UPDATED, 8:33 AM: Weeks after Olivia de Havilland first took Ryan Murphy, FX and Fox 21 Television to court for the way she was depicted in the now-Emmy nominated Feud: Bette and Joan, the studio finally has responded – and it probably isn’t what the 101-year old two-time Oscar winner wanted to hear.
“Our project was a meticulously researched dramatization of the well-documented feud between actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford,” Fox 21 said Wednesday morning, just hours after de Havilland sought to have the matter brought to trial by the fall due to her advanced age. “The law on this is very clear: No permissions of any kind were required in order to tell the tale,” the studio added. “Docudramas, such as this one, are original narrative works, based on real, verifiable facts and events. By the logic of Ms. de Havilland’s attorneys, no producer would be able to tell any stories about famous people, living or dead, without their consent. We respectfully disagree with Ms. de Havilland’s objections to her portrayal, and we stand by the content, including her portrayal, and will vigorously defend this project.”
A hearing on de Havilland’s motion for a faster trial start is scheduled for September 13 – just four days before the 69th Primetime Emmys, where Feud is up for 10 of its total of 18 nominations.
PREVIOUSLY, JULY 25, 5:25 PM: Less than a month after Olivia de Havilland hit Ryan Murphy and FX with a multi-claim lawsuit over her depiction in the now multi-Emmy nominated Feud: Bette and Joan, the 101-year old two-time Oscar winner today formally asked the courts for a trial to start by the fall – so she can be alive to see her day before Lady Justice.
In fact, the Hold Back the Dawn and Gone with the Wind actress wants a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to greenlight fast-tracking the trial to September 13, just four days before the 69th annual Primetime Emmys. If granted, the move could put a heavy cloud over TV’s big night and the 10 Primetime Emmys that Feud is up for that Sunday out of its 18 total nominations. Leads Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon are up for Best Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, and Murphy is in the running for directing and writing awards.
“Based on her unusually advanced age, Olivia de Havilland moves for preference in the setting of trial of this matter under California Code of Civil Procedure §§ 36 (a) and asks the Court to set this case for jury trial in November 2017, or in any event on a date within 120 days of the granting of this motion,” today’s filing requests (read it here) of the only surviving person tied to the events depicted in the series. “Olivia de Havilland is entitled to preference in the setting of trial of the instant matter under California Code of Civil Procedure § 36(a) because she is well over the age of 70, and has claims for damages and injunctive relief against the FX Defendants who are the producers and distributers of Feud.”
Even though FX and the other defendants have yet to respond to the initial filing, a hearing on the motion filed today will be heard in Los Angeles Superior Court on September 13 in Judge Holly Kendig’s courtroom, who was assigned the case last week. I hear that the Paris-based de Havilland will not be attending the hearing but may return for the trial if it happens in November as her lawyers are attempting to ensure.
Seeking wide-ranging damages and essentially to shut down the anthology show with an injunction, de Havilland said in her June 30 lawsuit that her portrayal by Catherine Zeta-Jones in Feud damaged her “professional reputation for integrity, honesty, generosity, self-sacrifice and dignity.”
Asserting that FX, Murphy or producers 20th Century Fox TV never sought nor obtained her permission to depict her or use her name in their eight-episode series about Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, De Havilland’s lawsuit also references the backstage drama at the 1963 Oscars that made up the pivotal episode titled “And the Winner Is.” “At the 1963 Academy Awards, Zeta-Jones’ de Havilland comments to Bette Davis, portrayed by Susan Sarandon, that Oscar host Frank Sinatra must have drunk all the alcohol in the backstage lounge, because they cannot find any,” the June 30 compliant says,. “All of this is untrue and casts Olivia de Havilland in false, hurtful and damaging light.”
Said attorney Suzelle Smith, who is representing de Havilland along with Don Howarth and Zoe Tremayne of LA’s Howarth & Smith: “This is the kind of case for which the statute was passed. Anyone at 101 years old should be entitled to an early trial date. There is a substantial risk that without a trial preference, Miss de Havilland will be prejudiced in not obtaining the benefits of the litigation. She is eager to have this case fully resolved well in advance of her 102nd birthday.”
Some feuds seem set to to move faster than others it seems.