Netflix hit with libel lawsuit over ‘Inventing Anna’ drama

Rachel Williams – victim of con artist Anna Sorokin, whose story became the Netflix series “Inventing Anna” – is suing the streamer for defamation and invasion of privacy by false lighting. She alleges that the portrayal of her on the show was almost entirely negative and fictional.

“This action will show that Netflix made a deliberate decision for dramatic purposes to show Williams doing or saying things on the show that portray her as a greedy, snobbish, disloyal, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative, and opportunistic person” who mopped up Sorokin , then abandoned her in Morocco and then lied to her own friends to hide that she had helped police arrest Sorokin in 2017, according to the filing.

“In reality, she never did or said these things,” the lawsuit states. “Thus, this action is firmly based on statements of fact that are patently false and the attribution of statements that she never made.”

Williams’ attorney Alexander Rufus-Isaacs filed the lawsuit Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Delaware, Netflix’s home base, according to documents obtained by Deadline.

Williams seeks unspecified damages plus court costs, and she also wants the court to “prevent and enjoin” Netflix from continuing to defame her. She wants the alleged defamatory material removed from the series, which is still available on the streaming platform.

Netflix did not immediately respond Monday afternoon to a request for comment.

Williams doesn’t have a problem with there being a negative character on the show, according to the lawsuit, but if Netflix was going to portray her that way, it should have given her a fictional name and changed the details. identification.

Williams, a writer and former photo editor for Vanity Fair, wrote a article 2018 for the magazine about her “misadventures” with Sorokin, whom she knew as Anna Delvey. Williams sold the rights to her story to HBO.

by Netflix “Inventing Anna”, which premiered in February, is based on a New York magazine article about Sorokin, and Sorokin sold the rights to his life story to Netflix. Shonda Rhimes created the series, Julia Garner plays Anna, and Katie Lowes plays Rachel.

In real life, Russian-born Sorokin, who is a German citizen and simulated as a German heiress, was convicted in April 2019 of eight counts, including grand theft. She served two years in prison before being taken into the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2021 pending deportation to Germany. Sorokin is currently being held in New York State as she challenge his expulsion.

The series includes variations on a mild disclaimer: “This entire story is completely true. Except for any parts that are totally made up.”

“This confusing message does nothing to protect people like Williams whose real name and biographical information is used, and who is falsely portrayed as a despicable person,” the lawsuit states.

Williams ended up being the recipient of “vitriolous” messages, he says, on social media and elsewhere online. The filing also cites numerous media reports questioning Netflix’s “axe work” on Williams as well as the dialogue in many of the show’s scenes.

A few days after the release of “Inventing Anna”, Vanity Fair interviewed Williams on the finished product.

Williams took Netflix to task over the story, telling his former employer, “I think promoting this whole narrative and celebrating a sociopathic, narcissistic, proven criminal is a mistake. To have had a front row seat to [the Anna circus] For far too long, I’ve studied how a scam works more than anyone needs to. You watch the show, but you don’t pay attention to what’s being marketed.

At the time, she said she was “concerned about some very obvious and rebuttable factual inaccuracies” in “Inventing Anna”, but was more interested in the true crime entertainment genre as a whole.

“Some people online think this is a verified series. The books are verified,” she told VF. “This show plays with a fine line – peddling it as a true story, but also [in the opening disclaimer] saying, ‘except for all the parts that are not.’ I think it’s worth exploring how much more dangerous a half-truth is than a lie.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.