Rachel DeLoache Williams sues Netflix over ‘dishonest’ portrayal in ‘Inventing Anna’

Knoxville native Rachel DeLoache Williams wrote "My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress."

KNOXVILLE — Rachel DeLoache Williams has filed a lawsuit against Netflix, alleging the streaming giant defamed her in its dramatized series “Inventing Anna.”

Williams claims in the suit the true-crime series significantly misrepresented her in its telling the story of serial con artist Anna Sorokin.

Williams, a former Vanity Fair photo editor, published an article about her time with Sorokin as well as a book called “My Friend Anna,” selling the option rights to HBO. 

Netflix’s version of the story is based off a May 2018 New York magazine article instead, and the network paid Sorokin for the rights to her story, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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Knoxville native Rachel DeLoache Williams wrote "My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress."

“Netflix made a deliberate decision for dramatic purposes to show Williams doing or saying things in the series which portray her as a greedy, snobbish, disloyal, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative and opportunistic person,” Williams’ attorneys wrote in the suit, filed in Delaware federal court on Monday.

The suit alleges defamation and false light invasion of privacy and demands actual and presumed damages, as well as punitive damages, but does not ask for a specific amount. It also requests an injunction so Netflix doesn’t make any make defamatory statements, and the removal of the statements from the series. 

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The suit enumerates multiple instances in which Williams is falsely portrayed, including key scenes in which she sponges off Sorokin and then abandons her in Morocco.

“In reality, she never did or said those things,” the suit continues. “As a result of Netflix’s false portrayal of her as a vile and contemptible person, Williams was subjected to a torrent of online abuse (and) negative in-person interactions.”

Rachel (Katie Lowes) in a scene from "Inventing Anna."

The “catastrophic damage” to Williams’ reputation was completely avoidable and the creators of the Netflix show could have invented a fictional character to provide a villain, Williams’ attorneys argue.

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The defamatory statements in the series were made by Netflix with “actual malice, defined as knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for truth or falsity,” the suit alleges.

USA TODAY reached out to Netflix for a statement Wednesday morning.