Olivia de Havilland’s Lawsuit Over FX’s ‘Feud’ Denied Review by Supreme Court

Actress had claimed that Ryan Murphy series depicted her in a false light

Olivia De Havilland
Photo courtesy of A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

The Supreme Court denied a review of a lawsuit by actress Olivia de Havilland, who sued FX Networks over its depiction of her in the Ryan Murphy series, “Feud: Bette and Joan.”

The high court on Monday rejected her petition to review the dismissal of her lawsuit, which had been allowed to proceed initially by a Los Angeles judge, before a California appeals court reversed that decision. De Havilland then attempted to petition both the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, but neither thought any intervention was necessary.

The Supreme Court did not give a reason for its decision, instead listing her court case under “Certiorari Denied” (Certiorari is the legal term used when a higher court reviews a lower court’s decision).

“We and Miss de Havilland are disappointed that the US Supreme Court passed on this opportunity to confirm that the First Amendment does not protect the publication of intentional lies in any medium, including so called docudramas. The California Court of Appeal has turned the First Amendment upside down and without doubt more harm to individuals and public deception will result,” a spokesperson for the law firm representing de Havilland said in a statement.

“One day someone else who is wronged for the sake of Hollywood profits will have the courage to stand on the shoulders of Miss de Havilland and fight for the right to defend a good name and legacy against intentional, unconsented exploitation and falsehoods. Miss de Havilland hopes she will live to see the day when such justice is done.”

The 102-year-old de Havilland was portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones in the limited series about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. She claimed that the series depicted her in an unflattering light as a “vulgar gossip” and “hypocrite.” Specifically, her lawsuit asserted her right of publicity and false light.

Her legal case was centered around the issue of whether Hollywood projects are protected by the First Amendment, which de Havilland’s legal team argued that FX went too far with “Feud.” The California appeals court ruled that her lawsuit should have been thrown out initially by the Los Angeles judge because it’s precluded by the First Amendment.