Ryan Murphy declares victory over Olivia de Havilland's lawsuit
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Ryan Murphy has won his feud with Olivia de Havilland.
The American Horror Story producer is declaring victory after an appeals court threw out the silver screen legend’s lawsuit.
The actress sued FX Networks for defamation over her portrayal in Murphy’s miniseries Feud, which included a catty depiction of de Havilland played Catherine Zeta-Jones.
“The reversal is a victory for the creative community, and the First Amendment,” Murphy said in a statement. “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.”
In the miniseries, Murphy’s version of de Havilland calls her sister Joan Fontaine a “bitch,” something the 101-year-old de Havilland insists she would never say. The actress also objected to the overall portrayal and says producers never consulted her or asked her permission. “…the FX series puts words in the mouth of Miss de Havilland which are inaccurate and contrary to the reputation she has built over an 80-year professional life, specifically refusing to engage in gossip mongering about other actors in order to generate media attention for herself,” her attorneys said in a statement.
According to Variety, one of the appellate judges declared: “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.”
Court papers further argued, according to The Wrap, “The [lower] court’s ruling leaves authors, filmmakers, playwrights, and television producers in a Catch-22. If they portray a real person in an expressive work accurately and realistically without paying that person, they face a right of publicity lawsuit. If they portray a real person in an expressive work in a fanciful, imaginative — even fictitious and therefore ‘false’ — way, they face a false light lawsuit if the person portrayed does not like the portrayal.”