FX Networks Looks To Strike 101-Year-Old Actress Olivia de Havilland’s ‘Feud’ Lawsuit

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In Olivia de Havilland’s heyday, there wasn’t a law that allowed defendants to make an early challenge to frivolous use of the courts to censor. But California now has an anti-SLAPP statute, and FX Networks is attempting to use it to strike the 101-year-old actress’ claims that her publicity and privacy rights were violated through her depiction in Feud: Bette and Joan.

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De Havilland was portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones in the series, and the plaintiff wasn’t consulted. The legendary actress didn’t like what she saw. In a complaint, Miss de Havilland says,  she has built a reputation for integrity and dignity, but that the series creates the impression that she was a hypocrite who sold gossip to promote herself. Given her advanced age, de Havilland and wants a trial in November of this year,  but California’s SLAPP law could get in the way. Even if FX loses the motion, the statute provides an automatic right of appeal.

 

Based on precedent, FX stands a good shot at convincing Los Angeles Superior Court judge Holly Kendig that the lawsuit arises from acts in furtherance of the right of free speech in connection with an issue of public interest. De Havilland could attempt to win on the first prong of the SLAPP statute by attempting to argue that even celebrities are afforded some privacy and that something that happened a half-century ago can hardly be a public matter.

 

If the judge reaches the next stage of analysis under the SLAPP statute, de Havilland will need to convince the court she has a likelihood of prevailing before the case moves any further.

 

In a memorandum filed Tuesday, FX and Pacific 2.1 Entertainment Group argue why the actress can’t prevail.

 

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP; FX
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