Olivia de Havilland's 'Feud' trial expedited, set for November

By Nardine Saad 

Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles (September 13, 2017, 11:31 AM)

Two-time Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland will be getting her day in court this fall.

The 101-year-old Hollywood icon, who sued FX and Ryan Murphy over her depiction in the Emmy-nominated docuseries "Feud: Bette and Joan," has been granted the speedy trial she was seeking due to her advanced age.

De Havilland's jury trial will begin on Nov. 27 and is expected to last five to seven days, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly Kendig ruled Wednesday at a hearing for the actress' motion to fast-track the lawsuit.

"I can't imagine not granting the motion based on the plaintiff being 101," Kendig said (via Deadline).

Though de Havilland, who lives in Paris, did not appear in court, her daughter Gisele Galante Chulack, an L.A. resident, attended the hearing instead, Deadline reported. It is unclear if the veteran actress will appear for later court dates.

The "Gone With the Wind" star sued FX and Murphy in June claiming that her depiction in "Feud" was unauthorized. De Havilland, who was played by Catherine Zeta-Jones in the miniseries about rival actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, makes four major legal claims about violations of her common law and statutory rights of publicity, her right to privacy and unjust enrichment.

Olivia de Havilland holds her two Academy Award statuettes in March 1950. (Associated Press)

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland in "Feud." (Kurt Iswarienko / FX)

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland in "Feud." (Kurt Iswarienko / FX)Her attorney Suzelle M. Smith said de Havilland is "absolutely thrilled" that the trial has been expedited.

"Having this case resolved quickly is particularly meaningful to the plaintiff, who is defending the reputation of grace and integrity that she has built over the course of her 80-year career," Smith said in a statement following the hearing.

A rep for FX had no further statement regarding Wednesday's hearing.

In the lawsuit, de Havilland alleges that neither FX, Murphy nor producers at 20th Century Fox TV sought or obtained her permission to include her in the eight-episode anthology. De Havilland also took issue with her portrayal during an episode about the 1963 Oscars during which Zeta-Jones had ample screen time and relayed gossipy commentary about the players of the night. The veteran actress believes the episode cast her in a "false, hurtful and damaging light."

Olivia de Havilland will have her day in court in November. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

On Wednesday, FX's attorney sought more trial time to track down third parties and experts because the issue "goes back decades." FX and Murphy's attorneys have argued that de Havilland's lawsuit impinges on the defendants' First Amendment right to "create expressive works about matters of public interest" and filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike the lawsuit in its entirety last month.

They said that de Havilland's consent was not needed to include her in the series, nor did her inclusion violate her right of publicity. They argued that de Havilland "cannot carry her burden of showing a probability of prevailing on any of her four causes of action" under the state's anti-SLAPP statutes protecting petition and free-speech rights.

That motion further complicates the situation because, if granted, the defendants would be awarded an automatic pre-trial appeal, which could push the trial date back further, the Hollywood Reporter said.

A hearing on the anti-SLAPP motion has been set for Sept. 29.