Monday, May 30, 2011
The production of Farrah Fawcett’s documentary, Farrah’s Story, was surrounded by legal battles almost from the beginning. Fawcett originally began working on the documentary with producer Craig Nevius. Nevius claims that Farrah’s vision for the documentary was to have “the film address shortcomings she saw in American cancer treatment and to present it in art-house style.”
Fawcett’s long time on-and-off again boyfriend, Ryan O’Neal, did not see eye to eye with Nevius when it came to the film. O’Neal instructed Nevius to hand the documentary over to Robert Greenwald, another producer. O’Neal allegedly told Nevius “I’ll kill you with Farrah and then I’ll kill you in real life.” O’Neal maintains that he said “I’ll kill ya” in a joking manner. Nevius refused to hand over the documentary, and the two men continued to fight over the film.
Further complicating the project, NBC (who had bid $1.5 million for the film) continually prodded Nevius to hand over scenes, and began to question some of Nevius’ production strategies. On April 15, NBC informed Nevius that the network would broadcast the documentary about three weeks later. Nevius told NBC that he would work overtime, but that he would not give NBC a final version of the film before getting Fawcett’s approval. However, O’Neal and Richard Francis, an employee of the firm that managed Fawcett’s finances, would not allow Nevius to visit the dying actress.
Fawcett, while bed-ridden in her condominium, signed over creative control of the documentary to O’Neal. Though Fawcett’s signature appears shaky on the documents, O’Neal maintains that the “[t]here was nothing going on that was underhanded.” O’Neal then gave NBC almost free rein to finish the documentary. The final version of the documentary did not contain much of the footage addressing America’s cancer treatment shortcomings.
Nevius sued O’Neal and Francis in an attempt to regain control of the production company he and Fawcett created. Nevius also wanted to produce the documentary he claims Fawcett had wanted to make. Francis countersued Nevius, claiming that he embezzled company funds (no proof was ever offered to validate this claim).
After being told that the suit could last for over two years, Nevius decided to enter into settlement negotiations. Nevius said “I’m fighting at least two multi-millionaires…[a]nd at some point I don’t know that it’s honoring Farrah. I just don’t think she’d want us all destroying each other, which is pretty much how it’s going.”
Jim Rutenberg, The Long Goodbye, The New York Times, May 27, 2011.