You don’t own history: not even your own

How huge is this … a person does not have the legal right to control someone else’s vision of them.oliviadh

I keep reading this week’s news, is it right? Really? It’s come about through Olivia De Havilland’s court case against the creators of a TV show that features her.  The 101 year old actor believed she had been misrepresented on screen.   But the jury panel ruled in favour of the creatives.  Here’s what the judge said:

“Whether a person portrayed in one of these expressive works is a world-renowned film star – ‘a living legend’ – or a person no-one knows, she or he does not own history…Nor does she or he have the legal right to control, dictate, approve, disapprove or veto the creator’s portrayal of actual people.”

It’s close to home for me – I’m in script development with a biopic of a real person. And elements of their life need to be told with creative licence: I’m an entertainer not a historian.  So there are moments, thousands of tiny moments, when I made stuff up.  I had to.  And I believe each well-considered fabricated moment works to reflect the bigger picture of the person I’m portraying.  And, ultimately, the vision of the person I am creating is as authentic as I can get it.

So here’s the question … what would they think of the film? Actually I think they’d laugh it off and wonder what the bloody hell someone was bothering about them for.

2 thoughts on “You don’t own history: not even your own

  1. I’m assuming that you can’t actually libel or defame them..

    But otherwise, surely you’d never be able to write a biography about anyone without them having effectively total control, anough to legally bury anything. That would be boring.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the picture with the subject looking at her own image in the mirror! I wonder who suggested the pose – the subject or the photographer?

    Judge’s comments are really interesting. Thought provoking blog, great.


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