Belfast Telegraph

Dame Olivia de Havilland, 101, vows to continue docudrama legal fight

The double Oscar-winner told the Press Association via email she is ‘disappointed, perplexed and dismayed’ that her case was dismissed.

Dame Olivia de Havilland has said she is “dismayed” by a court’s decision to dismiss her lawsuit over her portrayal in Feud: Bette And Joan and has vowed to continue fighting.

The 101-year-old Hollywood legend sued FX Network over the docudrama, alleging it defamed her by falsely showing her as a hypocrite and a gossip.

But appeal court judges in California threw out the double Oscar-winner’s case over the role played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, saying stars cannot “dictate” how their legacy is portrayed.

In an email from her home in Paris sent to the Press Association via her lawyer on Thursday, Dame Olivia said she was “deeply disappointed, perplexed and dismayed” by the ruling.

“I feel very strongly that I must appeal to the supreme court for my sake and for the sake of many others in the future,” the Gone With The Wind actress added.

“I, and other individuals in like circumstances, should not be denied our constitutional right to trial by jury.”

She said the “damage has been done” and that it is “not likely” the show will cease to be aired, as she requested, but will appeal against the three judges’ decision last week to pursue compensation.

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Dame Olivia de Havilland (Rosie Hallam/PA)

In the lawsuit, the actress said the character in the series was inaccurate because it showed her calling her sister Joan Fontaine a “bitch” and commenting on Frank Sinatra’s drinking habits.

The network said writers had updated the reference of the British-American star to her sister as “dragon lady” for a contemporary audience.

Lawyers argued the show was a dramatised version of the rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis so it was free to re-interpret events.

Dame Olivia also complained over her right to privacy as her permission was not sought as the only living major character in the show.

Judge Anne Egerton, dismissing the case and ordering Dame Olivia to pay FX’s legal fees and costs, said anyone who is portrayed on screen “does not own history”.

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Actress Joan Fontaine (PA)

“Nor does she or he have the legal right to control, dictate, approve, disapprove, or veto the creator’s portrayal of actual people,” she added in the ruling on March 26.

The show’s creator, Ryan Murphy, celebrated the decision as a “victory for the creative community”, adding it allows writers “to tell important historical stories inspired by true events”.

Dame Olivia, who won Oscars for 1946’s To Each His Own and 1949’s The Heiress, previously won a landmark victory over Warner Bros in 1943 which effectively ended actors’ contract servitude.

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