Olivia de Havilland Suit Against FX Networks and Ryan Murphy Will Go to Trial Nov. 27

101-year-old Academy Award-winning actress Olivia de Havilland wins the first round of her battle against FX Networks and Ryan Murphy for Catherine Zeta Jones’s portrayal of the famed actress in the FX anthology television series “Feud: Bette and Joan.” An L.A. Superior Court judge ruled against the Networks’s motion to dismiss pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP law.

The 1992 law was created to protect against “civil complaints or counterclaims…in which the alleged injury was the result of petitioning or free speech activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and by the California Constitution.”[1] In the two-pronged test, the defense must first show that the injury comes from protected rights. If successful, the plaintiff must then show that they could, through admissible evidence, prevail in the trial. Judge Holly Kendig permitted the suit to advance.

The eight-episode television series starred Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon as famed ‘frenemies’ Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, respectively, during and after filming their 1962 horror film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. The show cast award-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones to portray de Havilland. The suit alleges that the show used her appearance without her permission, invasion of privacy, and unjust enrichment, among other complaints.

FX has an opportunity to appeal the Superior Court’s decision. If unsuccessful, then the trial will begin November 27 of this year.

[1] California Anti-Slapp Project, https://www.casp.net/sued-for-freedom-of-speech-california/what-is-a-first-amendment-slapp/ (last visited Oct. 1, 2017).


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