The Hollyweird Legal Round-Up is our weekly guide to the latest entertainment lawsuits and lawyerly pud-slinging, written by our legal correspondent, real-life Hollywood lawyer “Buttockus Finch.” (Probably not his real name). This week, he takes on Zhang Ziyi’s alleged prostitution, and the time Tippi Hedren made a million dollars for getting hit with a gallon of water.
1. Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Shaggin’.
Zhang Ziyi is a Chinese actress best known in the real world for beating people up in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
She also beat people up in Hero and House of Flying Daggers. And, more recently, in court, when she sued for defamasian:
“Zhang Ziyi has reached a settlement in principle to settle a high-profile defamation lawsuit . . . over a since-retracted report that claimed she is a prostitute who has earned more than $100 million for having sexual relations with high-ranking Chinese officials.”
She filed the suit in Hong Kong in June 2012 in response to allegations that she had been renting it out to politicians over a 10-year period. Reports at the time claimed that she had been paid the equivalent of $110 million, and I guess the estimated conversion rate of 700 million yuan may have varied over the past 18 months, but I hate the idea that ten million dollars worth of illicit sex can disappear with a keystroke. That’s ten indecent proposals right there.
The amounts are particularly impressive if you consider that previously, the only known way for a Chinese woman to make this kind of money from over a decade of horrific, self-nullifying sex was to have it with this dude.
Epiphanies happen on their own schedule.
Why it took so long for the publishers she sued (including one in the U.S.) to decide “hey, maybe we don’t have any evidence to support this amazingly offensive claim,” I have no idea.
One of the great things about being accused of prostitution (stay with me here) is that, unlike most other forms of defamation, you don’t have to prove (in America anyway) that the accusation was damaging. Since a lot of laws are rooted in old timey morals, “impugning the chastity of a woman” is automatically assumed to have caused damage to that person’s reputation (see also, alleging that somebody has a “foul or loathsome” disease).
So while calling a woman a whore is generally not considered a compliment, I would think there might be an exception made if you’re saying she made $100 million doing it. Consider: as my grandfather told me in one of his more lucid moments, the difference between a $50 hooker and a $1000 escort is $950. Meaning, the better-dressed companion has the same number of orifi as her pavement counterpart, so there’s nothing one can do that the other cannot. However, to earn $100 million from sexing, you’d either have to bone yourself into a wheelchair or provide elation beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. While I choose to believe that ZZ was defamed, part of me is hoping that she can, in fact, do unimaginable things that justify spending so much money.
Limits to my expertise.
Turns out that I don’t have a lot of knowledge about Chinese libel law. Oh I know, I couldn’t believe it either. Therefore, I wasn’t sure if calling someone a hooer automatically constituted defamation in China. But I’m not averse to doing up to three minutes of research if it doesn’t involve anything crazy, like opening a book. Turns out, sh*t is even crazier over there:
“In modern China the use of defamation or rumor mongering to incite subversion of the national regime or the overthrow of the socialist system is a crime punishable by up to five years of imprisonment, criminal detention, supervision or deprivation or political rights.”
Thank you, China, for making a simple claim for monetary damages look like a birthday present by comparison. Dig: “China’s cultural and legal tradition tends to view defamation of government officials not only as a personal tort but also as a political crime in the same category as treason.” And remember, officials were implicated in the Ziyi story, so the publishers could have had much bigger problems than a miffed actress. Obama has to be pretty bummed that he can’t threaten Fox News with execution (or even “supervision”) for their treacherous stories about health care.
Most people hate lawyers, but I hate most people, so equilibrium is preserved. Of course, since some people are lawyers, and vice versa, I hate my share of lawyers too. They know who they are, and if they don’t, they will. Oh, how they will.
Thank me for sharing. More than anything, however, I hate seeing lawyers pay for their mistakes. One of the great things about being an attorney is that if you f*ck up, worst case scenario, somebody else goes to jail. But Tippi Hedren had to go and upset the balance of nature:
“In 2009, Hedren sued her former lawyer for malpractice for all the money she reasonably could have expected to have recovered in [a] prior lawsuit had things gone right. A jury returned a verdict totaling $1,483,708, which included $213,400 for past lost earnings and $440,308 for future lost earnings.”
For your edification.
Tippi Hedren got famous about 50 years ago. As you can see from the picture, she was attractive in a “woman Captain Von Trapp dumped for Julie Andrews” kind of way. Alfred Hitchcock saw her in a commercial and, deciding she could get on-the-job training as an actress, cast her in The Birds [Spoiler alert: it's shit]. She went on to make another Hitchcock movie, then appeared in the last movie Charlie Chaplin directed, then holy f*cksauce every reference in this story is so goddamn old I should be writing it on parchment. Hey kids–she’s the mother of Melanie Griffith! That name doesn’t mean anything to you either? Fine, Hedren is the grandmother of Dakota Johnson, who is bringing your favorite lady whacking material to life. Yay, now you’re riveted!
So our antagonist made some famous, meh movies when men still wore hats to work, and she was born with the name Nathalie but chooses to be called “Tippi.” Got it.
For $1.5M, her lawyer must have done some dastardly sh*t.
“The attorney appears to have made an error.”
Yeah, I guess. Let me summarize: she hired him to file a complaint, and he did, but then did some procedural dumbf*ckery that caused the suit to be dismissed on a technicality. Fair enough, that’s not cool. Through his actions, she was denied justice, unable to be made whole for–I’m sorry, why was she suing?
“In 2006, she took a role in a TV show titled “Fashion House,” and one day in rehearsal, a gallon of water fell from the ceiling onto her head. “
Let me remind you, when you read about a lawsuit that sounds idiotic, sometimes it’s because a big company is getting sued and it’s in their interest to make a perfectly reasonably plaintiff seem like an opportunistic parasite.
Also known as The American Way.
Long may she wave.
But this ain’t that.
No, this is a woman getting a million and a half because she was wet. To be fair-esque, Hedren had supposedly suffered from headaches for years, had spinal surgery a few months before the moistening to cure them, and then started experiencing them again after, to reiterate, a gallon of water fell on her head. For that, $1.5M.
And again, that money is not from the people responsible for the water (which had apparently collected in the ceiling blah blah air conditioning blockage). She tried to sue them, her lawyer messed it up, so he had to pay Hedren the money she would presumably have gotten.
It pains me to say this, but the outcome is at least partially fair. If, as is apparently the case, she could have collected this money from the company that owned the building, for negligence or whatever, and the lawyer is to blame for filing the suit incorrectly, then he should have to pay her. It’s insult to injury for him, because his fee from this case probably would have been significant.
Oh I hit the caps lock for this. The money she received is based on 1) pain and suffering, and 2) lost income. For the first part, we have to take her word for the fact that she has headaches. Medically speaking, unless you see a comically large lump on their skull, the only way to know for sure if another person has a headache is that they have assumed this pose:
So, despite advances in phrenology and trepanning, when it comes to headaches, there’s no way to prove that you’re having one. Not something I’d ordinarily question, but if a person is asking for vast sums because I–or in this case, somebody else–spilled water on them? Unless I see bulging eyes and bleeding eardrums, you and your “headache” can f*ck right off.
The second part, lost income, is also pretty nebulous. If somebody has a set daily rate, and you make them miss two days of work, then yeah, you can figure out mathematically how much it’s costing him. But this is a woman whose career peaked while Marilyn Monroe was still staring at the ceiling of the Oval Office. She hasn’t worked that much more than Marilyn over the last few decades. And yet the jury calculated that 80+ year-old Tippi’s past and future lost earnings amounted to over $650,000, an estimate based on “expert” testimony from Hedren’s f*cking agent.
Friends, this is the kind of verdict that, if I had made it happen, I would get carpal tunnel from all the victory high fives. But since a lawyer is the true victim here, I hope you will share in my momentary disgust.
Unclear whether Hedren will accept the $1.5M in cash or insist upon its equivalent–half a handjob from Zhang Ziyi.
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