“Defendants’ Motion has strengthened Miss de Havilland’s resolve to stand up to big Hollywood and fight for her rights, and the rights of all others in such circumstances,” de Havilland’s lawyer Suzelle Smith said Tuesday after FX filed a motion in Los Angeles Superior Court to gut the third amended complaint of the actor’s lawsuit originally filed in June.
“If Defendants’ view of the law were to prevail, then the California statute giving a celebrity the exclusive right to control and profit from her name and identity, and protect her reputation, would be meaningless,” Smith added. She also called the motion “weak” and throwing “mud on a great lady.”
On June 30, a day before her 101st birthday, de Havilland filed suit seeking a jury trial, sweeping damages and an injunction, claiming the portrayal of her by Catherine Zeta-Jones on the FX anthology series executive produced by Ryan Murphy damaged her “professional reputation for integrity, honesty, generosity, self-sacrifice and dignity.”
Because of her advanced age, the Paris-based de Havilland wants the matter handled quickly in the courts, and has filed paperwork accordingly.
Mud throwing aside, FX today cast its grounds for a strike in constitutional terms. “By alleging that Feud casts her in a false light and violates her right of publicity, Olivia de Havilland’s meritless lawsuit seeks to impinge on Defendants’ First Amendment right to create expressive works about matters of public interest,” reads the dismissal motion (read it here). Added FX’s lawyers from Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp Llp: “The Court should grant Defendants’ motion to strike in its entirety and award fees. ”
Of course, FX’s team went to the heart of the real-life drama that fuels the series starring Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon.
“In dramatizing the infamous rivalry between iconic actors Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and how that rivalry played out during the shooting of their 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (“Baby Jane”), Feud is a social commentary on Hollywood’s history of sexism, misogyny, and media manipulation, issues that still plague Hollywood today,” the cable network asserts in the filing.
Counters De Havilland’s attorney in her response to the motion: “Defendants’ own Motion establishes the legal elements of falsity, reckless disregard for the truth, and a conscious decision not to obtain Miss de Havilland’s consent while financially benefitting from her name and reputation.”
Feud is nominated for 18 nominations at this year’s Emmy Awards; it has 10 noms at the Primetime Emmy Awards which are set for September 17.
Smith said De Havilland will respond to the motion with an opposition filing September 15, with a hearing on the matter to come September 29, 12 days after the Emmy winners are announced.