Olivia de Havilland Reignites Her Feud Feud, Brings Case to California Supreme Court

Thought you’d seen the last of her. Photo: Francois Durand/Getty Images

Olivia de Havilland has never been known to give up, and so, at age 101, she isn’t. After having her defamation case against FX, over her portrayal in Feud: Bette and Joan, dismissed earlier this year by a California appellate court, de Havilland is petitioning the State Supreme Court to give her a jury trial. “I feel very strongly that I must ask the Supreme Court to hear the case, for my sake and for the sake of many others in the future. It is important that cases with merit be allowed to proceed to a jury trial,” de Havilland said in a statement. “My case is about FX publishing false statements about me and using my name without consent. I, and other individuals in like circumstances, should not be denied our Constitutional right to trial by jury.”

The case came about after de Havilland finally watched Catherine Zeta-Jones’s portrayal of her in Feud and objected to the character’s gossipy nature, claiming that “the FX series puts words in the mouth of Miss de Havilland which are inaccurate and contrary to the reputation she has built over an 80-year professional life.” As the case developed, it started to center specifically on the character referring to her sister Joan Fontaine as a “bitch,” which de Havilland insists she did not do. (She did call her a “dragon lady,” and the court had to debate which was worse.)

The actress first sued last June. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge initially allowed the case to move forward, before FX appealed the judge’s decision to allow a jury trial, taking it to California’s Second Appellate District. There, a panel ruled in the network’s favor this March, in a move Murphy said marked “a great day for artistic expression and a reminder of how precious our freedom remains.” “The Court of Appeal opinion, if allowed to stand, will infringe on the Constitutional right to a trial by jury not only of Miss de Havilland, but for any person in a similar situation, whether a celebrity or not,” Suzelle Smith, de Havilland’s counsel, said of the petition to the California Supreme Court for review of the case. “This puts everyone at the mercy of the media and entertainment industry, which may find that false statements and fake news sell better than the truth.”

Olivia de Havilland Reignites Feud Feud