Who Were Truman Capote’s Swans? – The Hollywood Reporter


[This story contains spoilers from Feud: Capote vs. The Swans.]

In Feud: Capote vs. the Swans, author Truman Capote’s close relationship with a group of wealthy American socialites unravels when he permits Esquire magazine, in 1975 and 1976, to publish four chapters of his unfinished novel Answered Prayers, in which the unsavory personal details of the women’s lives are exploited in a fictionalized telling of life among society’s elite.

Based on Laurence Leamer’s best-selling book Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era, the eight-episode FX series from Ryan Murphy depicts Capote’s falling out with the group of upper-class women — whom he’d dubbed his “swans” — and their efforts to excommunicate him from the society life he so desperately clung to following the unprecedented success of his true crime novel In Cold Blood.

The second season in the anthology — which arrives seven years after the first season, Feud: Bette and Joan — also gives a voice to each of the wealthy female archetypes, Babe Paley (Naomi Watts), Slim Keith (Diane Lane), C. Z. Guest (Chloë Sevigny), Ann Woodward (Demi Moore), Lee Radziwill (Calista Flockhart) and Joanne Carson (Molly Ringwald), all of whom struggled as their inner complexities were trivialized by the men around them, including Capote, played by Tom Holland.

“I think the tragedy of that generation, which I would include my mother in, is a generation of women sort of caught between The Dick Van Dyke Show and the pill who were, I think, very frustrated a lot of times with the misogyny of the society,” Murphy said in a press conference ahead of Feud‘s premiere, attended by press including The Hollywood Reporter. “I think all of those women in our show were so brilliant in their personal lives and so intelligent that I do think 10 years-post, they all would’ve had successful businesses or brands. You can just see that they were all so smart, particularly in the world of manners and society and beauty. I think they all would’ve had skincare lines. I think they all would’ve had housecare lines. I think they would’ve done a Kardashian thing, which is a very brilliant business way of looking about selling an aspirational lifestyle.”

Though some of the swans did manage to turn the social capital they gained as fashion icons into successful business ventures, there was a somewhat constant struggle against betrayals of various kinds.

“I think that’s one of the reasons they turned to Truman, because they were all in marriages or with men who constantly put them in their place and told them they weren’t enough. And Truman was the one who said to them, ‘You’re actually smarter than your husbands, you control everything. All of these lives are because of what you’re doing.’ There’s a baked-in sadness in that, in so many women of that generation, that we wanted to write to,” added Murphy of tackling this story. “There’s nothing more depressing than lost potential, which I think they all really had.”

Ultimately, it was that need for importance and the desire to maintain their coveted social posts that created a blind spot for each woman when it came to Capote.

“As tragic as they are and as vulnerable as they are, they also were determined and arrived, and maybe found themselves in gilded cages when they ended up there,” said Watts, who’s also an executive producer of the series, at the presser. “They were ambitious in their own way. They loved having the greatest writer of the age in their salon. It solved a whole load of problems for them. It made them feel serious, legitimate: We’re special; look at our guests. It’s right that we live in these very big houses and have all this stuff, because our friends are the greatest writers of the age.

“There’s a sort of mutual dysfunction in a way,” she said of the relationship between Capote and the swans. “They’re scratching each other’s backs. It’s transactional. But then they also recognize each other’s sensitivity and loneliness. You can see how the ingredients of very intense friendship are there.”

Read below for more details on the real lives of each of Capote’s swans, as told to THR by the cast who portrays them.

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