The Novel that Defamed Scarlett Johannson Is Coming Out In English
Next week will mark a new chapter in the very weird saga of Scarlett Johansson suing a French novelist: the book she claimed is defamatory will be released in English for the first time. The book at issue is The First Thing You See(or La Première Chose Qu’on Regarde in French) by Grégoire Delacourt, which tells the story of Jeanine Foucamprez, a young woman who looks just like the famous actress and is initially mistaken for her. The English version of the novel will be out September 10th in the UK.
Johansson sued Delacourt and the book's publisher when the book came out in 2013, claiming that novel constituted a "fraudulent and illegal exploitation of her name, her reputation and her image" and that is contained “defamatory claims about her private life." She wanted €50,000 (roughly $56,500) in damages and — probably more importantly — to prevent the translation or adaption of the novel. She technically won the case, as the court agreed that claims about two affairs her fictional counterpart had (apparently with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Kieran Culkin) were defamatory. However, the judge awarded her just €2,500 in damages and €2,500 in legal costs. Delacourt also agreed to drop the lines referencing the character's carrying on with the dude from Bend It Like Beckham and the Culkin sibling who I had literally forgotten existed until this exact moment.
Delacourt doesn't have much sympathy for the actress's concerns and enjoys expressing this opinion by passive aggressively suggesting that she should appreciate him more. "I thought she might send me flowers as it was a declaration of love for her," he said, "but she didn't understand." At another point, he said that he thought she might want to get coffee after hearing about the book. Dude, no.
Never fear, though, Delacourt can comfort himself with his commercial success: La Première Chose Qu’on Regarde was a bestseller in France and the British publisher seems confident it can do well in English as well. Sadly, it sounds kind of terrible, with absurdly attractive protagonists (the male lead is a better-looking version of Ryan Gosling, which is honestly sort of hard to imagine), an exceptionally melodramatic plot, and a pat message about loving people for their personalities rather than their looks.
No word yet on a US release, but if you're dying to read about the tragic life of a woman who looks exactly like Scarlett Johansson (but no longer parlays that similarity into affairs with random actors), you can order it from Britain soon enough.