IMDb is continuing to demand the “Jane Doe” actress who is suing them for revealing her age step up and reveal her true identity. For now, the anonymous actress says she’s sticking to her alias for fear of retaliation; retaliation from the public for launching a $1 million suit many have ridiculed and retaliation from casting directors hesitant to hire a 40-year-old actress for a starring role. While the Screen Actors Guild came to her defense last week, claiming her casting fears are legitimate, IMDb won’t back down. Lawyers for the internet movie database responded, calling her fear of retaliation unreasonable, and demanding, yet again, that she stop hiding behind her alias. Yet, are these demands a scare tactic used to pressure the actress into dropping the suit altogether? I think so.
When requesting the court allow the actress to remain anonymous, her attorneys pointed to more than 750 news articles about the lawsuit, specifically 22 pages of harmful statements directed at the actress, to prove that revealing herself could lead to retaliation. Yet IMDb says while the comments are unflattering, they don’t believe the comments are harmful. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the company told the court, “While Plaintiff alleges that so-called ‘harmful messages regarding the lawsuit’ would ‘worsen’ if her identity is revealed, she provides no evidence that the comments would escalate into anything beyond what they are — off-hand chatter on the Internet,” adding, “If these comments bother Plaintiff, she need not read them.”
However, a major decision in casting roles is the stars “likability” factor. Are they popular among the public? Can they drive the box office? Julia Roberts is a great actress, but a major reason why she’s hired is because she’s America’s Sweetheart. Reese Witherspoon, great actress, also extremely lovable and adored by fans. Adam Sandler, his latest movies get ripped by reviews, but he continues to draw big audiences because people like him.
While the old adage goes “any publicity is good publicity,” we’ve seen time and time again major stars unable to find their footing after some bad press. Winona Ryder was at the top of her game before she was caught shoplifting at Saks in 2001. In the ten years since the incident, she’s struggled to get back to her pre-scandal fame. Anne Heche had come off a string of hit movies when she was found wandering near Fresno, half-clothed, calling herself Celestia, the sister of Jesus in 2000. In the decade since the bizarre incident, she is slowly creating a niche for herself on the small screen, but has failed to find success in theaters.
If the actress reveals herself, it will make headline news and she will immediately come to be known as the star who sued IMDb. When you hear her name, you’ll think of her as the star who lied about her age. Suddenly, her body of work in Hollywood will become only secondary in the public’s mind. IMDb is well aware of this sad truth, and I don’t think they are calling on her to reveal herself for the sake of fairness, I think it’s a scare tactic to get her to back down.