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Von Bulow Children Denounce Movie Portraying Mother As A Drunk

October 19, 1990

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Martha ″Sunny″ von Bulow’s children say they are outraged by ″Reversal of Fortune,″ the movie that portrays their mother as a sloppy drunk obsessed with drugs before she slipped into a coma.

″Our mother ... is unable to respond to an assault on her character and reputation,″ Ala Isham and Alexander Auersperg said in a statement. Isham and Auersperg haven’t seen the movie, but read an early copy of the screenplay, their spokeswoman, Maureen Connelly, said Friday from New York.

The heiress has been in an irreversible coma in New York since 1980. Her husband, Claus von Bulow, was convicted, then retried and acquitted of twice trying to murder his wife at their Newport mansion.

The movie, starring Glenn Close as Mrs. von Bulow, focuses on von Bulow’s successful appeal after the first trial. It is based on a book of the same name by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who masterminded the appeal.

The film portrays Mrs. von Bulow, who serves as the narrator, as a heavy drinker and a drug user who would resort to hiding her drugs so those around her couldn’t destroy them.

Isham and Auersperg said their mother was shown ″as pathetic and self destructive.″

″We reject this injurious and erroneous portrayal and ask the public to do the same in the knowledge that our now defenseless mother was warm and caring and devoted to her family,″ they said.

Isham and Auersperg, who believed in their stepfather’s guilt, filed a $56 million civil lawsuit against von Bulow after his acquittal, claiming he tried to kill their mother to inherit her money.

The lawsuit was settled out-of-court in 1987 with von Bulow agreeing to divorce his wife and renounce all claims to her vast fortune. His share of her estate was estimated at $25 million.

The divorce has not been finalized, Connelly said, because Von Bulow has not filed, as he agreed he would in 1987. Connelly said it would require a series of complex legal maneuvers for Sunny’s guardians to dissolve the marriage on her behalf.

Von Bulow also agreed to give up any rights to book or movie deals about the family infighting.

Von Bulow could not be reached for comment Friday at his London apartment.

As part of the settlement, Cosima von Bulow, the only child the couple had together, agreed to drop two countersuits. She received an equal share, $35 million, of her maternal grandmother’s estate in return.

Jeremy Irons plays von Bulow in the movie. Ron Silver plays Dershowitz. ″Reversal of Fortune″ opened in New York on Wednesday and will open elsewhere in November.