Where are they now: Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet


 I just finished watching the classic film Romeo and Juliet directed by Franco Zeffirelli in 1968 with one of my classes. Such a gorgeous film. And populated with unfamiliar faces, too. I wondered why that was, and I set out on a quest to find out what happened to the stars of that film.

Leonard Whiting (Romeo)

Oh Romeo, Romeo… where the hell are you, Romeo? Isn’t he the one we all wonder most about? After all, he’s quite pretty to look at in the film.

He was nominated for a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year in 1968. Frankly, after that, he virtually disappeared, appearing in a handful of films that did not garner near the attention or success of Romeo and Juliet. According to a People magazine article published in 1992, Leonard became a writer after retiring from films in the mid-1970s, though he is as yet unpublished. He felt he had been typecast and could not overcome it. He is married to his (former?) manager Lynn Presser and has two grown daughters by a previous marriage. Here is the most recent picture of him that I could find:

Of course, he’s 54 now, which puts him right around the same age as my dad — and if you look at it like that, I have to say he’s held up pretty well in comparison. Click to view a popup scan of the People article from 1992.

Olivia Hussey (Juliet)

What a beautiful young thing.

Certainly, her film career has been more lasting than Whiting’s, but to be fair, he probably has a point about being typecast. It would not appear that Hussey has had the same problem. She recently played Mother Teresa in a made-for-TV movie, she has two movies in post production and an official website. I last saw her in the made-for-TV production of Stephen King’s IT. However, one wouldn’t exactly call her a star. I’d like to know why. She has hardly aged a day, and she’s still gorgeous.

She is currently 53.

Michael York (Tybalt)

Michael York is, in my opinion, the one star of this production with the most lucrative and vibrant acting career.

Perhaps most well known recently as Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers series, and known to sci-fi fans as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run, he is an Officer of the British Empire. He’s, of course, still acting. Here is what he looks like today:

Bruce Robinson (Benvolio)

I suppose one could argue that Benvolio was the only prominent role played by Bruce Robinson, who grew disenchanted with acting (waiting for the phone to ring and doing commercials) and became a screenwriter. In fact, he wrote the screenplay for the phenomenal movie The Killing Fields. Many biographies cite also a semi-autobiographical movie Withnail and I, which Robinson directed. I haven’t seen that, so I can’t tell you much about it. It is supposed to be a cult classic. Here is what he looks like now:

John McEnery (Mercutio)

Who could forget John McEnery’s turn as Mercutio? He was, in a word, brilliant. He is a well-known British stage actor, but his movie roles have not exactly been few and far between.

Here he is now in a recent production of Taking Sides:

Incidentally, as I researched information for this post, I found out that Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting apparently dated and were quite serious about each other. In fact, in a 1995 interview with a Russian journalist, Whiting said,

It is very strange, because we have never spoken to western journalists about the truth. We madly liked one another, or, at least, I was madly in love with her. But our paths in life have not coincided, unfortunately. No one understands it, but it was the truth. I liked her very much.

The two remain friends. Here’s a recent picture of them together:

Update, 5/16/07: I appreciate the interest this post continues to receive.  I love this film, and I am so pleased that Shakespeare fans everywhere continue to derive enjoyment from it.  I am, however, going to close the comments for this post.  Unfortunately, the caliber of comments has gradually devolved into fangirly squeeing, coupled the the random complaint about Leonard Whiting’s age.  In the interests of maintaining a higher level of discourse, comments will no longer be accepted for this particular post.  I ask that you use my contact form if you have questions about this post.


29 thoughts on “Where are they now: Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet

  1. Tell us the answer to the trivia question about Walden!

    I refuse to show my classes the Leo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet because… because… because it's such a crock of shit. In my opinion. Ahem. Excuse me. Zeferelli's version is perfect.

    Thanks for all your advice! You rock! We must get together for bagels and schmeer next time I'm in Atlanta!

  2. Yeah…we watched that in English a few weeks ago…I'm trying to write a story about Rosaline now, but I needed a picture of Benvolio (the hottie) to inspire me. Great picture of him, btw. Cool article. I thought there was some chemistry between Hussey and Whiting in the movie…I bet it was the bed scene…anyways, yeah…this was a better version than the Leo DiCaprio version, on account of Leo sucks as an actor…Nice article, anyways.

  3. Hi, I love the 1968 Romeo & Juliet. I went down to the Brea Mall to special order it, because I couldn't find it anywhere. I really don't like the new Romeo & Juliet; the first 1968 is perfect. Leonard Whiting is a hottie back in his time, and he still looks great. And Juliet looks great too.

  4. Leonard Whiting was pretty fine in his day. He looks ok now, I was expecting him to look like a "Silver Fox" with a little George Clooney-ish salt & pepper hair and age gracefully, oh well. But back then, he did look like a male model. Too bad he was a little short.

  5. I was 13 when the 1968 movie was released. I had such a crush on Leonard Whiting and still do. Why else would I be looking for information on him in 2006! Leonard was "Romeo". He is the only star I have ever wanted to meet. He really shaped my opinion on love. No one compares…

  6. I was at lunch with a friend and got talking with a British guy who identified himself as L. J. Whiting (Leonard). I’m a Brit so talking with him was a treat. He said he was on business for “the day” and told me that he lived in Hampstead, London. He also told me he was an actor of yesteryear and played “Romeo” in the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version of “Romeo and Juliet”. While it all seemed a little odd he was quite convincing. I googled him this evening and came up with this blog and the story about the film. So now we know that LJ is alive and well!

  7. Both my teenage boys have studied R & J in English class, so I've rented the Zefferelli film a few times. The acting of Leonard Whiting is truly extraordinary. Olivia H. too, is excellent, but I think Romeo's energy and physicality give the movie a dynamism that doesn't exist in other versions. The youthful exuberance, bravado, & vulnerability of the teenage Romeo is so true (speaking as the mother of boys), it is hard to remember that this was just acting. And the chemistry between Leonard & Olivia is so real, it makes sense that there was an off screen romance.

    It is unfortunate that Leonard didn't continue to act regardless of his typecasting, because with another hit, he would have been in a better position to recast himself. Look at Madonna! It's our loss, and reading his bio, seems like his loss too, unfortunately.

  8. ..at the very first time I saw Romeo (Leonard Whiting),i honestly fell in love with him…uhm, i mean he's sooooooo gorgeous that time, so handsome.Even more handsome than Zac Efron my crush. I like him so much. I wished he's still a teenager now but the truth is he's not. That's the fact but i can't accept it. anyway, but i should. olivia hussey was sooooooooo very gorgeous too. I think she's the most beautiful actress ever happened to be….that movie was a great work of art..the bed scenes were done so artistically. but not only the bed scenes, actually the whole movie..and so i wished leonard and olivia got together but it did not happened..when i surfed the net about that movie and read the biographies of the two of them, i got disappointed because they had not gone together….but when i read what was written here i've gotten a little hope…wow…after watching the movie, i loved it so much…anyway, it's all i can say…

  9. i watched this film when I was 12 and fell totally in love with the production,lovely to see this site and find what happened to the main charecters having watched the film again last night. Wonderful website Leonard Whiting was on my bedroom wall for many years thankyou Fifi

  10. I watched the film for the first time when I was 12. I felt in love with Leonard Withing, the production and the music, as a matter of fact I studied music for six years after that and I have a major in Shakespeare.I still keep things that I collected from the film in those days and of course I lo love this Website. Thankyou

  11. Oh, my god! I just finished watching Romeo and Juliet {old version} and I cant help noticing that Leonard W. looks a lot like Zac Efron. I'm 14, so I can totally relate to it all. {the whole love sick teenager stuff} In my school, we've been reading some Shakespeare writings. We've read Midnight Summer's Dream, Julius Ceaser, and we just finished Romeo and Juliet. I wanted to see both the old version and the new one. Both were very well done, but I seemed to like the old one better. So, good job {even though its almost 40 years late} to all the actors in the old Romeo and Juliet!

  12. :razz::grin::razz::grin::razz: omg in the movie romeo was so hot! … funny to see him nowadyas:smile::mrgreen::lol:

  13. i love this movie i have it and lenard is old:cry: and hes not cute:eek: at all but hussy still kinda looks the same the other acters dont look the same at all 😉

  14. I'm 15 now but,I first saw the movie when I was 10, I love it so much, and Leonard Whiting was so hot:smile:! It's sad that he didn't stay that way:cry:My mom was 12 when this movie came out in theatres and she had a huge crush on L.W. to .

  15. This movie is great. We just watched it in english and i totally fell in love. Whiting was so hot, but now, well you know:cry: 😥

  16. So guys, you can see what age does to men and women. We shoud use our time more prudently. From now try to be more prudent while falling in love.

  17. I was 8 years old in 1968 when Romeo and Juliet came out. I remember dragging my mom to see it. I don't know how much of Shakespeare I absorbed at that tender age, but I remember the visuals were stunning. It's so much more fun to see this flick on the big screen; but atleast we can get it on DVD. All I wanted to do was grow up and marry Leonard Whiting. And ya know what? If he was single and I was single now, I'd still go for it!…..:grin:

  18. :lol:I watched both Romeo and Juliet films but the 1968 film was better because LEONARD WHITING WAS hot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. 🙂 well i am reading the book in our english class and i'm half way through i'm watching the movie on each act i am about to be on Act 3. i wonder why olivia and leonard didn't get married or stayed together forever in real life? well that only makes the movie better if they actually did like/love each other. i hear Romeo and Juliet die? well i'm not finished yet so don't tell me lol! I only wish one day i could find someone who loves me just as much as they loved each other in the movie. when this movie came out my mom was only one year younger than olivia so ya my mom is in her 50's lol. my dad is in his 50's also so they are really close in age. i'm 15 and i have alot of time ahead of me. But i really wish i had a Romeo or at least the young Leonard Whiting! lol. I didn't even know there was a new movie with leonardo di caprio so i must see that to but i bet the 1968 version is better! well Romeo and Juliet will last forever in my heart.:grin:

  20. i really thougth that it was such a wonderful story! romeo is so hott in that movie an di wish i new him when he was young!!!!!:eek:

  21. O Romeo, Romeo u "were" so beautiful and HOT:lol:Romeo!!! but now…. 😕 plus were hot too Tybalt and Benvolo!!!

  22. This movie is my favorite of all Romeos and Juliets I have ever seen. I had a crush for Olivia Hussey. I would only wish the best for all the crew but specially for Olivia and Leonard, what a wonderful couple the made…

  23. i'm in 8th grade and we're reading romeo and juliet and watching the movie as we go along… one time we watched the new one and i thought it was just HORRIBLE. it ruined the whole thing. the old one is so beautiful. a lot of the girls in my class think Romeo looks like Zac Efron but i personally think he's a lot cuter!

  24. the old film of romeo and juliet! i've to do a project on it! but it keeps on coming up romeo and julliet..with claire danes!!!! i dont know what to do! any one else know??? please help!

  25. MMMM… Leonard what a hottie. I wouldn't mind masquarading with him at night.

  26. OMG at my school we just wathed romeo and juliet and leonard whiting is the hottest!! or he was really hot when he was seventeen. I stared into his gorgeous face the whole time we watched the movie!! i seriously wanted to see the credits just to see what his name was! i hope i dont get some kind of crush on him though because i already like someone else and plus leonards is, like, 57 years old now! or fifty seven in june that is. is there anyway i could write to him??? peeps, lemme know. thx 😉


  27. one of the most beautiful movies ever made,flawless,perfect.Zefferelli is a genius.Saw it in college when I was 22, with my ex boyfriend.I know I cried my eyes out,because I knew what it was like to be madly in love. The other students called us R and J.

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