There’s a growing fuss over plans to cast 14-year-old True Grit actress Hailee Steinfeld in a film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet that calls for nudity. And although it’s pretty much certain that a body double would be used, some people have suggested that the pursuit of art should be held back if it even comes close to implying underage sex.
The script for the new film, written by Julian Fellowes, reportedly includes at least one scene in which Romeo and Juliet undress one another. While that is within the spirit of Shakespeare’s play, critics argue that showing nudity – either real or implied – from a 14-year-old girl is a definite no-no. And various newspapers and websites have run breathless headlines about how Hailee Steinfeld will ‘bare all’, clearly tapping into the public’s desire to read all the latest news about breasts.
Although Brooke Shields was just 12 years old when she appeared nude in Pretty Baby, most films hold back from anything so controversial. And if Romeo and Juliet does include nudity from Juliet, you can be sure that the breasts and whatever-else will be those of a body double. Some people have even suggested that CGI could be used to put Steinfeld’s head onto someone else’s naked body, a move that would be… morally complicated, to say the least.
The other thing worth mentioning is that Romeo and Juliet is set in Italy, where the age of consent is 14, so technically it wouldn’t be illegal. The lowest age of consent in Europe is 13, in Spain. It is sometimes mistakenly claimed that the age of consent in the Vatican is 12. In fact, this was merely the case in the 1920’s when the Vatican adopted the (then) same age of consent as Italy. Subsequently, when Italy increased the age of consent to 14, the Vatican followed suit.