a daughter, Sarah Beth Whiting, who died in America in 2014 from cervical cancer.[19]

Following his divorce from Dahmen in 1977, Whiting had a relationship with theatre designer Valerie Marion Tobin, who gave birth to their daughter Charlotte. Charlotte has said publicly that she did not meet her father until she was 12, by which time she had taken her step-father's surname, Westenra (her mother had remarried in 1982). Charlotte Westenra became a theatre director.[20][21][22]

In 1995, Whiting married his assistant, Lynn Presser. Whiting ended his film career, for the most part, in the mid-1970s and subsequently focused on his theatrical career as an actor and writer.[23] He and his wife live in Steele's Village in Haverstock, north London.[24]


On 30 December 2022, Whiting's lawyer filed joint legal actions with his former co-star Olivia Hussey in Los Angeles against Paramount Pictures for sexual abuse and fraud during the filming of Romeo and Juliet, when he was aged 17 (she was 16), alleging the nude scenes amounted to child abuse.[25][26][27][28] The reported $100 million+[29] claim for punitive damages is made possible due to the temporary suspension of the statute-of-limitations laws in the State of California for claims of historic sexual abuse allegations. 31 December 2022 was the state's absolute filing deadline for people over 40 years of age.[30] Paramount Pictures have reportedly earned up to $500 million from the production, and Whiting, according to business manager Tony Marinozzi,[31] wants Paramount held accountable for the mental and emotional abuse suffered over the intervening years. The third act nude sequence, it is claimed, was "secretly filmed" in September 1967 by director Franco Zeffirelli, despite the alleged objections from the two stars, who played Romeo and Juliet in the film, released in 1968. If substantiated, this would show that Whiting was aged at least 17 years and 2 months during the controversially shot scenes, making him well below the age of legal consent of 18 (as was co-star Olivia Hussey) for filming of nude scenes.[29][32][33]


Year Film Role Other notes
1968 Romeo and Juliet Romeo Winner: Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor, 1969[2]

Winner: David di Donatello Golden Plate Award 1969 (Shared with Olivia Hussey)[34]

1969 Giacomo Casanova: Childhood and Adolescence Giacomo Casanova
The Royal Hunt of the Sun Young Martin
1970 Say Hello to Yesterday Boy
1972 À la guerre comme à la guerre [fr] Franz Keller
1975 Rachel's Man Jacob
2015 Social Suicide Julia's Father
Year Title Role Notes
1965 A Poor Gentleman The Page TV film
1965 Laughter from the Whitehall Albert Butch Episode: "Women Aren't Angels"
1966 The Wonderful World of Disney Jimmy the Dip Episode: "The Legend of Young Dick Turpin"
1973 Frankenstein: The True Story Victor Frankenstein TV film
1973 Love Story Nicholas Miller Episode: "My Brother's House"
1973 Smike! Nicholas Nickleby TV film
1990–1994 The Dreamstone Urpgor (voice)


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger (15 October 1968). "Romeo and Juliet movie review (1968)". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 6 August 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020 – via rogerebert.com.
  2. ^ a b "Leonard Whiting". GoldenGlobes.com. Archived from the original on 26 January 2021. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  3. ^ "Birthdays". The Sunday Times. London. 30 June 2013.
  4. ^ Pathé, British. "Italy: Filming On". britishpathe.com. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  5. ^ "Pin on Olivia Hussey". Pinterest. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  6. ^ a b "Olivia Hussey, star of Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet: 'I was wild'". the Guardian. 1 August 2018. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  7. ^ "Pienza". The Romeo and Juliet 1968 Movie Database. 9 October 2018. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  8. ^ Thatch, Willow and (16 November 2018). "50 Years Later: 5 Reasons to Watch Romeo and Juliet". Willow and Thatch. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  9. ^ a b c "Pin by lesley on Olivia Hussey & Len Whiting | Romeo and Juliet, Posters UK, Leonard whiting". Pinterest. Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  10. ^ Aba, Marika (9 August 1970). "Film Romeo Continues His Success Story". Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^ "Production of Love For Love". Theatricalia. Archived from the original on 22 July 2020. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  12. ^ "Then and Now: Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey (1967). British Film Institute". Youtube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021.
  13. ^ "Say Hello to Yesterday (1971)". Radio Times. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  14. ^ "The Alan Parsons Project - Tales of Mystery And Imagination - Edgar Allan Poe". Discogs. Archived from the original on 27 September 2020. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  15. ^ "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". TheatreGold. 16 January 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  16. ^ "Joseph and the Amazing Techni color Dreamcoat". The Radio Times. No. 2876. 21 December 1978. p. 55. ISSN 0033-8060. Archived from the original on 29 January 2022. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  17. ^ "Leonard Whiting". IMDb. Archived from the original on 28 August 2020. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  18. ^ Ford, Rebecca (23 September 2014). "'Romeo and Juliet' Stars Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey Reuniting for 'Social Suicide'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2 August 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  19. ^ a b "Sarah Beth Whiting Knestrick - Obituary". Stamford Advocate. 13 March 2014. Archived from the original on 15 April 2021. Retrieved 8 September 2020 – via Legacy.com.
  20. ^ Rapaport, Carrie (27 July 2016). "Charlotte Westenra: Bringing Social Awareness to the Stage". Journo Portfolio. Archived from the original on 26 January 2021. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  21. ^ "Interview with Charlotte Westenra: At the Crossroad of Politics and Theatre". Jinshan Hong. 3 September 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  22. ^ "About". Charlotte Westenra. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  23. ^ Brennan, Sandra. "Biography". Archived from the original on 19 April 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2011.[dead link]
  24. ^ Marshall, Tom (9 November 2014). "My Steele's Village: Actor Leonard Whiting, star of Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, praises his 'amazing community'". Hampstead & Highgate Express. Archived from the original on 30 September 2020. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  25. ^ "Romeo and Juliet actors sue Paramount for child abuse in 1968 film". The Guardian. 3 January 2023. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  26. ^ "Romeo and Juliet: Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting sue over 1968 film's 'sexual abuse'". BBC News. 4 January 2023. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  27. ^ "Romeo and Juliet stars are suing Paramount over 1968 film's nude scene". The Independent. 4 January 2023. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  28. ^ Watts, Matt (4 January 2023). "Romeo and Juliet stars sue Paramount pictures over 1968 film's teen nude scene". Evening Standard. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  29. ^ a b "'Romeo and Juliet' stars sue for sexual abuse over 1968 film's nude scene". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  30. ^ "2020 California Code :: Code of Civil Procedure - CCP :: PART 2 - OF CIVIL ACTIONS :: TITLE 2 - OF THE TIME OF COMMENCING CIVIL ACTIONS :: CHAPTER 3 - The Time of Commencing Actions Other Than for the Recovery of Real Property :: Section 340.1". Justia Law. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  31. ^ Marinozzi, Tony. "Tony Marinozzi". Tony Marinozzi. Retrieved 5 January 2023.
  32. ^ Jacobs, Julia (4 January 2023). "Teen Stars of 'Romeo and Juliet' Sue Over Nudity in 1968 Film". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  33. ^ "The $500m Romeo and Juliet case opens a new frontier for #MeToo reckoning | Peter Bradshaw". the Guardian. 4 January 2023. Retrieved 5 January 2023.
  34. ^ "Leonard Whiting - Awards". IMDb. Archived from the original on 8 November 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2020.

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