Ryan Murphy is no stranger to controversy with his television shows, and it seems like the drama depicted onscreen is once again finding its way back into the real world. His latest series, Feud: Betty and Joan, focused on the contentious relationship between old school Hollywood actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Featuring stellar performances from Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, and Catherine Zeta Jones, Feud was a deep dive into bitter rivalries and the difficulties of navigating the Hollywood machine.
However, not everyone is a fan of the series, including Olivia de Havilland, portrayed by Zeta Jones in the series. According to The Hollywood Reporter, de Havilland (who recently turned 101) is suing FX and Murphy for for infringement of common law right of publicity, invasion of privacy and unjust enrichment over her portrayal. Her attorney Suzelle Smith explained in a written statement.
“[A]ll statements made by Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland in this fake interview are completely false, some inherently so; others false because they were never said. FX defendants did not engage in protected First Amendment speech in putting false words into the mouth of Olivia de Havilland in a fake interview that did not occur and would not have occurred.”
De Havilland also took umbrage with dialogue in the show that misrepresented her relationship with Joan Fontaine. “Zeta-Jones’ de Havilland refers to Joan Fontaine as her ‘bitch sister,’ an offensive term that stands in stark contrast with Olivia de Havilland’s reputation for good manners, class and kindness,” wrote Smith.
Smith posits that Murphy manipulated de Havilland’s portrayal in order to create a more compelling character, thus giving the show a boost.
“Each FX defendant knew Feud would be more successful if they placed an individual like Olivia de Havilland, who is known for her honesty and integrity, at the forefront of the story. Her credibility, as both the only living person of significance portrayed in Feud and as a reliable source who was close to the action, added to the success of Feud at the expense of Olivia de Havilland.”
De Havilland is seeking damages and any profit accrued by using her likeness. Murphy might want to think about the risk that could arise from season two’s subjects if this lawsuit doesn’t go his way.
(Via The Hollywood Reporter)