A US clothing chain is fighting a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought by Woody Allen by claiming it cannot have damaged his reputation as the director has already ruined it himself.
The film-maker is seeking US$10m after American Apparel used his image on billboards and on the internet without his permission.
However, lawyers for the retailer have countered that sex scandals involving Allen have meant that his name has already been damaged, notably by his affair with then-wife Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn in 1992. Allen subsequently married Soon-Yi in 1997.
The billboards at the centre of the legal case went up last year in Hollywood and New York, but were taken down within a week, American Apparel said.
Allen, 73, is suing the company on the grounds that they falsely implied that he sponsored or endorsed the firm’s products.
A court date is set for May 18 in Manhattan, and American Apparel looks set to turn the focus on the Oscar winner’s personal life.
The company’s lawyer Stuart Slotnick said: “Woody Allen expects $10m for use of his image on billboards that were up and down in less than one week. I think Woody Allen overestimates the value of his image.
“Certainly, our belief is that after the various sex scandals that Woody Allen has been associated with, corporate America’s desire to have Woody Allen endorse their product is not what he may believe it is.”
As part of their case, American Apparel – which is known for its often racy advertising campaigns – is demanding documents relating to any endorsements that were cancelled or withdrawn following the revelation of Allen’s affair with the then 22-year-old Soon-Yi.
Farrow separated from Allen after she discovered nude pictures of her adopted daughter taken by her husband. A bitter custody battle saw allegations of sexual abuse thrown at Allen, but a judge exonerated the director of the charges.
Allen’s lawyers have said that the request for documents relating to the affair with Soon-Yi are “vexatious, oppressive, harassing” and not relevant to the case.
At an earlier hearing, Allen described the company’s advertising campaigns as “sleazy ” and “infantile”.
American Apparel have denied that it is employing a cheap shot to attack the director.
The company’s lawyer declined to comment on the possibility of an out-of-court settlement, but Mr Slotnick said: “All I can say is that the company has apologised for the use of Mr Allen’s image, however brief. And the company apologised if they offended Mr Allen’s sensibilities.”