'Wagatha Christie' and the 10 biggest celebrity libel cases

Coleen Rooney
Coleen Rooney sued fellow 'WAG' Rebekah Vardy for defamation after claiming she was selling stories about her to the papers | Shutterstock

It was the great celebrity scandal of our times: a perfect mix of mystery, footballers’ wives, and a complex investigation that basically rivalled the plot of And Then There Were None, earning the entire debacle the nickname ‘Wagatha Christie’.

In 2019, Coleen Rooney publicly accused fellow footballer’s wife Rebekah Vardy of leaking false stories about her to The Sun. And because it was 2019, it all played out over Twitter, like the spectator sport it essentially was.

Since then, the case has moved to the courtroom, after Vardy sued Rooney for defamation, which means they are joining the lofty ranks of celebrities who have sued for libel. Like all of these…

1. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman vs the Express

In 1998, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman sued the Express over claims their marriage was a ‘sham’ to cover their sexuality, arranged by the Church of Scientology. The newspaper also alleged that Cruise was impotent and sterile. The Express apologised and paid the couple an undisclosed six-figure sum.

2. Keira Knightley vs the Daily Mail

Keira Knightley won £3,000 in 2007 in a libel case against the Daily Mail. The paper had published a story about a teenager who had died of anorexia and illustrated it with pictures of Knightley. On the beach. Wearing a bikini.

3. Donald Trump Called a Millionaire

Donald Trump has a storied history of lawsuits (in 2016, Vanity Fair quoted the number of lawsuits he and his companies had been involved in was around 4,000 over the past 30 years). In 2011, though, he lost a libel suit brought against Timothy O’Brien because the author called Trump a ‘millionaire’. The suit claimed ‘actual malice’ after O’Brien estimated Trump’s worth to be between $150 million and $250 million.

4. Robin Williams and His Lookalike

Robin Williams had to sue his own impersonator, Michael Clayton, in 2005, after Clayton booked jobs as the real Williams, with the help of his agent, Michael Pool. Clayton secured a booking for a charity event by doing a speech from Mrs Doubtfire.

He managed to fool a reporter before Williams put out an injunction to stop him. Clayton and Pool both blamed the other for misrepresentation, before agreeing to stop.

5. Lindsay Lohan and the Coke Story

Lindsay Lohan sued Fox News in 2015 for claiming that she did cocaine with her mum, Dina. TMZ later reported that the case was thrown out, after the judge claimed, ‘Truth is a defence.’

6. Tom Cruise and the Adult Film Actor

In 2001, Tom Cruise sued ‘erotic wrestler’ Chad Slater for $100 million, after Slater claimed to the French paper Actustar that he and Cruise had had an affair, which led to the breakdown of Cruise’s marriage to Nicole Kidman.

The lawsuit asserted that Cruise was heterosexual, that the claims were false and could potentially lead fans to boycott his films as he tended to play roles involving ‘romance and action/adventure’. Actustar published a retraction.

7. Taylor Swift and the KKK

In one of the stranger cases of celebrity lawsuits, in 2017, Taylor Swift threatened to sue blogger Meghan Herning for defamation. The latter had written an article for Popfront magazine claiming the singer was an ‘icon of white supremacists’ getting the ‘KKK in formation’ and comparing Swift to Hitler. Swift’s response to Herning‘s post seemed odd, given Popfront Magazine only had around 201 followers on Twitter at the time.

Once her legal team began proceedings, however, the American Civil Liberties Union then got involved, denouncing Swift’s ‘intimidation tactics’. The ACLU later said they hadn’t heard back from Swift or her lawyers.

8. Kate Winslet does Pilates

Kate Winslet sued the Daily Mail for £150,000 in 2009 after the paper said she lied about her workout routine. To make matters worse, it came in an article titled ‘Should Kate Winslet win an Oscar for the world’s most irritating actress?’

The paper took umbrage with a quote she had given to Elle, claiming she did Pilates videos at home instead of going to the gym. The Daily Mail claimed that couldn’t possibly be enough to maintain her figure.

9. Hulk Hogan Shuts Down Gawker

The wrestler, a sex tape, and the end of Gawker Media. In 2015, Hogan sued Gawker after they published a video of him having sex with a friend’s estranged wife and using racial slurs. Hogan also claimed that the video was filmed without his consent. The lawsuit was secretly funded by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who held a grudge against Gawker after they outed him in 2007. Hogan was eventually awarded damages, which bankrupted the company.

10. Taylor Swift and the Groping Trial

Not her first entry on the list but the more triumphant one. Swift was involved in a libel suit with DJ David Mueller after she claimed Mueller groped her in 2013 while taking a photo with her during a fan meet-and-greet. She said he reached under her skirt and grabbed her bum.

Mueller sued Swift for defamation in 2015, claiming it had never happened, but he’d lost his job and reputation because of it. Swift sued him right back for assault. Swift won the case in 2017, claiming just a single, symbolic dollar in damages.