olivia de havilland

Olivia de Havilland takes her Feud lawsuit to the Supreme Court

Classic Hollywood icon Olivia de Havilland is taking her ongoing defamation lawsuit against FX for what she claims was her unauthorized portrayal in Ryan Murphy’s Feud: Bette and Joan, to the Supreme Court. Last year, de Havilland sued FX Networks, alleging that the Ryan Murphy-produced FX series Feud: Bette and Joan defamed her by depicting her (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) as a “vulgar gossip” and “hypocrite.” The 102- year old de Havilland took issue with several scenes—one of which has the de Havilland character call her now deceased sister, Joan Fontaine, a “bitch.” The actress has stated that she never publicly called her sister “a bitch.” (She admitted to calling her a “dragon lady” but insisted that the names had different meaning.) De Havilland has alleged that the portrayal damaged her “professional reputation for integrity, honesty, generosity, self-sacrifice, and dignity.”

According to The Los Angeles Times, after being turned down by a California appeals court and the state Supreme Court, the centenarian is now petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case. “It is essential not to give up in any struggle one undertakes,” de Havilland told the Times. “It is only natural for me to take on these institutions because they are in error.” (FX has reportedly asked the Supreme Court to pass on the case.) She added that she felt “mystification and indignation” over her portrayal in the show. “I was furious. I certainly expected that I would be consulted about the text. I never imagined that anyone would misrepresent me,” she said.

At the heart of her dispute with FX is how much liberty docudramas like “Feud” can take when portraying living people. While the studio contends that dramatizations are protected by the 1st Amendment, De Havilland is arguing that “Feud” crossed the line. De Havilland and her attorneys say that the case has larger implications for the power media companies wield. “The appellate court set out a rule that means everyone is at the mercy of the entertainment and news media,” said Suzelle Smith, De Havilland’s attorney. “Living people can be falsely portrayed because the public may have an interest in the story, whether accurate or a pack of lies.”

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