FX’s ‘Feud’ With Olivia de Havilland Tossed Out of Court
The saga that began with legendary actress Olivia de Havilland’s gloriously IDGAF burn on Ryan Murphy’s Feud has come to a bitter close. A judge has tossed out a defamation suit from the 101 year-old actress, stating Murphy is protected by the First Amendment.
It was June of last year that the actress filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against FX and Ryan Murphy Productions, “based on the unauthorized commercial use of Dame Olivia’s name and identity in the FX hit series.” The trial was expedited in light of de Havilland’s advanced age, but a California appeals court ruled Monday that the lawsuit was precluded by the First Amendment (h/t The Hollywood Reporter).
The FX drama’s only living subject claimed that Catherine Zeta Jones’ portrayal on the series amounts to “violations of privacy and right of publicity, as well as false light invasion of privacy and unjust enrichment.” Initial arguments also amusingly questioned the series’ replacement of the term “dragon lady” – a reference de Havilland made of her sister Joan Fontaine – with more vulgar language. The courts nonetheless ruled that the First Amendment protects fiction and non-fiction hybrids, and that those portrayed “[do] 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.” The First Amendment also doesn’t require creators to pay for life rights. Said Murphy of the win:
The reversal is a victory for the creative community, and the First Amendment. Today’s victory gives all creators the breathing room necessary to continue to tell important historical stories inspired by true events. Most of all, it’s a great day for artistic expression and a reminder of how precious our freedom remains.
Olivia de Havilland’s lawyer nonetheless claims the case “appears to be destined for a higher court,” and plans to appeal. It is unclear if the case will affect plans for a second Feud around Prince Charles and Princess Diana, as Murphy has expressed some doubt about the scheduling.
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