Thursday, February 29, 2024

Director Gus Van Sant Dives Into Truman Capote’s ‘Particularly Strange Tragedy’ in ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’ (Exclusive)

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Gus Van Sant recently took a trip back to New York City of the ’60s and ’70s to bring Truman Capote’s story to the small screen.

The Oscar-nominated director chatted with The Messenger about his experience joining “the Ryan Murphy world” as director of the Feud: Capote vs. The Swans, the long-awaited second season of the 2017 anthology series.

“It was fantastic. I was really fortunate to be able to be part of it,” he said, noting that he joined the project through friend and screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz, who adapted the script from Laurence Leamer’s bestselling 2021 book Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era.

Socialite Lee Radziwill poses with writer Truman Capote during his Black-and-White Ball in honor of publisher Kay Graham on Nov. 26, 1966 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

“I just heard about it at dinner one night, and I said, ‘Oh, do you think Ryan would consider somebody like me to direct it?’ And he said, ‘I’ll ask,'” recalled Van Sant. “So I was brought into the Ryan Murphy world, and it was amazing.”

The eight-part series takes place mostly between 1966 and 1975, during which Capote befriended Manhattans’ “Ladies Who Lunch,” an elite class of well-to-do women during that era.

“I think everyone sort of adored the original story, the original situation that Truman had sort of become part of this group of women, the ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ in New York — which if you’re in New York, where we were shooting in the same areas where they would have had lunch, you could still see the ladies who lunch,” noted Van Sant.

Chloë Sevigny as C.Z. Guest in 'Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans.'
Chloë Sevigny as C.Z. Guest in ‘Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans.’FX

He said Tom Hollander’s portrayal of Capote was “key to the project,” adding that Naomi Watts (playing Babe Paley), Chloë Sevigny (C.Z. Guest), Calista Flockhart (Lee Radziwill) and Diane Lane (Slim Keith) “were amazing” as Capote’s Swans.

Van Sant described the “particularly strange tragedy” of Capote’s rise to acclaim with his 1969 nonfiction novel In Cold Blood, after which he struggled to decide what to write next.

“It sort of elevated him in a way that, even though he was well known, it made him even more well known,” he explained. “And I think he just did the thing that would probably come naturally, make a story that was about his friends, because they were fascinating. And his life with them was fascinating. I think part of that fascination was the good and the bad things that happened within the circle of friends. And he was very quickly dropped as soon as they read the first chapter, and they realized, ‘Oh, this is horrific. We’re being exposed’ socially to their community.”

Naomi Watts as Babe Paley in 'Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans.'
Naomi Watts as Babe Paley in ‘Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans.’FX

Culminating in Esquire’s 1975 publication of Captoe’s “La Côte Basque 1965” — which was intended to be the first chapter of his never-published roman à clef Answered Prayers but ultimately heralded his fall from social grace — the series will also explore Capote’s alcoholism and drug abuse, which led to his death at age 59 in 1984.

“I’m not sure what came first,” said Van Sant of Capote’s social ostracism and his addiction, both of which the author struggled with while working on the book. “But that wasn’t doing [his substance abuse] any favors.”

The first two episodes of Feud: Capote vs. The Swans premiere Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX, simulcast with a Van Sant’s director’s cut on FXX. Episodes will be available to stream the next day on Hulu.

Diane Lane as Slim Keith in 'Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans.'
Diane Lane as Slim Keith in ‘Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans.’FX

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