Olivia de Havilland Says Her 'Feud' Portrayal is Not Protected by the First Amendment

The actress takes issue with her fictional self's gossip mongering.
Left, Photofest; Right, courtesy of FX

The legal feud that pits 101-year-old actress Olivia de Havilland against FX and Ryan Murphy over her portrayal in Feud: Bette and Joan is set to go to trial in November — but, first, the court must address whether the dispute is barred because the series is protected speech.

De Havilland's attorney Suzelle Smith argues that there are limits to the constitutional protections given to television series and films, and the network and Murphy readily admit they didn't confer with the only living actress portrayed in their show. She sued them in June for infringement of common law right of publicity, invasion of privacy and unjust enrichment, claiming the series puts false words in her mouth and depicts her as a hypocrite who sold gossip to promote herself.

"Defendants created a fake interview which put false words into the mouth of Plaintiff for their own commercial benefit without her consent," writes Smith in a Friday filing. "They did so knowingly or with reckless disregards for the standards of practice in the entertainment industry."

Smith argues there's no case law to support the notion that "having some truthful statements in a published medium allows commercial exploitation of a celebrity through unconsented knowing or recklessly false representations." (Read the full filing below.)

California's anti-SLAPP statute provides for an automatic appeal, so even if the court sides with de Havilland, the feud over free speech could be far from over.

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