The author, novelist Grégoire Delacourt, was baffled by the suit, believing his book was a declaration of love for the actress.
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Sultry silver screen star Scarlett Johansson has won a moral victory in a French court with her civil suit against novelist Grégoire Delacourt. The actress was awarded damages totaling $3, 400 last week, considerably short of the $68, 000 she had sought. She was awarded another $3, 400 in legal costs.
The judge agreed that the author had defamed the star of films such as Lost in Translation and Her, but rejected Johansson’s claim that the book exploited her name and image. He also dismissed the actress’s motion to prevent the novel from being translated into any other languages or from being made into a film.
The novel, La première Chose Qu’on Regard (The First Thing We Look at), has sold more than 100, 000 copies and has already been translated into several languages, but not yet into English.
Johansson filed the defamation suit last year, accusing the book of “fraudulently exploited her name, her image and her celebrity.”
The law suit centered around the use of Johansson herself in depicting a fictitious character in Delacourt’s novel. In it, a model who looks just like Johansson complains about being perceived only as a sex object by men. The model proceeds to have several affairs with different men.
While this person was clearly not Johansson herself, the actress felt that depicting a character said to look just like her in such a way was defamatory nonetheless. Johansson said that she was used as a “sex object.”
Emmanuelle Allibery, of Jean Claude Lattes which published the book, stated that the firm was pleased with the judge’s decision saying, “All of Scarlett Johansson’s demands were rejected except one thing that was seen to be an attack in her private life over two relations that she never had. The book has already been translated into German and Italian, and there has been interest in translating it into English, but publishers were waiting for the outcome of the case. Now we are open to offers.”
Allibery had previously stated: “We have never known anything like it. It is all the more surprising for the fact that the novel is not even about Scarlett Johansson. It is about a woman who is Scarlet Johansson’s double.”
Delacourt did not understand what all the fuss was about. He believed that since the character was fictitious and not actually supposed to be Johansson herself, then there would be no problem. In fact, the author had thought the actress would be flattered by the way in which he described a beautiful woman as looking just like her.
When he first heard that Johansson was unhappy about his work, Delacourt said he thought it was the result of a clash of cultures. “I thought she might send me flowers as [the book] was a declaration of love for her, but she didn’t understand it at all. It’s a strange paradox, but a very American one.”
When the lawsuit was first filed, the book’s author told The Guardian, “I thought [Johansson would] get in contact to ask me to go for a coffee with her. I didn’t write a novel about a celebrity. I wrote a real love story and a homage to feminine beauty, especially interior beauty. It’s stupefying, especially as I’m not sure she’s even read the novel, since it hasn’t been translated yet.”
Maybe, if Johansson ever does read the book, she might like it and end up agreeing to play the character in the movie.
Delacourt is a bestselling author. His last novel, “My List of Desires, ” has been translated into 47 languages.
Scarlett Johansson’s mother, Melanie Sloan, comes from an Ashkenazi Jewish family in the Bronx. Her ancestors emigrated to the US from Minsk.