Ryan O'Neal sued a former associate of longtime partner Farrah Fawcett on Thursday, claiming the man is responsible for a Texas university's attempts to reclaim an Andy Warhol portrait of the actress.
O'Neal's defamation lawsuit against Craig Nevius Thursday seeks more than $1 million in damages and blames the actress' former collaborator for a lawsuit filed last week by the University of Texas system against O'Neal.
That lawsuit seeks return of a mixed-media portrait of Fawcett created by Warhol that Nevius and the university claim the actress bequeathed to the school's Austin, Texas campus.
O'Neal's lawsuit states that the school has known for more than a year that he has the portrait and that he is its rightful owner. He states Warhol gave it to him and that the two men had been friends long before the Fawcett artwork was created.
"O'Neal has no intention of ever parting with it during his lifetime, and upon his death he intends to bequeath it to his son and Ms. Fawcett's only child, Redmond O'Neal," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims Nevius' interviews with "Good Morning America" and Star magazine that he had helped the university investigate the whereabouts of the Warhol portrait.
"Nevius' false, malicious and defamatory accusations that O'Neal stole the Warhol portrait are a desperate attempt to draw attention to himself by fabricating a controversy where none exists."
Nevius and O'Neal have sparred for years.
Nevius collaborated on a documentary of Fawcett's fight with cancer, but sued the actor claiming he interfered in the project and removed him from it shortly before Fawcett's 2009 death. The case was later dismissed.
In a statement, Nevius called the latest lawsuit an attempt to "further harass me into silence."
"I believe this is less about the portrait of Farrah Fawcett by Andy Warhol than it is about certain actions and events that occurred during the last few years of Farrah's life which I have knowledge of and that he (and others) would prefer me to never speak about," he wrote.
The University of Texas system's lawsuit filed July 8 claims O'Neal may be holding onto other pieces from Fawcett's art collection that she donated to the school and asked a judge to order the actor to ensure he properly stores and insures the Warhol piece.
"The Warhol portrait is an irreplaceable piece of art for which legal damages could not fully compensate," the university's lawsuit states.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/celebritydocket