Judge to 101-Year-Old Actress: Sorry, You Don't 'Own History'

Olivia de Havilland loses her lawsuit against 'Feud' docudrama
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2018 8:00 AM CDT
A 2016 photo of actress Olivia de Havilland.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
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(Newser) – A 101-year-old actress has lost her unusual but closely watched Hollywood lawsuit. An appeals court panel on Monday ruled against Olivia de Havilland in her complaint against the docudrama Feud: Bette and Joan, per the Hollywood Reporter. The actress objected to her portrayal in the FX Networks series, saying she came off as gossipy and crude. For example, she says she would have never used the word "bitch," as Catherine Zeta-Jones does in portraying her. Series creator Ryan Murphy, however, countered that the series' depiction of de Havilland is protected on free-speech grounds—and justices on the 2nd US District Court of Appeals in California agreed.

“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,” wrote Justice Anne Egerton. "Nor does she or he have the legal right to control, dictate, approve, disapprove, or veto the creator’s portrayal of actual people." Murphy hailed the ruling as a victory for the arts and the First Amendment, but de Havilland's attorney already is planning an appeal, notes Variety. In a harsh critique, she accused Egerton of being an industry insider, citing her background as an NBC exec in the 1990s. “This is an entirely pro-industry decision, and was clearly written before the hearing less than a week ago."

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