Olivia de Havilland's FX Feud Tests Boundaries of Storytelling in Docudramas

Left, Photofest; Right, courtesy of FX Olivia de Havilland’s portrayal in Ryan Murphy’s FX series Feud: Bette and Joan is bringing big picture questions about the rights of docudrama producers to stretch the truth to the attention of the California appeals court. The 101-year-old actress in June sued FX and Ryan Murphy , claiming the series violates her privacy and publicity rights and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ portrayal leaves viewers with the impression that she was a hypocrite who peddled gossip to promote herself. Her complaint centers on a fake interview given by Zeta-Jones as de Havilland that’s used to help narrate the series. Defendants asked the court to strike her claims under California’s anti-SLAPP law, which brings an early end to frivolous suits arising from First Amendment protected activity like free speech. While FX and Murphy cleared the first prong of the test, convincing the court Feud is protected speech, they didn’t make it past the second. L.A. County Superior Court judge Holly Kendig in September found that de Havilland has shown a minimal probability of prevailing on the merits of her claims. Because of de Havilland’s advanced age, Kendig had fast-tracked the trial in this case. It was originally […]

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