July 14, 2011 4:30pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Ryan O'Neal Files $1M Defamation Lawsuit Over Claims of Stolen Andy Warhol Art
Ryan O’Neal has filed a defamation lawsuit against a man who claims the actor stole a valuable piece artwork by Andy Warhol.
In a complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by THR, O’Neal claims that Craig Nevius, his late partner Farrah Fawcett’s personal assistant who worked with her on a documentary about her cancer struggle, made false statements to the media that prompted the University of Texas to demand that his Warhol piece be handed over.
O’Neal was sued by the university last week demanding the return of the silkscreen, one of two made by Warhol in 1980, because the school says it belonged to Fawcett, who bequeathed her art collection to her alma mater when she died in 2009. UT wants the painting or an equivalent cash value, which some reports have pegged at $30 million.
O’Neal says the Warhol art is his and that Nevius is “deeply obsessed with Ms. Fawcett” and “deeply jealous of her relationship with her longtime romantic partner." He claims the university is acting based on false statements Nevius has made to the media.
“Nevius’ false, malicious and defamatory accusations that O’Neal stole the Warhol portrait are a desperate attempt to draw attention to himself by fabricating a controversy where none exists,” the complaint states.
O’Neal claims the Nevius accusations, which included interviews with ABC’s Good Morning America and Star magazine, are the latest in a string of malicious behavior, including selling private Fawcett medical info to tabloids and embezzling money from a company the actress established to make a documentary about her battle with cancer.
O’Neal, who blasted the lawsuit as “ridiculous” when it was filed last week, now alleges UT is taking advantage of Nevius’ lies “and has elected to wage war for the portrait.”
UPDATE: Nevius has responded with a statement to us: "I regard this latest lawsuit as a desperate attempt by Ryan O'Neal to further harass me into silence. I believe this is less about the portrait of Farrah Fawcett by Andy Warhol than it is about certain actions and events that occurred during the last few years of Farrah's life which I have knowledge of and that he (and others) would prefer me to never speak about."
O’Neal is claiming damages in excess of $1 million on causes of action for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The suit was filed by Marty Singer and Todd Eagan of Lavely & Singer in Los Angeles.