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'Chasing Farrah' Producer Takes Stand in Dispute Over Andy Warhol Portrait

Craig Nevius testifies that he captured video of Farrah Fawcett saying both Andy Warhol portraits of her belonged to her.

The Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett currently in Ryan O'Neal's possession hangs on the actress' living room wall in 2005 in a scene from "Chasing Farrah." Credit: YouTube
The Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett currently in Ryan O'Neal's possession hangs on the actress' living room wall in 2005 in a scene from "Chasing Farrah." Credit: YouTube

By City News Service

The executive producer/director of a reality show featuring the late Farrah Fawcett testified on Tuesday that he captured on video the actress telling an auctioneer that two portraits of her by Andy Warhol belonged to her.

Craig Nevius said he was just a few feet from Fawcett and celebrity auctioneer Nate Sanders with his camera running in November 2004 when the actress remarked about the portraits, which were created in 1980.

Fawcett can be heard on the video telling Sanders how Warhol had proposed doing a sketch of the former "Charlie's Angels" co-star for a segment of ABC's "20/20."

"Ok, I'll do it if I can have two," Fawcett said she told the artist.

The conversation with Sanders took place while he and Fawcett were at a storage facility where she kept many items from her career, including the red bathing suit she wore in a noted poster as well as one of the Warhol portraits of her that is now the subject of litigation between actor Ryan O'Neal and the University of Texas concerning its ownership.

The scenes Nevius shot were used in an episode of "Chasing Farrah," a show about Fawcett that aired on the TV Land network in the spring of 2005. University lawyers maintain that Fawcett's statement to Sanders is one of many times she indicated to people that both Warhol portraits belonged to her.

Sanders can be heard telling Fawcett that other Warhol portraits of celebrities have sold for millions of dollars at auction.

The school sued O'Neal in August 2011, after the disputed Warhol portrait of the actor's longtime love, mother of his son Redmond, was seen in his home during an episode of the reality TV show "Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals."

O'Neal says Warhol gave the second Fawcett painting to him. But lawyers for the university maintain the portrait is school property because Fawcett agreed through her living trust to donate all her artwork to the university, which she attended for three years in the 1960s.

The school has one of the Warhol portraits and wants the other to display them side by side in a university art museum.

Trial of the lawsuit is in its second week in Los Angeles Superior Court. The school's attorneys called Nevius as one of its witnesses.

Nevius and O'Neal have sued each other in the past. In one case, the actor claimed Nevius defamed him in statements to UT officials as well as to a tabloid regarding the Fawcett photo.

Nevius testified that in addition to "Chasing Farrah," he helped create a documentary about the actress and her losing battle with cancer. She died in June 2009 at age 62.

Cross-examined by O'Neal attorney Martin Singer, Nevius denied he was testifying on behalf of the university out of any spite for the actor.

"I hate the things he's done to Farrah, but I don't hate him," Nevius said.

But Nevius conceded he believed O'Neal illegally took the Fawcett portrait from her condominium and that he considered the actor a "criminal" for doing so.

"Yes, I stand behind that," Nevius said.

Nevius acknowledged writing more than 100 emails to the university concerning the Fawcett sketch, but denied he encouraged the school to take civil action against O'Neal.

"I never encouraged them to sue; I thought it was a police matter," Nevius said.

He said he thinks O'Neal shares the blame for his removal from working on the Fawcett cancer documentary. Nevius also said he did not believe the actor and Fawcett were romantically involved when she died and that O'Neal was not living with her at the time.

O'Neal testified he split time during Fawcett's final years between her residence and his Malibu home.

Nevius said he did not know that O'Neal kept the disputed Warhol portrait at his home from 1980-98.

"I'm not a private investigator, no," he testified.

Nevius said he visited Fawcett's condominium hundreds of times before she died and often saw both Fawcett portraits hanging there, one in her living room and the disputed one just outside her bedroom. He said the two paintings differ slightly in the color of Fawcett's eyes -- they are green in one and blue in the one O'Neal claims he owns -- as well as in the way the actress' hair is parted.

The six-man, six-woman Los Angeles Superior Court jury also will decide whether a Warhol napkin drawing that O'Neal is demanding from the school through his cross-complaint belongs to him or the university.

Judge William MacLaughlin said he will hold a hearing Thursday or Friday with testimony -- outside of the jury's presence -- from former Fawcett nurse Maribel Avila. Singer said the woman came forward after the trial started and claims the late actress told her the disputed painting belongs to O'Neal.

Singer said the woman called his office after reading an article about the trial in the New York Post.

"I want to hear this information from her as to what she says prompted her to contact you," MacLaughlin told Singer.

The judge also said he wants a copy of the Post article. He told UT lawyers they can take Avila's deposition.

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