Last week we learned that 101-year-old Olivia de Havilland’s legal slap-fight against Feud co-creator Ryan Murphy and FX had been moved to the California Court of Appeals. It needed to get solved fast, because Olivia is 101 and she’d probably rather not spend her last moments hissing at Ryan Murphy from behind the witness stand. It got solved quickly, but not in the way Olivia was hoping.
Miss de Havilland was suing Ryan and FX because she felt her portrayal in Feud was bogus, painting her as a gossip queen with a foul mouth (she very much objected to her character, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, referring to her sister Joan Fontaine as “a bitch“). Ryan and FX argued that they had creative license to embellish the truth. Variety is reporting that a three-judge panel ruled yesterday in Los Angeles that Ryan and FX had the right to get as creative as they wanted to. One of the judges, Justice Anne Egerton, wrote:
“Whether a person portrayed in one of these expressive works is a world-renowned film star – ‘a living legend’ – or a person no one knows, she or he 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.”
Ryan Murphy released the following statement following his legal 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 and her lawyer, Suzelle Smith, aren’t so pleased. Suzelle released a statement on behalf of her client, and they slapped at the judges for making such a blatantly pro-Hollywood/anti-Legend decision.
“Miss de Havilland, her many fans all over the world, and actors in similar situations are rightly disappointed in this Opinion…The Court of Appeal, unlike the trial Court, has taken on itself the role of both Judge and jury, denying Miss de Havilland her Constitutional rights to have a jury decide her claims to protect the property rights in her name or to defend her reputation against knowing falsehoods. This is an entirely pro-industry decision, and was clearly written before the hearing less than a week ago.”
Suzelle also accuses Judge Egerton of being friends with FX, and therefore making a biased decision. Olivia was also seeking money from Ryan Murphy and FX; she claimed she wasn’t offered any cash for the rights to her story, and that she could be owed as much as $2.1 million. The court ruled that she was owed no money.
Olivia plans to appeal the decision.
So there you have it: Ryan Murphy and FX are still allowed to take the truth and stretch it. I hate to see a feisty old broad lose a fight, but I’m kind of okay with Ryan Murphy winning for now. The next season of Feud was bound to be a bore if we didn’t get a creatively licensed scene of Prince Charles splashing his crotch with Drakkar Noir and blasting Susudio while getting ready for a secret date with Camilla.