American Apparel and Woody Allen have agreed on a $5 million settlement.
Allen's lawsuit stemmed from billboards depicting Woody Allen as a Hasidic Jew -- long beard, side curls, black hat -- and featuring Yiddish text meaning “the holy rebbe.” The actor-director wasn't amused by the ads, seen on billboards around New York City in 2007.
Reading from a statement outside court afterward, Allen said he hoped the outcome "would discourage American Apparel or anyone else from ever trying such a thing again." Allen blasted the company, calling its First Amendment defense "sheer nonsense," and accusing of it of trying "to smear me."
Allen originally sued the advertiser for $10 million, claiming it didn't have permission to use the doctored frame of him from the Oscar-winning film “Annie Hall” on the billboards and on a Web site. Jury selection was supposed to begin Monday morning in federal court in Manhattan.
Before the settlement, Allen was scheduled to testify Monday as the trial's first witness.
American Apparel president Dov Charney told reporters it wasn't his decision to settle. The company's insurance company "controlled the defense" in the case, he said.
"I'm not sorry (for) expressing myself,'' he said.
Court papers filed on Allen's behalf described the 72-year-old plaintiff as one of the most influential figures in the history of American film, and said he believes maintaining strict control over his image has been critical to his success.
The papers claimed Allen hasn't done commercials in the United States since the 1960s, when he was a struggling standup comic. The billboards, he said, falsely implied that he endorsed the trendy clothing line known for its racy advertising - a “blatant misappropriation and commercial use of Allen's image.”
Allen himself has said he considered the billboards an “appalling” and “mortifying” violation of his privacy.
American Apparel lawyers had called the $10 million demand “outrageous,” especially since the billboards were taken down after a week. They also had threatened to call Allen's former longtime companion, actress Mia Farrow, and his current wife, Soon-Yi Previn, as witnesses to show that his image has already been devalued by scandal. Previn is Farrow's adopted daughter.
Farrow starred in several of Allen's movies, including “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Their relationship ended in 1992, when she discovered he was having an affair with Previn, then 22.
After Allen complained he was a victim of a “brutish attempt to smear and intimidate” him, American Apparel founder Dov Charney issued a statement last month denying lawyers would delve into Allen's personal life.
“I have deep respect for Mr. Allen, who is a source of inspiration for me,” Charney had said.