Variety, TVWeek

MPAA Applauds U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Olivia de Havilland’s ‘Feud’ Lawsuit

Jan 7, 2019  •  Post A Comment

The Motion Picture Association of America is cheering a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear actress Olivia de Havilland’s lawsuit against the producers of the FX series “Feud: Bette and Joan.”

de Havilland sought to overturn a previous decision by the California Court of Appeal that went against de Havilland’s claim that she had been portrayed unfairly in the TV series, which focused on the infamous Hollywood feud between Bette Davis, played by Susan Sarandon, and Joan Crawford, played by Jessica Lange.

In the California decision back in March 2018, appeals court 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.”

Variety notes: “In the miniseries, de Havilland is played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and is a supporting character. De Havilland’s attorney argued that she is incorrectly portrayed as a gossip who spoke casually and disparagingly of friends and acquaintances such as Davis, Crawford, Frank Sinatra, and her own sister, Joan Fontaine.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court decided today not to take up the case, Charles Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, sent out a statement saying: “The MPAA is pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the De Havilland v. FX Networks case, putting an end to this litigation and leaving in place the excellent opinion by the California Court of Appeal. This is great news for filmmakers and other creators, whose First Amendment right to tell stories that depict real people and events was resoundingly reaffirmed by the Court of Appeal, and for audiences everywhere who enjoy a good biopic, documentary, docudrama, or work of historical fiction.”

One Comment

  1. Great, so now people can make a “documentary” series about anyone portraying them however they want without fear of reprisal.

    This could be fun.

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