Rachel Williams Says Netflix’s ‘Inventing Anna’ Defamed Her
A cooperating witness against the bogus German heiress who defrauded New York’s elite has filed a libel suit against Netflix for portraying her as a ‘sponger, profiteer and disloyal friend’ on the show Invent Anna.
Presenting herself publicly as a named German heiress Anna Delveyfraudster Anna Sorokin was convicted by a New York jury of eight counts, including robbery. Prosecutors said Sorokin stole more than $275,000 from major financial institutions, banks, hotels and acquaintances in the United States in a brazen scheme that spanned between 2013 and 2017.
In the series bearing her birth name, however, Sorokin seems to have been portrayed less as a villain and more as a feminist antihero. Several reviewers noted that the writers gave far less sympathetic treatment to one of his victims: Rachel DeLoache Williamsan old vanity lounge photo editor who published a story about her time with Sorokin and turned the state’s witness against her. This piece was broadcast a month before the New York magazine story on which the Netflix series is based: “How Anna Delvey tricked New York partygoers”, by a journalist Jessica Pressler.
Williams then pitched her story to HBO, leading her attorney to question whether her client’s negative portrayal stemmed from sour grapes.
“The reason we had to file it is because Netflix used Rachel’s real name and biographical details, and portrayed her as a horrible person, which she is not,” her attorney said. Alexander Rufus-Isaacs Law&Crime said in an email. “The devastating damage to its reputation could have been avoided if only Netflix had used a fictitious name and different details. Why didn’t they do this for her, when they did for so many other characters on the show? Maybe the reason was that she chose to play for the other team, i.e. HBO.
The 59-page lawsuit includes quotes from critics who also made that connection.
The Independent, a UK-based online news source, bluntly asked in its headline: “Inventing Anna has a brutal vendetta against Rachel DeLoache Williams – is Netflix bitter that she sold her story to HBO?” The London time Likewise demand of Williams’ description as a “disgusting freeloader”: “Is this character assassination a competitive start?
Other reviewers simply noted the show’s apparent antipathy for Williams. HuffPo commented that the series “inexplicably vilify” her for organizing the sting operation that brought down Sorokin, and vogue observed that the series portrays her as “both meaningless and materialistic, naive and snobby”.
“Due to Netflix’s misrepresentation of her as a vile and despicable person, Williams was subjected to a torrent of online abuse, negative in-person interactions and derogatory characterizations in podcasts etc. that were based on the series, which establish that Netflix’s actions exposed her to public contempt, ridicule, dislike or disgrace, or induced a low opinion of her,” the lawsuit states, alleging that Williams was bombarded with “thousands” of “abusive messages”.
Episodes of Invent Anna started with variations of the disclaimer: “This story is completely true, except for all the parts that are total bullshit”, but Williams says this “confusing” disclaimer didn’t save her from the “tidal wave of vitriolic messages”.
According to the complaint, the series gave certain characters fictitious names or otherwise protected their identities, but Williams received no such consideration.
“Given the easy alternative of protecting her by using a fictitious name, the decision to use her real name proves Netflix’s intent to damage her reputation, thereby justifying the imposition of punitive damages, especially if Netflix made this decision because Williams had sold its rights to the rival Sorokin project developed by HBO,” the lawsuit states.
Netflix did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Williams seeks actual and unspecified punitive damages for invasion of privacy and defamation.
Read the complaint here:
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