Feud is back with a brand-new betrayal.
The second installment of Ryan Murphy’s FX series, Feud: Capote vs. the Swans, premieres Jan. 31 and tells the story of writer Truman Capote (played by Tom Hollander) befriending some of New York City’s most privileged socialites, becoming their cherished confidant during their dark times and then exposing their deepest secrets, which leads to him becoming an outcast. There’s gossip, drama, sex, cheating, wealth, fashion and backstabbing, brought to life by a cast that includes some of Hollywood’s best-known actresses — Naomi Watts, Demi Moore, Calista Flockhart, Diane Lane, Molly Ringwald, Chloë Sevigny — playing the “swans.”
What’s the show about?
The eight-episode limited series is based on Laurence Leamer’s 2021 best-selling book, Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era. Capote, thriving after the success of Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and In Cold Blood (1966), is suddenly struck with writer’s block after inking a big book deal. He ends up turning his pen on his socialite friends — who include Babe Paley (played by Watts), Slim Hayward (Lane), C. Z. Guest (Sevigny) and Jackie Kennedy’s sister, Lee Radziwill (Flockhart).
While he struggles to complete the project, some of the chapters in the openly gay novelist’s unfinished book, Answered Prayers, are published in Esquire as short stories. The second one, “La Côte Basque, 1965,” published in November 1975, is a gossip-filled and thinly disguised story about the lives and marriages of the socialites. The women — leading with bestie Babe — felt betrayed as secrets of affairs and wild tales amid their orbit were exposed, and Capote was shunned.
Murphy's Feud anthology series debuted in 2017, documenting the rivalry between actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The roles were played by Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, respectively. It earned 18 Emmy nominations that year.
Who’s in the cast?
Tom Hollander as Truman Capote: The British actor plays the famed writer, clearly doing his homework to capture Capote’s distinct voice and physicality. He’s embraced by the high society crowd as he dazzles them with his stories, but is just as quickly shut out. The story also depicts his personal life: being out and proud in an era when it wasn’t as accepted, and his relationships with long-time partner, Jack Dunphy (played by Joe Mantello), and his lover John O'Shea (Russell Tovey). Capote found himself on a self-destructive path after “La Côte Basque, 1965” and never recovered — nor did he finish the book. He died in 1984, at age 59, from "liver disease complicated by phlebitis and multiple drug intoxication" at the L.A. home of friend Joanne Carson, the ex-wife of Johnny Carson. Answered Prayers was published as an unfinished work in 1985.
Naomi Watts as “swan” supreme Babe Paley: Barbara, called “Babe” by friends, was a Vogue fashion editor before marrying her second husband, Bill, whose infidelity didn’t make for a blissful marriage. Capote once said of her, “Babe Paley had only one fault. She was perfect. Otherwise, she was perfect.” She was the most aggrieved victim of Capote’s “La Côte Basque, 1965,” which told the messy story of her alias Cleo’s husband cheating on her with the governor’s wife in their bed. When Capote’s story was published, Babe — who had terminal lung cancer — never spoke to him again. She died in 1978. Two-time Academy Award nominee Watts (21 Grams and The Impossible) double dips as executive producer.
Treat Williams as Bill Paley: Notably, this was the actor’s last project before his death in a June motorcycle accident. Williams plays Babe’s husband, William S. Paley, the so-called “father of modern broadcasting,” who helped build CBS — when he wasn’t cheating on his wife, apparently.
Diane Lane as Slim Keith: The Academy Award nominated actress (Unfaithful) plays Slim, another swan and pal of Babe, who was a fashion icon in the 1950s and '60s. Married three times, Slim (born Nancy) was in Capote’s story with the alias Lady Ina Coolbirth. She also never spoke to Capote after the story came out.
Chloë Sevigny as C.Z. Guest: The Academy Award nominated actress (Boys Don’t Cry) is swan C.Z. (born Lucy), a fashionista like the others who had acting ambitions that didn’t pan out. Guest wasn't in Capote’s famed story and maintained her friendship with him amid the fallout. She went on to become a writer while recovering from a horseback riding accident, and he wrote the intro to her first book.
Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill: The Ally McBeal star slips into the designer shoes of Jackie’s younger sister. Radziwill was a socialite and (for a run) princess. In the 1960s, her friend Capote encouraged her to pursue an acting career, which wasn’t well-received by critics. He continued to champion her, writing a screenplay for Housewife Carole Radziwill’s future mother-in-law to star in, and it was seen as his first big professional setback.
They fell out in 1975 when she wouldn’t testify in a libel lawsuit brought against him by Gore Vidal. The suit stemmed from Capote writing a story, sourced in part by Radziwell, claiming Vidal was once kicked out of the Kennedy White House for being drunk and putting his arm around first lady Jackie. Capote ended up losing the lawsuit and had to apologize to Vidal.
Demi Moore as Ann Woodward: The Ghost and G.I. Jane actress is also in the project, playing a model and radio actress turned socialite who claimed to have accidentally shot her husband, William Woodward Jr., in 1955 because she thought he was a burglar. Woodward was cleared during the investigation. Capote’s “La Côte Basque, 1965” came hard for her, featuring a character named Ann Hopkins who got away with murder after purposely killing her husband and then selling a prowler story as a cover-up. Woodward died by suicide shortly before Capote’s story hit newsstands.
Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson: Finally, the ’80s icon graces the screen as Johnny Carson’s second wife and Capote’s friend till the end. The model and TV host built a friendship with Capote, who was a frequent visitor on her husband’s Tonight Show. After her divorce, she started writing a book about meeting Johnny, and Capote edited it for her. Capote had a writing room in Joanne’s L.A. home, and it was while staying with her that he died amid his addiction struggles on Aug. 25, 1984. Joanne was known as the keeper of Capote’s flame after his death and at least some of his ashes, which went missing more than once. She claimed Capote finished Answered Prayers and had hidden the manuscript in a safe-deposit box, but it never materialized and the book was published unfinished.
The two-part premiere of Feud: Capote vs. the Swans airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX. It also streams on Hulu.