Olivia de Havilland's Legal 'Feud' With FX Fast-Tracked by Judge

Olivia de Havilland and Catherina Zeta Jones Feud Still - Split - Photofest - H 2017
Left, Photofest; Right, courtesy of FX

Olivia de Havilland in June sued FX and Ryan Murphy Productions over her portrayal by Catherine Zeta-Jones in Feud: Bette and Joan — and she could be taking the stand before the end of the year.

The 101-year-old actress asked the court to expedite proceedings because of her age. It seems like a pretty straightforward request, but because FX responded with an anti-SLAPP motion to strike her complaint the situation is more complicated. The statute grants an automatic right to a pretrial appeal, which could push back the trial date. De Havilland says the series made her look like a gossip who exploited others for her own gain and notes that despite being the only living person portrayed on the show she wasn't consulted. The network argues that her portrayal is substantially true.

L.A. Superior Court Judge Holly Kendig during a Wednesday morning hearing granted de Havilland's motion. "I can’t imagine how one could not do that when the plaintiff is 101 years old," she said.

There wasn't much discussion of the sticky anti-SLAPP situation, and scheduling dominated most of the conversation.

After a November trial date was floated, FX attorney Robert Rotstein expressed concern about whether they would have time for discovery, motions for summary judgment and retaining an expert, among other logistical challenges. Kending seemed skeptical that prepping for the trial would take that long and cautioned lawyers that if the date is too close to the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays "You’re not going to have the jurors paying a single bit of attention.”

De Havilland's lawyer Suzelle Smith said that de Havilland's reply to the network's anti-SLAPP is due Friday and that will give defendants a preview of her whole case.

A hearing on the anti-SLAPP motion is set for Sept. 29. Depending on the outcome of that motion, the trial is currently set to begin Nov. 27.