Feud: Bette and Joan may have ended its run on FX, but it looks like the network has entered into a legal feud of its own. Actress Olivia de Havilland is suing FX, as well as Ryan Murphy Productions, over her portrayal on the series played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. She is asking the court for damages and any profits gained from the portrayal due to the network’s infringement to common law, unjust enrichment, and invasion of privacy.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actress filed a complaint on Friday in L.A. County Superior Court that claims that “she has built a reputation for integrity and dignity by refraining from gossip and other unkind, ill-mannered behavior.” This contrasts the character’s actions as she is seen gossiping about actresses Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) throughout the 8-episode season. de Havilland believes that the Zeta-Jones portrayal gives off the impression that she is a hypocrite and sold gossip to tabloids in order to promote her own career.
The first season of Feud centers on the behind-the-scenes drama that took place between Hollywood icons Crawford and Davis as they filmed the 1962 movie Who Killed Baby Jane? While the series promised to retell true events, no one consulted the actress about her portrayal. As the only living person to be portrayed on the show, de Havilland feels that she had the right to help shape the true events.
“[A]ll statements made by Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland in this fake interview are completely false, some inherently so; others false because they were never said,” wrote Suzelle Smith, de Havilland’s attorney. “FX defendants did not engage in protected First Amendment speech in putting false words into the mouth of Olivia de Havilland in a fake interview that did not occur and would not have occurred.”
The actress also finds the show’s representation of the relationship with her sister to be inappropriate. “Zeta-Jones’ de Havilland refers to Joan Fontaine as her ‘bitch sister,’ an offensive term that stands in stark contrast with Olivia de Havilland’s reputation for good manners, class and kindness,” wrote Smith.
Murphy even admitted in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in April that he did not reach out to the actress on purpose. He revealed, “I didn’t write Olivia because I didn’t want to be disrespectful and ask her, ‘Did this happen? Did that happen? What was your take on that?'”
“Each FX defendant knew ‘Feud’ would be more successful if they placed an individual like Olivia de Havilland, who is known for her honesty and integrity, at the forefront of the story,” Smith continued. “Her credibility, as both the only living person of significance portrayed in ‘Feud’ and as a reliable source who was close to the action, added to the success of ‘Feud’ at the expense of Olivia de Havilland.”
FX declined to comment regarding the lawsuit.