By Dominic Patten
EXCLUSIVE: Nine days after Olivia de Havilland turned 102, the California Supreme Court has rejected the two-time Oscar winner’s desire to have them review her feud with FX Networks and Ryan Murphy over her depiction in the Emmy winning 2017 Feud: Bette and Joan anthology.
“It is a sad day for Miss de Havilland and for the legal system,” the Hold Back the Dawn actress’ primary lawyer Suzelle M. Smith said bluntly to Deadline today.
While a blow, the terse and unexplained “petition denied” from the Golden State’s highest court Wednesday hasn’t completely TKO’d the Hollywood legend’s aim to see the matter ultimately go to a jury trial. The action could be revived if de Havilland successfully petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case. Putting together such paperwork to the SCOTUS is being evaluated by de Havilland’s team, but no decision has been made yet to go that route or not.
Producers Fox 21 Television had no comment on what was another victory for them in the year-plus matter.
The July 11 decision not to accept the petition follows de Havilland coming up short in March when an appellate court unanimously dismissed her lawsuit against FX and the now-Netflix-bound producer over the Bette and Joan limited series. Seeking wide-ranging damages and to essentially shut down the FX anthology show with an injunction, de Havilland declared in her initial June 30, 2017 lawsuit that the “bitch”-spouting portrayal of her by Catherine Zeta-Jones in Feud damaged the Gone With the Wind actress “professional reputation for integrity, honesty, generosity, self-sacrifice and dignity.”
In her jury-seeking complaint of last summer, The Heiress actress asserted that FX, Murphy and producers Fox 21 TV never even sought nor obtained her permission to depict her or use her name in their eight-episode series about Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Among other issues, de Havilland’s lawsuit specifically targeted the alleged backstage drama involving her depicted in Feud‘s “And the Winner Is …” fifth episode about the 1963 Oscars.
For a while, it seemed that de Havilland truly was going to get her day in court.
In September 2017, L.A. Superior Court Judge Holly Kendig rebuffed FX and gang and agreed that de Havilland’s case could go to trial starting in November of that year. That’s when the defendants started waving around anti-SLAPP laws and First Amendment protections to justify their stance. Actions that higher courts, as well as the likes of Netflix and the studio-controlled MPAA, eventually concurred with.
Suffering defeat in the Appeals Court, Paris-based de Havilland and her Howarth & Smith attorneys in early May of this year asked the California Supreme Court to “grant this petition, review and reverse the published Opinion, correct the legal standards applicable here, and reinstate the Ruling of the trial court.”
With Wednesday’s refusal to do that, the centenarian de Havilland and team now have to decide if this is a feud that they want to go large and long for at this point.