An American actor accuses Franco Zeffirelli of making sexual demands

An American actor accuses Franco Zeffirelli of making sexual demands


norman lebrecht

January 14, 2018

The actor Johnathon Schaech has written an account in People magazine of how the Italian director, who cast him in Storia di una capinera  (Sparrow) in 1992, came on to him while they were making the film. Schaech was 22 at the time, Zeffirelli around 60.

This is as bad as it got:

One night, I think it was when we were at a hotel in Sicily and my costar wasn’t there, he told me he was coming to my room. This time he had managed to get a key. I was in bed sleeping and he let himself into the bedroom and he got beside my bed and was over the top of me on the side of the bed as I awoke. He got in my face. There was a moment where I was telling him “No” and he told me, “We have to.” I remember his breath smelling of scotch. And this is the whole thing, and you hear it from the women who are opening up now about their own experiences with abuse: There’s a moment where, even though you are taught to be charming and have sex appeal as an actor, a line is crossed and everything changes. When someone crosses that line, when someone preys on you, there’s a panic that sets in. That’s what Franco did. He crossed that boundary and I felt as though I left my body. He molested me in my bed. He put his hands in places that I couldn’t even imagine and he did things that I am not proud of. But it’s not my fault. His pants never came off but I can [still] see him fumbling with his belt. He attempted to give me oral sex. I just remember being like, “God, please no. I’m OK, I’m OK.” I did nothing. I just lay there in bed. It felt like four hours but it was probably like 30 seconds.

Read on here.

Zeffirelli, who is 94, has made no comment.



  • Sue says:

    I’ve heard this a lot about FZ. It’s been an open secret.

  • Wijker de Grooote says:

    Who really gives a toss (pun intended)?

  • Respect says:

    Th singers union filed charges against after he directed in D.C. He’s a notorious lecher.

    • Sue says:

      Carlos Kleiber used to visit FZ and always took a female (not his wife), which I presumed was, inter alia, some kind of human shield!!!

      • Petros Linardos says:

        There we go again about Carlos Kleiber! At least he must have had enough charm to get what he wanted from consenting adult ladies!

        • Sue says:

          It was more the fact he didn’t feel “safe” without a woman in toe at FZ’s home!! What does that tell you?

          • Petros Linardos says:

            You are making good sense.
            I was only amused, because I saw your comment right after responding to another CK comment of yours at the Jansons thread. Moreover, since I was very sad to read about those allegations against Zeffirelli, whose work I liked very much (I only knew of his orientation), my next thought was whether we’d hear anything about Kleiber, who was famously a serial adulterer. Hence my other comment.

      • James says:

        Were Kleiber still alive, I fear he would become the target of many a vengeful lady
        and his reputation would hardly survive, given the current climate of joyous character

        • Hilary says:

          There’s not an issue with rapacious sexual appetite, and even adultery. The controversies have been about non-consensual sex, and abuse of power.
          With that said, not all accusations stand up to much scrutiny.

  • Hilary says:

    It’s no secret that Monty, in the cult classic ” Withnail and I” is based on FZ. See the third section of this article :

  • herrera says:

    Two things surprised me about this article:

    1) Zeffirelli is still alive?
    2) Zeffirelli has a son? (He was, like, married with a woman?)

    In any case, Bruce Robinson already made an allegation 10 years ago of unwanted sexual advance, so nothing new here.

    What these 2 actors show, if the allegations are true, is that Zeffirelli had a type.

  • Francis Asissy says:

    Enough speculative judgement. Schaech should have known better than to make this public. And I highly doubt it was the only time a man made advance to him. Age has nothing to do with it.

    • Hilary says:

      ” I highly doubt it was the only time a man made advance to him.”

      but what’s described here-if accurate-goes beyond the the definition of ‘made an advance’.
      There are lots of grey areas in these cases and it’s a shame when all variants get lumped together (see the tenuous Jenny Q Chai in relation to Dutoit) but this instance seems deplorable, and worth going public even if no charges will ever be made.

  • anon says:

    Good thing his sets are retired from the Met, spares Gelb the headache of having to ban Zeffirelli productions.

    • Edgar says:

      La Boheme and Turandot are still shown in FZ sets. Trouble with those is that there is so much going on onstage that it distracts from the music making, both onstage and in the pit.