Oscar-nominated actress and singer Ronee Sue Blakley has filed a defamation lawsuit against her screenwriter ex Carroll Cartwright amid allegations of defamation relating to his 2012 film What Maisie Knew. Cartwright co-wrote the script for the drama, which was said to be an adaptation of Henry James' 1897 novel of the same name.
The story followed a young girl who was used as a pawn in a bitter custody battle between her abusive mother Susanna, played onscreen by Julianne Moore, and her father Beale, portrayed by Steve Coogan.
However, Blakley is convinced Cartwright used aspects of their own lengthy custody fight over their daughter Sarah in the film and now she is suing, citing "libel in fiction".
In her complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, her lawyer writes, "If Susanna had been an entirely fictional character, this lawsuit would never have been filed. But that is not the case. Cartwright, who co-wrote the screenplay of the Film, has admitted that it is closely based on his own first hand (sic) personal experience of a lengthy and acrimonious battle for the custody of his daughter, Sarah."
The papers continue: "Cartwright wrote the screenplay to further his own feelings of hatred for Blakley by maliciously and falsely portraying her as a selfish and uncaring mother, when in fact she was a devoted and loving parent. This false depiction of Blakley has damaged her reputation and caused her to suffer severe emotional distress."
Blakley, known for her roles in 1975 movie Nashville and A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, is suing for $3 million (£1.9 million) in damages.
Millennium Entertainment via Everett Collection
There are some days when all you need a movie to be is light and cheerful, but then there are others when all you want to do is wallow in sadness for a little while and have a good cry. For times like those, you need a film that will rip your heart out. Our Netflix Hand-Picked Flix recommendation for this week's Bluesday Tuesday pick, What Maisie Knew, will do just that, and then probably stomp on it a few times for good measure.
The film chronicles the bitter and toxic custody battle between Susanna (Julianne Moore) and Beale (Steve Coogan), told from the perspective of their observant their 7 year-old daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile), who is starting to understand how selfish and immature her parents can be. Luckily, she has some support from her step-parents, her former live-in nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham) and bartender Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard), who are just as much a pawn in this game as Maisie is. The film is an unflinchingly depressing look at the toll that such a dysfunctional relationship can have on a child, who the parents begin to treat more like a bargaining chip than an actual human being. The film also features a wonderfully harsh performance from Moore as the self-obsessed, slightly delusional mother.
However, What Maisie Knew is anchored by Aprile, whose Maisie doesn’t throw tantrums like her parents, but is instead quietly heartbreaking as she begins to process where she stands in her parents’ priorities. The ending is somewhat divisive, but whether you love it or hate it, the film will leave you completely devastated – which, sometimes, is exactly what you need.
What Maise Knew is available to stream instantly on Netflix.