MILAN (AP) — The following is the full text of the statement made by Franco Zeffirelli's son, defending the Italian director against sexual molestation allegations made by actor Johnathon Schaech:
In reference to articles that have appeared today in the international media, in which serious accusations by Johnathan Schaech against Franco Zeffirelli are reported, the son of the maestro, Pippo Corsi Zeffirelli, affirms as follows:
Mr. Schaech, who at the time was 23 years old, was chosen from among many candidates for the role of Nino in the film "Sparrow," (Italian title "Storia di una Capinera"). The assertions of abuse are not true. Directors have different styles and when they are dealing with actors who don't have experience, at times, they are more demanding and more pressing.
Zeffirelli gave to Mr. Schaech his first break, despite that Johnathon at the time was suffering from an obstruction of the throat that made his speech difficult. For this reason, at the end of the filming, Zeffirelli decided to dub the character played by Schaech by an English actor, and that sent him on a rampage.
Therefore, the accusations made today by Mr. Johnathon Schaech have the flavor of a "fumus persecutionis," but also of a true and proper vendetta.
That is not all.
In recent years I have been occasionally in touch with Mr. Schaech via WhatsApp: He updated me on changes in his life and sometimes he thanked me for the evolution of his career. Everything was always with great cordiality and without ever letting slip a sign of psychological discomfort that Mr. Schaech says to have experienced.
Then at the beginning of December, I received a call in which he asked me for news about the maestro's health; after being briefed on the matter, he closed the call insisting that I send along his greetings.
About a week after this phone call, I received an email from the American magazine People, which anticipated Johnathon's accusations.
Today, reading the published article, it seems to me he really wanted to write a novel. I am amazed that Mr. Schaech waited so long and chose this exact moment for making his accusations, now that the maestro, because of his health condition, cannot defend himself. It seems to me, therefore, that it is a clear vendetta against Franco Zeffirelli, with the hope of obtaining the notoriety that at the beginning Mr. Schaech thought to obtain, but which his acting career never procured for him.