Yesterday, gazillionaire Ryan Murphy triumphantly announced victory over the ailing 101-year-old Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland in her defamation lawsuit over Murphy’s hit FX series Feud.
Havilland, who is currently living out her golden years in a tony hotel room in Paris (a.k.a. goals), claimed in a lawsuit last summer that Feud wrongly depicted her as a gossipmonger and foul-mouthed backstabber, especially when discussing her sister Joan Fontaine. She also revealed that Murphy and Co. never consulted with her before beginning production and hiring Catherine Zeta-Jones to embody her on screen.
On Monday, however, a California appeals court ruled that de Havilland’s lawsuit against Murphy and FX should be tossed out because it was precluded by the First Amendment.
Murphy then crowed about beating de Havilland in court, saying in a statement that the decision was “a victory for the creative community … [giving] all creators the breathing room necessary to continue to tell important historical stories inspired by true events.” Translation: “We can still make up shit in biopics, y’all.” Also, did he realize he was bragging about beating a 101-year-old woman? What’s next? A court battle with the kid who plays Toddler Joe on Modern Family?
Not many had actually expected de Havilland to win, thus viewing her lawsuit as more of a strong stance against “fake news” in Hollywood biopics — an issue familiar to anyone who has seen, well, any biopic. After all, FX’s attorneys had produced several outtake reels from classic films in which de Havilland uttered phrases like, “Oh Christ,” “God damn it,” and “Son of a bitch” whenever she flubbed her lines, which countered her central claim in her lawsuit that she never used curse words, unlike the on-screen version of de Havilland in Feud.
However, it’s undeniable that the creators of Feud had no intention of letting de Havilland maintain the hard-won control over her public persona that she has earned after 80 years of working in Hollywood. That was clear from the moment the creators decided not to give de Havilland the respect of asking her permission to depict her on screen, and instead approached Feud as if de Havilland were just as out of the picture as Feud’s now deceased protagonists, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
De Havilland is not backing down, however, and plans to take her case to a higher court. Last night, her lawyer pointed out that one of the judges on the appeals panel formerly worked for FX Networks, thus hinting at possible judge bias in the decision to reverse de Havilland’s suit.
Now we’re just waiting for the day when someone in the “creative community” makes a biopic about Murphy being a raging bitch who ruins old lady’s lives — only to later beat the 101-year-old Murphy in court after biased judges cite years of evidence proving that Ryan Murphy was an asshole.