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FX has a legal feud on its hands following its series about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford — and it doesn’t come from heirs of either of the titular characters.
Olivia de Havilland is suing the network and Ryan Murphy Productions over her portrayal by Catherine Zeta-Jones in Feud: Bette and Joan.
In a complaint filed Friday in L.A. County Superior Court, de Havilland claims she has built a reputation for integrity and dignity by refraining from gossip and other unkind, ill-mannered behavior — but the series opens with Zeta-Jones doing an interview as de Havilland and creates the impression that she was a hypocrite who sold gossip to promote herself.
“[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,” writes attorney Suzelle Smith. “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.”
The star says Feud was designed to look like reality, but no one consulted her: the only person alive who experienced the events depicted.
Murphy admitted as much in an April interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying he never contacted de Havilland about his series because he didn’t want to intrude. “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?'” he said.
She also takes issue with Feud‘s references to her relationship with her sister.
“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,” writes Smith.
The actress says defendants knew or recklessly disregarded publicly available information that she is alive, she never gave an interview about the relationship between Davis and Crawford, and that she maintains a reputation for avoiding gossip mongering.
In April, de Havilland told THR she hadn’t seen the show, but “in principle, I am opposed to any representation of personages who are no longer alive to judge the accuracy of any incident depicted as involving themselves.” Apparently, she’s seen it now and she isn’t pleased.
“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,” writes Smith. “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.”
She’s suing 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.
FX declined to comment on the complaint, which is posted in full below.
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