Screen Icon, 101, Urges Speedy Trial of Lawsuit Over TV Series

By Lila Seidman
(Los Angeles Daily Journal)

Weeks after filing a lawsuit against showrunner Ryan Murphy and FX Networks over her depiction in the Emmy- nominated series, "Feud: Bette and Joan," Golden Age screen icon Olivia de Havilland has asked the court to expedite the trial, citing her advanced age. De Havilland celebrated her 101st birthday on July 1.

In its first public statement on thecase, Fox 21 defended the show on Wednesday, calling it "meticulously researched."

"By the logic of Ms. de Havilland's attorneys, no producer would be able to tell any stories about famous people, living or dead, without their consent," the statement said.

De Havilland's attorneys filed a request with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Holly Kendig on Tuesday, asking that the trial be set in November or no later than 120 days after her motion is granted. The motion is set for a hearing on Sept. 13, days before the Prirnetime Emmy Awards, where the anthology series about the behind-the-scenes rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis is nominated for 18 awards.

The motion relies on a statute that allows people over 70 to fast-track the litigation process.

"[It's] a matter of common sense. When you reach 90, much less 100- plus, you're approaching the area where your longevity cannot be counted on," said de Havilland's attorney Suzelle Smith of Los Angeles- based Howarth & Smith. "I think this will be a pretty straightforward case for the judge." Don Howarth and Zoe Tremayne of the same firm are also on the plaintiff's team.

In the suit filed June 30, the "Gone with the Wind" star alleges unauthorized commercial use of her name and identity in the show, which details of a feud between Crawford and Davis. De Havilland v. FX Networks LLC, BC667011 (L.A. Super Ct., filed June 30, 2017).

According to two-time Oscar winner de Havilland, her character in the show, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, is portrayed as gossiping about the title characters and disparaging her sister, actress Joan Fontaine.

The complaint alleges that statements attributed to de Havilland are false and "have caused her economic, reputatioμal, and emotional damages, including distress, anxiety and humiliation." She is seeking unspecified damages and an injunction against FX to prevent it from using her name and likeness. Smith said de Havilland was not consulted for the project, despite being the only living person prominently depicted.