Next month, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris will face off in court against the subject of one of his documentaries, Joyce McKinney. Morris is perhaps best known for his 1988 film Thin Blue Line, which ultimately contributed to the exoneration of its subject, Randall Adams. His 2011 movie Tabloid tackled McKinney’s sensational relationship with her former fiancé, Kirk Anderson. In 1977, Anderson, a Mormon, left McKinney to go on a mission trip to England. Convinced he had joined a cult, McKinney followed him to England, where she allegedly kidnapped and raped him. Much of the film centers on the media’s reaction to McKinney’s story; the British tabloids covered her story, and her lurid past, extensively. Morris’s interviews with McKinney, who volunteered to appear in the film to clear her name, are the film’s focal point.
After Tabloid’s release, McKinney filed suit against Morris, claiming breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and fraud. The judge has not permitted McKinney to go forward with a defamation claim. McKinney told the Hollywood Reporter Hollywood Reporter last week that, “They offered me $75,000 to settle and I told them to kiss my butt. They made millions off of me…I’m going to take it all the way to the end as I want my day in court.” Morris is represented by prominent entertainment law attorney Lincoln Bandlow, who represents filmmakers and television personalities like Morgan Spurlock and Conan O’Brien. If the film is any indication, the trial, set to start in Los Angeles on February 29, is likely to get interesting.
Miranda Means is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current second year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2017).