The Film ‘Inventing Anna’ Sparks a Defamation Suit Against Netflix!
Netflix is in trouble again because of its love of docudramas. This time, Rachel Williams, a friend of New York City con artist Anna Sorokin, is to blame. On Monday, she sued the company for defamation because of how she was portrayed in Inventing Anna.
Based on a May 2018 New York article, the series shows how Anna Delvey, better known as Sorokin, used scams to get what she wanted and then lost everything.
In the show, Sorokin lies about being a German heiress to get into the upper class of New York City and steals millions from banks to pay for her lavish lifestyle. It has a funny disclaimer that says, “This story is 100% true. Except for the parts that are completely made up.”
Williams, who used to be a photo editor at Vanity Fair and wrote about her time with Sorokin before New York’s story came out, says that almost everything about her character on the show is made up.
Netflix’s version of what happened is that Williams gladly accepts Sorokin’s expensive gifts and trips, but when she finds out that Sorokin lied about her wealth, she turns her friend into the police.
The complaint, which was filed in Delaware federal court, says, “This action will show that Netflix made a deliberate decision for dramatic purposes to show Williams doing or saying things in the Series that shows her as a greedy, snobbish, disloyal, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative, and opportunistic person.”
In one scene, a lawyer forces Williams to say that Sorokin paid for everything they did together. The lawsuit says that the cross-examination scene was meant to make it seem like Williams is a freeloader. Williams says this is not true because she has paid for drinks and split the bill for spa treatments and dinners.
In another scene, Williams leaves Sorokin in Morocco when her credit card is turned down at a high-end resort. Williams says that before the trip, she actually told Sorokin that she had to leave on a certain date to go to France for work.
The lawsuit makes it sound like Williams only stopped being friends with Sorokin when Sorokin started having money problems.
“Williams didn’t stop being friends with Sorokin because he was having problems in Morocco. Instead, she stopped being friends with him because she found out when she got back to New York that Sorokin was a liar and a con artist. Sorokin’s lies and promises had led Williams to take on about $62,000 in debt on his behalf, but he only paid her back $5,000, even though he had promised to pay her $70,000 to cover the full debt and
Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, who is representing Williams, says that the lawsuit makes a strong case that his client’s character was intentionally misrepresented to make a better story. He talks about an interview with the show’s creator and executive producer, Shonda Rhimes.
Rhimes said in the interview, “We wanted to know what we were making up.” “We didn’t want to just make stuff up for no reason.” She also said, “We didn’t want to just make things up by accident; we wanted to do it on purpose.”
Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter in another interview, “There were things we made up because we had to in order to make the story work and be what it should be.”
Katie Lowes, who played Williams on the show, said in an interview, “[Rachel] is a people-pleaser. She is young and naive, and she has had a good life. I don’t think this is necessarily true of Rachel Williams in real life. I think it’s true of the character Shonda wrote and what Shonda needed the character to be for the show.”
Rufus-Isaacs says that the statements show that Netflix knew the allegedly defamatory statements and actions were not true but went ahead with them anyway so the show could have a bad guy. The complaint doesn’t name Rhimes or Shondaland.
For defamation cases against well-known people to be successful, it must be shown that the allegedly defamatory statements were made with bad intentions.
There must be a plan to hurt someone and a knowledge that what was said isn’t true, or there must be a reckless disregard for the truth. Defamation lawsuits filed by Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and a man who didn’t like how he was portrayed in “The Wolf of Wall Street” didn’t meet the standard.
Williams gave HBO the rights to her article in Vanity Fair and her unwritten book. She told THR, “Netflix used my real name and real parts of my life to make a totally false and defamatory character of me. The truth is important, and acting like real people is a big responsibility. I’m filing this lawsuit to make Netflix pay for being willfully careless.”
The complaint says that Williams’ character is the only one in the show to be given a real person’s full name and to have the same job, alma mater, and neighborhood as the real person. The complaint also says that the show defames and invades the privacy of the real person.
Rufus-Isaacs says, “We had to file this lawsuit because Netflix used Rachel’s real name and information about her life to make her seem like a bad person, which she is not.” “Netflix could have saved her reputation from a lot of damage if they had used a fake name and different details. Why didn’t they do this for her when they did it for so many other characters in the Series? Maybe it was because she decided to play for the other team, i.e., HBO.
In 2017, Sorokin was caught in a sting operation with the help of Williams. Netflix had paid her $320,000 for the rights to her story. She got out of prison on parole after two years, and then U.S. Immigration and Customs took her into custody so she could be sent back to Germany.
The Cast of Inventing Anna
- Anna Chlumsky as Vivian Kent
- Anna “Delvey” Sorokin is played by Julia Garner.
- Todd Spodek played by Arian Moayed
- Katie Lowes plays Rachel Williams.
- Neff Davis as Alexis Floyd
- As Jack, Anders Holm
- Maud, played by Anna Deavere Smith
- Lou as Jeff Perry
- Terry Kinney played Barry, and Laverne Cox played Kacy Duke.