Lawsuit, Health Woes Hang Over 'Farrah's Story'

Farrah Fawcett's video diary about cancer battle is set to premiere.

May 11, 2009, 8:53 PM

May 15, 2009 — -- Farrah Fawcett plans to watch with the rest of America tonight when a documentary about her battle with cancer airs on national television.

In an e-mail to, Fawcett's spokesman, Arnold Robinson, described her condition as "stable" and said, "She remains under the treatment of her doctors here in America."

On Wednesday at a screening of "Farrah's Story," an unflinching look at her struggle to overcome cancer, Fawcett's longtime companion, actor Ryan O'Neal, told the AP that Fawcett planned to watch Friday's broadcast of her video diary from her Los Angeles home.

"She's heavily medicated," said O'Neal, 68. "We're going to take some of these medications down so she's lucid and sharp to watch herself. I think she'll take great pride in this."

Fawcett's battle with anal cancer has been well-publicized since she was diagnosed in 2006. Fans and cancer patients have followed her struggle and reached out to the "Charlie's Angels" star.

"There has been an enormous outpouring of support, which you will get a sense of when you view the special," Robinson said.

One cloud hanging over tonight's broadcast is a lawsuit filed Wednesday by one of the documentary's producers. Craig Nevius, who once served as Fawcett's spokesman, is suing O'Neal, his business manager and another producer, Alana Stewart, to regain creative control over the program. He claimed that the trio interfered with his right to produce the documentary and that O'Neal threatened him.

Robinson fired back Fawcett's response to the lawsuit: "We are shocked by these allegations. Here's a woman who everyone knows has been ill, and to do something like this is horrific. This has been a very difficult time for Ryan O'Neal and Farrah's family and friends. When you see something like this you have to question the motives of a person who can do something so hurtful during this very sensitive time in a person's life."

When spoke to Nevius last June, the documentary, then called "A Wing and a Prayer," was in post-production. He called the footage he and others had shot "incredibly unique."

"Most of the footage was shot by Farrah or by Farrah's friends on her home video camera," Nevius said. "Ryan O'Neal shot some of it. Joan Dangerfield [widow of actor Rodney Dangerfield] shot some of it. I shot some of it. ... It's a very personal exploration of her cancer fight and her fight to protect her privacy from the tabloids and paparazzi."

At the time, Nevius still was negotiating with the networks to air the special. Asked how much the footage might sell for, Nevius said, "It's inappropriate for me to even comment on it. It's not why she did it, it's not why I'm doing it. But of course, we don't want to lose money on it."

He called reports of Fawcett making more than $2 million "absolutely crazy."

On Wednesday night in Los Angeles, O'Neal and Stewart hosted an intimate screening of "Farrah's Story."

"This is truly Farrah's evening. She wasn't up to making it, but she's here in spirit," Stewart, a producer on the project, told the audience while introducing the video diary, which will air nationwide on NBC Friday.

Hollywood friends Jacqueline Bisset, Melanie Griffith and Paul Le Mat, who starred with Fawcett in the 1984 TV movie, "The Burning Bed," attended the screening, which, according to The Associated Press, drew applause and tears.

Viewers watching the film will be inspired by Fawcett's fight against cancer, according to O'Neal and Stewart.

"If you liked her, you're gonna love her" after seeing the film, O'Neal told AP.

"Farrah's Story" will show her "incredible strength," Stewart told AP. "Her big message to people is don't give up, no matter what they say to you, keep fighting."

It's a message that colorectal cancer specialist Dr. James Church from the Cleveland Clinic said applies to any kind of cancer patient.

"She helps a lot of people, not just with anal cancer, but other painful cancers," he said. "When they see someone who has the courage to really fight, that encourages them and their families."

But because Fawcett's cancer is highly unusual and details about its cause are unknown, Church said her impact on anal cancer so far has been minimal.

He said the clinic might see 400 to 500 cases of colorectal cancer in a year, and only 12 to 15 anal cancers.

Where he does see anal cancers on the rise is in the male homosexual population that engages in anal sex. In many of those cases, the human papillomavirus, or HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection, is the cause of the cancer.

"I don't see Farrah Fawcett as the spokesperson for that," Church said about the growing numbers of gay men affected by anal cancer.

But if HPV is to blame in Fawcett's cancer, her case could serve as reminder to young women about the importance of the new vaccine against HPV.

Since Fawcett's cancer spread to her liver in February, the former pinup girl known for her golden tresses has lost her once-defining trait.

In tonight's film, O'Neal revealed that during the first rounds of treatment, they did all they could to preserve her iconic blond locks. But in February, when Fawcett resorted to chemotherapy and her hair began to fall out, she finally cut it.

Earlier this week, O'Neal told People magazine that Fawcett's condition has deteriorated.

"She's in bed with an IV. They're not trying any great measures to save her," O'Neal said.

Reports surfaced that the always slender Fawcett had shrunk to 84 pounds. It's a claim her doctor refuted on "Good Morning America" in April.

"She is 101 pounds. She has challenges every day with the fight with cancer. As long as she is able to fight, she will keep fighting," said Dr. Lawrence Piro.

Piro said Fawcett had a "reasonable weight" under the circumstances.

Fawcett is in a "very rocky place," O'Neal said. "We put on a brave front, always, when we're with her. She doesn't know how scared we are."

That includes Fawcett and O'Neal's son Redmond O'Neal, 24, who has just been admitted into a court-order drug program.

Recently, Redmond O'Neal, who has struggled with drug-related legal charges, was allowed to leave jail, where he was being held on a probation violation, to visit his mother.

"He crawled into bed with her in his jail jumpsuit and his shackles on, and he cuddled with his mother and cried," Ryan O'Neal told People magazine.

O'Neal told his son not to rattle his shackles and to hide them from his mother.

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