Entertainment icon Olivia de Havilland has scored another victory as her lawsuit against FX and Feud producers is getting fast-tracked in large part to de Havilland’s age (101). The FX series Feud is about the grudge between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and de Havilland filed a lawsuit after she contends she was recklessly portrayed in the series in a negative way. A California judge announced today that the case will be heard in November in a Los Angeles court.
Olivia de Havilland, who currently lives in Paris, is the only person portrayed in the FX series Feud: Bette and Joan who is still living, and she is taking offense to the manner in which she was portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones. After Feud aired, de Havilland filed suit against Ryan Murphy productions and the FX network.
In the complaint, Olivia de Havilland claims she has built a career over a lifetime based on integrity and dignity and did her best to refrain from gossip, and yet the series opened with a scene featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones as de Havilland doing an interview as a gossip columnist, according to attorney Suzelle Smith.
“[A]ll statements made by Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland in this fake interview are completely false, some inherently so; others false because they were never said. FX defendants did not engage in protected First Amendment speech in putting false words into the mouth of Olivia de Havilland in a fake interview that did not occur and would not have occurred.”
Olivia de Havilland says that Feud was portrayed as factual, and yet she was never contacted by Ryan Murphy or anyone in his production company. Murphy admits that he had no interaction with de Havilland.
“I didn’t write Olivia because I didn’t want to be disrespectful and ask her, ‘Did this happen? Did that happen? What was your take on that?'”
Attorney Suzelle Smith says that de Havilland also took umbrage with the way her relationship with her own sister played out on screen in Feud.
“Zeta-Jones’ de Havilland refers to Joan Fontaine as her ‘bitch sister,’ an offensive term that stands in stark contrast with Olivia de Havilland’s reputation for good manners, class, and kindness.”
Olivia de Havilland says that all of the Feud defendants know there is no publicly sourced information that backs up the scenes where she behaves crudely or in a gossipy manner. And in fact, the scenes were added in to draw attention to the Feud broadcast, according to her legal team.
“Each FX defendant knew Feud would be more successful if they placed an individual like Olivia de Havilland, who is known for her honesty and integrity, at the forefront of the story. Her credibility, as both the only living person of significance portrayed in Feud and as a reliable source who was close to the action, added to the success of Feud at the expense of Olivia de Havilland.”
Olivia de Havilland is suing the Feud production team and FX for infringement of common law right of publicity, invasion of privacy and unjust enrichment and is asking the court for not only damages but also any profits gained from the use of her likeness and an injunction to keep FX from continuing to use her name and likeness.
Superior Court Judge Holly Kendig says she sees no reason to delay the matter, and that de Havilland’s case will be heard in November.
“I can’t imagine not granting the motion based on the plaintiff being 101.”
The Feud trial will start November 27, and Judge Kendig says it will last a week.
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Ryan Murphy is best known for his series American Horror Story, which has become a staple of the FX network.
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