Netflix Sued Over ‘No Limit’ Film That Suggests Free Diver Killed His Wife
Netflix was sued on Wednesday over “No Limit,” a fictionalized film that suggests a free diver deliberately killed his wife in a diving incident.
The French-language film is based on the true story of Francisco “Pipin” Ferreras and his wife, Audrey Mestre. They were a celebrity couple within the world of free diving, an extreme sport in which divers descend hundreds of feet without oxygen.
Mestre drowned while attempting a dive in the Dominican Republic in 2002, after the device that was supposed to carry her to the surface malfunctioned.
The film tells the story of “Pascal Gautier” and “Roxane Aubrey,” a fictionalized version of the couple. Gautier is depicted as abusive and jealous of Aubrey’s success. In the climactic scene, the film strongly implies that Gautier sabotaged her compressed air tank, leaving it without enough air to bring her to the surface.
Ferreras filed a defamation lawsuit on Wednesday, alleging that the film portrays him as a murderer. The film also shows Gautier choking Aubrey during sex, and both characters cheating on each other, leading to a confrontation just before the fatal dive.
“I don’t know how people can do something like that,” Ferreras said in a phone interview from his home in Cuba. “They turned the story around. They put it the way they wanted. That really hurt me.”
The film includes a disclaimer saying that it is a “work of fiction” and that any resemblance to real people is coincidental. It also says that it is “inspired by real events.” At the end, there is a title card with Mestre’s photograph and a brief account of her death.
The writer-director, David M. Rosenthal, told Variety in an interview that the film was vetted by lawyers before going into production, and he does not think Ferreras has a case.
“This is a fictionalization of stories that were very much on the public eye — from documentaries to many articles and books about this,” Rosenthal said. “What I wrote is fiction, with fictional characters…I’m sure he’s trying to make a buck here by suing Netflix.”
Netflix released the film in September, and for a couple of weeks it was the most popular non-English movie on the platform.
The couple’s story has been told in several ways over the last 20 years. An ESPN documentary was critical of Ferreras and raised concerns about the safety standards in place at the time of the fatal dive. Ferreras’ former business partner, Carlos Serra, also wrote a book condemning Ferreras and holding him responsible for Mestre’s death.
Ferreras has maintained that Mestre’s death was a tragic accident and pointed to a report that attributed the malfunction to a series of technical factors. He also wrote his own book. At one point, James Cameron was working with him on a film project, and Jennifer Lawrence was also rumored to be on board in the part of Mestre. Ferreras is seeking to release his own documentary about the story.
Ferreras said that the makers of “No Limit” did not contact him. He said watched the film about a week after it was released and had to stop midway through.
“As the movie was going on I started suffering and suffering,” he said. “Everything was very disturbing. Imagine — without knowing — you see a movie that’s about your life and your story with your late wife, and it gets you by surprise.”
“They put Audrey like she was cheating on me,” he continued. “She was an angel.”
Since its release, he said he been bombarded with accusatory comments on social media.
His lawyer, Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, has sued Netflix twice, previously on behalf of people who say they were defamed by the platform’s fictional shows. Rufus-Isaacs represented Nona Gaprindashvili, a Georgian chess champion who was referenced in “The Queen’s Gambit,” when a character said, falsely, that she had never faced male competitors.
He also represents a Vanity Fair staffer who claims she was defamed by the show “Inventing Anna,” about the con artist Anna Sorokin.
In a statement, Rufus-Isaacs said that the makers of “No Limit” had engaged in a “clear and despicable libel.”
“Filmmakers cannot make a film about a real-life situation and simply change some names and dress it up as fiction in order to escape liability for defamation,” he said. “I am astounded that the defendants’ lawyers did not strongly advise them against doing so. I can see a jury awarding Pipin a very significant amount of damages.”
Netflix declined to comment.
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