By Yohana Desta
Olivia de Havilland is attempting to take her suit against Ryan Murphy and FX’s Feud to the highest court in the land. Back in 2017, the Oscar-winning actress, 102, brought a case against FX, claiming that her portrayal in Murphy’s series, a drama about the fraught relationship between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, was inaccurate. De Havilland took issue with specific things, like her character (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) making jokes about Frank Sinatra’s drinking, or calling her sister, Joan Fontaine (with whom she had a legendary rivalry), a “bitch.” She also claimed that FX never reached out to her for permission, or to consult with her about the portrayal. The suit was eventually tossed out by an appeals court in March, and a later attempt to bring it to the California Supreme Court was struck down as well. No matter—de Havilland and her legal team have rallied once more, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Per Deadline, de Havilland’s team has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, asking the legal body to re-examine the California Court of Appeal’s previous decision to dismiss her claims.
“We must persevere and speak truth to power,” de Havilland said in a statement. “The fight is itself important to the principle of honesty, so much in need today in the face of deliberate public confusion for selfish agendas.”
Suzelle Smith, de Havilland’s legal counsel, also released a statement: “This case is of immense social significance and popular concern over the California Court’s use of the First Amendment to immunize Hollywood businesses when they knowingly publish unconsented falsehoods about living people in commercial productions.”
She continued, noting that de Havilland “has always said she will not give up on this important constitutional and moral struggle with the financial powerhouses in the entertainment world. The fact that we received hundreds of calls, e-mails, and letters from people of all walks of life imploring us not to abandon the fight encouraged her and her team not to lose heart.”
In defending the suit, FX’s team leaned on California’s anti-Slapp (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute, which essentially protects free speech in the state. FX was also supported by organizations like the Motion Picture Association of America and Netflix, among others, who viewed a de Havilland victory as something that could subsequently encourage a flood of legal action against artwork that portrays real people. (The Screen Actors Guild, meanwhile, threw its support behind de Havilland.) When the case was thrown out in March, Murphy released a statement calling it a “victory for the creative community, and the First Amendment.”
In the 112-page petition (which you can read here), de Havilland’s team lays out her issues with the Feud portrayal, noting the actress’s concern that younger viewers of the show will let it color and shape their impression of her.
“Tens of millions of people viewed Feud, and for a new generation, most likely all they know of Petitioner [de Havilland] is found in the unauthorized lies and mischaracterization of her life, her work, and her nature as put forward in that series,” the document reads. Representatives for FX have not yet responded to Vanity Fair’s request for comment.