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Olivia de Havilland sues FX, Ryan Murphy over ‘Feud’ portrayal; if successful, could chill other media, says Rose Law Group litigator Evan Bolick

Posted by   /  July 14, 2017  /  No Comments

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By Alex Stedman | Variety

On the eve of her 101st birthday, Olivia de Havilland is serving FX with a gift of her own — a lawsuit.

The actress is suing the network, along with Ryan Murphy Productions, over her portrayal in “Feud,” saying that it paints her in a false light, according to court documents obtained by Variety. The lawsuit claims that “Feud” “puts words in the mouth of Miss de Havilland which are inaccurate and contrary to the reputation she has built.”

Catherine Zeta-Jones portrayed de Havilland in the anthology series. The lawsuit argues that de Havilland has built a reputation of integrity for herself, and refrains from gossip. The series, however, paints an opposing picture.

While de Havilland remains the only person alive who experienced the events surrounding the titular feud — Bette Davis and Joan Crawford died in 1989 and 1977, respectively — the suit says that no one consulted her for the series. The documents point to the opening scene of the series, which depicts an interview with de Havilland where she gossips about Davis and Crawford, noting that FX “promoted and advertised that ‘Feud’ was intentionally designed to look as if it was reality.”

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“If successful, this lawsuit would open new paths to liability, even for works of obvious fiction. Although based on historical events, there can be no doubt that “Feud” was meant as a fictional drama. Should the lawsuit succeed, there could be a chilling effect on all other media that seek to dramatize and embellish, historical events. This would have a wide-ranging impact from both the major Hollywood studios to those YouTube creators who provide commentary and reenactments for their fans. At the end of the day, the question is whether fictional portrayals – even hyper-realistic ones as seen in “Feud” – are capable of causing real-world injury to a person’s reputation.”

~Evan Bolick

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