Sunday 27 May 2018

Olivia de Havilland takes TV drama dispute to California Supreme Court

The actress had a lawsuit over her portrayal in Feud: Bette And Joan dismissed.

Olivia de Havilland is continuing court action over her portrayal in Feud: Betty and Joan (Rosie Hallam/PA)
Olivia de Havilland is continuing court action over her portrayal in Feud: Betty and Joan (Rosie Hallam/PA)

By Laura Harding, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Dame Olivia de Havilland has filed a petition with the California Supreme Court after her lawsuit over her portrayal in Feud: Bette And Joan was dismissed.

The 101-year-old Hollywood star sued FX Network over the docudrama, alleging it defamed her by falsely showing her as a hypocrite and a gossip.

But appeal court judges in California threw out the double Oscar-winner’s case over the role played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, saying stars cannot “dictate” how their legacy is portrayed.

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Walpole British Luxury Awards 2017

On Friday, lawyers for the star filed a petition for a review of the judgment.

In a statement from her home in Paris, she said: “I feel very strongly that I must ask the Supreme Court to hear the case, for my sake and for the sake of many others in the future.

“It is important that cases with merit be allowed to proceed to a jury trial. My case is about FX publishing false statements about me and using my name without consent.  I, and other individuals in like circumstances, should not be denied our Constitutional right to trial by jury.”

Dame Olivia sued FX on June 30 2017 for “unconsented use of her name and identity” in the TV show and for “its false characterization of actual events in her past”.

In the lawsuit, the actress said the character in the series was inaccurate because it showed her calling her sister Joan Fontaine a “bitch” and commenting on Frank Sinatra’s drinking habits.

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Film – Joan Fontaine – 1957

The network said writers had updated the reference of the British-American star to her sister as “dragon lady” for a contemporary audience.

Lawyers argued the show was a dramatised version of the rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis so it was free to re-interpret events.

Dame Olivia also complained over her right to privacy as her permission was not sought as the only living major character in the show.

Judge Anne Egerton dismissed the case in March and ordered Dame Olivia to pay FX’s legal fees and costs, said anyone who is portrayed on screen “does not own history”.

“Nor does she or he have the legal right to control, dictate, approve, disapprove, or veto the creator’s portrayal of actual people,” she added in the ruling on March 26.

The show’s creator, Ryan Murphy, celebrated the decision as a “victory for the creative community”, adding it allows writers “to tell important historical stories inspired by true events”.

Dame Olivia, who won Oscars for 1946’s To Each His Own and 1949’s The Heiress, previously won a landmark victory over Warner Bros in 1943 which effectively ended actors’ contract servitude.

Press Association

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