Scarlett Johansson sues author for using her name in novel

Liz Hoggard

On screen she plays the femme fatale, but Scarlett Johansson is no lightweight when it comes to legal matters. In the past she's sued over hacked nude photos stolen from her phone. In 2008 she accused 'Cosmopolitan' magazine's UK edition of running fabricated quotes in a cover story interview.

But now 'The Avengers' star is challenging French writer Grégoire Delacourt after he described a character in his novel as being her “doppelgänger”, or exact double. 

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Experts say it's a legal action that could test the limits of creative expression.

Despite the author insisting that the comparison is meant as a compliment and tribute to Ms Johansson’s beauty,  the actress is seeking compensation and damages for the "breach and fraudulent use of personal rights" and a ban on "future transfer of rights and adaptations of the book."

The book in question, 'La première chose qu’on regard' ('The First Thing We Look At'), was published in March. It concerns a mysterious woman who looks just like Johansson, who asks for help at the house of a car mechanic in a village in the Somme, in northern France.

The mechanic is convinced at first that it really is Scarlett Johansson. Only later does he realise that it is  a woman called Jeanine Foucaprez, who is her exact double.

Mr Delacourt  is “stupefied” that Ms Johansson has taken legal action. He is convinced that she has not even read the book, which has so far appeared only in French.

“I am also very sad,” he told the newspaper 'Le Figaro'. “I was hoping that she might send me flowers because this book is, in a way, a declaration of love.”

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He added: “She is an archetypal beauty of our times, very human with a touching fragility. She is a wonderful, iconic actress.”

Mr Delacourt’s novel name-checks other celebrities such as Ryan Gosling and Gene Hackman. The work is intended in part as a satire on celebrity culture.

“All these famous people live with us all the time. Celeb culture is imposed on us by the media, the press, the internet,” Mr Delacourt said. “So her complaint is based on exactly the phenomenon I am denouncing. It’s a paradox. But I suppose it’s all very American.”

Ultimately, a novel is a work of fiction, Mr Delacourt added. “I also describe someone being hurt when their airbag fails to inflate,” he said. “Am I going to be sued by airbag manufacturers?”

In 1996 French actress Catherine Deneuve sued the publisher of lesbian magazine 'Deneuve', forcing it to change its name to 'Curve'.