‘Inventing Anna’ Triggers Defamation Suit from Vanity Fair Staffer

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A Vanity Fair staffer who is portrayed in the Netflix show “Inventing Anna” filed a lawsuit on Monday, claiming she was falsely depicted in the series as “unethical,” “greedy,” “snobbish” and “disloyal.”

Rachel Williams was a friend of Anna Sorokin, the convicted con artist at the center of the show. Williams was defrauded out of $62,000 and wrote a Vanity Fair article and a book about the experience. The Netflix series was adapted from a New York magazine article about Sorokin.

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Williams has previously detailed her misgivings with the show, which she argues let Sorokin off too easily. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Delaware on Monday, also charges that the show includes 16 separate sets of defamatory statements about Williams.

The show portrays Williams as mooching off of Sorokin, abandoning her in Morocco, hiding her own role in facilitating Sorokin’s arrest and other “contemptible” conduct, the suit alleges. Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, Williams’ attorney, said that she has suffered tremendous online backlash in the wake of the series.

“If you want to base a character on a real person, and you want to make them a baddie, don’t use their real name,” Rufus-Isaacs said in an interview. “I wish creatives would understand that. If they want to make an unpleasant character, they can’t use a real person’s name unless everything they say is absolutely gospel.”

Rufus-Isaacs also represents Nona Gaprindashvili, the Georgian chess master who has sued Netflix over a reference to her in the series “The Queen’s Gambit.”

The attorney said he had filed the “Inventing Anna” suit in Delaware because Netflix is incorporated there and because, “We like Delaware law.” In Delaware, Netflix would not be able to file an anti-SLAPP motion to throw out the case.

Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Williams’ article and book were optioned by HBO, but the project stalled and is no longer in development.

The suit references media coverage that called out the portrayal of Williams in “Inventing Anna.” A columnist at The Independent wrote that the show appeared to have a “personal vendetta” against her.

“For a show interested in grey areas, ‘Inventing Anna’ goes out of its way to make us hate Rachel,” the author wrote.

The suit also cites a New York Post column that faulted the series for portraying Sorokin as a “feminist icon” and Williams as “the Wicked Witch of the West.”

In an interview with Vanity Fair in February, Williams faulted Netflix and producer Shonda Rhimes for “trying to straddle the divide between fact and fiction.”

“I think that’s a particularly dangerous space,” Williams said. “It’s a really convenient narrative people are projecting. But when you do that, you have to recognize you’re not looking for truth.”

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