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The reporter who is being sued by Vincent Gallo for posting audio recordings of an interview online says his actions are protected by the First Amendment and the actor’s behavior now makes him feel unsafe.
Hikari Takano claims Gallo showed up at his home in Culver City in 2011 and videotaped him on a smartphone. When Takano drove off, Gallo followed him for several miles and later threatened him over email, which included the reporter’s license plate number in the subject line.
The email demanded Takano immediately remove “any Vincent Gallo recordings” from his website, referencing the audio clips that prompted this lawsuit. Gallo sued Takano in May, claiming a 2003 conversation was recorded without his knowledge while the two talked on the side of the road.
Gallo claims his Porsche broke down on his way to an interview with Takano about his film The Brown Bunny. The reporter met him at the site and they began “small talk” while waiting for a tow truck — which included Gallo throwing shade at Spike Jonze and mocking Francis Ford Coppola’s weight.
Takano posted that audio on his website, along with a conversation from their phone interview the following week. Gallo says when he learned the audio was posted online he objected and Takano removed them, and he sued after learning they had been reposted, but the reporter says that never happened.
“I never agreed to not broadcast the recordings,” Takano states in a declaration filed Thursday. “They belong to me. I did not and would not enter into such an agreement with Gallo.”
Gallo’s claims include invasion of privacy and violation of right of publicity. He is seeking a permanent injunction and damages.
Takano’s attorneys have filed an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss Gallo’s complaint, claiming the action is protected speech and Takano says during Gallo’s interview his microphone and recording device were in plain sight just below Gallo’s chin to mitigate the street noise on Hollywood Boulevard.
“On the merits, the claims all fail because Gallo consented to the recordings,” states the motion. “Moreover, a celebrity has no reasonable expectation of privacy when he agrees to, arranges for and appears at an interview with a journalist holding a microphone.”
Takano’s attorney Jeffrey Lewis also argues that Gallo’s claims are barred by the statute of limitations. The recordings were made in 2003 and posted online in 2010, but he didn’t sue until 2016.
As a public figure, Gallo has a high hurdle to clear in defeating Takano’s anti-SLAPP motion, if the court finds he was not recorded without his consent.
“Journalists like Mr. Takano have a First Amendment right to report the news,” Lewis tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I am confident that the court will apply the law correctly and Mr. Gallo’s sham lawsuit will be summarily dismissed.” Takano says his website isn’t for profit. Sponsors let him borrow production equipment and software so he can conduct video interviews.
Takano says he has interviewed more than 120 celebrities, but he never writes anything. He records audio of his interview and then either hands the audio over to an outlet, or transcribes it and delivers the transcripts. His credits say “interview by,” not “written by,” he says.
“If one of my subjects were to object to my recording of the interview, I would have declined to conduct the interview, simply because that was the only way I worked,” states Takano’s declaration. “But that never happened once in the entire duration of my magazine career.”
In a Monday statement to THR, Gallo’s attorney Joseph Costa disputes Takano’s claims that the recordings were authorized.
“Significantly, a review of Mr. Takano’s declaration and motion makes it abundantly clear that despite being an alleged ‘experienced’ journalist, he has no written authorization from Mr. Gallo that states he consents to being recorded at the time in question, nor does Takano recite on the tape that he is recording him, which is a very common and easy practice,” Costa writes. “There was no microphone stuck in Mr. Gallo’s face and a review of the tape clearly reveals that it was surreptitiously made. The lack of any real evidence in Mr. Takano’s papers speaks very loudly to the bankrupt nature of his arguments.”
Costa also says Takano’s claims that Gallo showed up to his house are fiction. “We fully expect to prevail on the motion and in the lawsuit and to hold Mr. Takano accountable for his unlawful activities,” he says.
June 13, 12:55 p.m. Updated with a response from Gallo’s attorney.
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