Olivia de Havilland denied hearing by Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Olivia de Havilland’s case against FX Networks, bringing an end to the 102-year-old actress’ fight with the cable outlet over how she was portrayed in the 2017 limited series “Feud.”
The high court denied De Havilland a writ of certiorari, which would have reopened her case for review after the California Court of Appeal ruled in favor of FX last year. The California Supreme Court also sided with entertainment outlet, which is owned by 21st Century Fox.
The high court didn’t provide an explanation for Monday’s decision.
Attorneys for the star of “Gone with the Wind” and “The Heiress” said the decision represents a setback for 1st Amendment rights.
“We and Miss de Havilland are very disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court passed on this opportunity to confirm that the 1st Amendment does not protect the publication of intentional lies in any medium, including so called docudramas,” said Suzelle Smith, who represents the actress.
“The California Court of Appeal has turned the 1st Amendment upside down, and without doubt more harm to individuals and public deception will result. One day someone else who is wronged for the sake of Hollywood profits will have the courage to stand on the shoulders of Miss De Havilland and fight for the right to defend their good name and legacy against intentional, unconsented exploitation and falsehoods. Miss De Havilland hopes she will live to see the day when such justice is done.”
De Havilland sued FX in 2017, claiming that the outlet never obtained her permission to depict her in “Feud” and that it portrayed her in a false light.
The dispute focused on just a few scenes in which the actress is portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones. In one scene, the De Havilland character refers to her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, as a “bitch.” In another, she makes a disparaging remark about Frank Sinatra’s drinking habits.
De Havilland has contended that she never said these things and that “Feud” violated her 1st Amendment rights by ascribing these remarks to her.
FX argued that docudramas are protected by the 1st Amendment, noting that De Havilland is a public figure.
The Supreme Court’s decision was praised by the Motion Picture Assn. of America on Monday. The organization filed an amicus brief last year on behalf of its members studios and Netflix, throwing its support behind FX in the case.
“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,” said MPAA head Charles Rivkin, in a statement.
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