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'Feud: Capote vs. The Swans': Ryan Murphy calls infamous women 'the original influencers'

Tom Hollander, Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Chloë Sevigny, Calista Flockhart, Demi Moore and Molly Ringwald star in the series, now available on Disney+ in Canada

The star-studded series Feud: Capote vs.The Swans is now officially available to stream in Canada on Disney+, starring Tom Hollander, Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Chloë Sevigny, Calista Flockhart, Demi Moore and Molly Ringwald.

Watch Feud: Capote vs. The Swans on Disney+ in canada. Until March 15, sign up for Disney+ for $1.99/month for 3 months.

$2 at Disney+

Based on the book Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era, by Laurence Leamer, the eight-part series (part of Ryan Murphy's Feud franchise), chronicles the relationship famed writer Truman Capote (Hollander) had with a group of elite New York women, "The Swans," including Barbara “Babe” Paley (Watts), Slim Keith (Lane), C.Z. Guest (Sevigny), Lee Radziwill (Flockhart), and Ann Woodward (Moore).

"I think those women, for the most part, were like the original influencers, except the difference is they didn’t post about it," Murphy told reporters during a virtual press conference in January. "A lot of things that they did were in quiet servitude and with great dignity, and they didn’t expect to be acknowledged for them. It was a different time."

A different time is certainly correct, particularly when it comes down to fact that society was very far from being willing to enable these brilliant, savvy women to really hold positions of power.

"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," Murphy said. "Who were, I think, very frustrated a lot of times with the misogyny of the society, and 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."

"I think they would’ve done a Kardashian thing, which is a very brilliant business way of looking [at] selling an aspirational lifestyle. ... If you look at Slim, the tragedy of that is she was behind particularly, and so was Babe, so many incredible business deals that she helped put together professionally that she was not given credit for, both of them. ... So I think the frustration and the sadness was baked into that time."

Murphy went on to describe the approach to portraying The Swans in the series, including their accomplishments, as being "victims and also successes of their times."

"I think there was a fine line that we were trying to ride there to be truthful and yet also be appreciative," he said. "But I felt we had great love and affection for all of those women, and I do believe that every episode almost has a monologue about how under-appreciated they felt and how they were more than just how they were dressing or how they were setting the dinner table."

Watts added that these were women "trapped in a wrong time."

"They were uncredited for the work and the amount of time they put into making their husbands’ businesses go well, but we definitely showed it," she said. "And the resentment builds when the philandering continues and it’s tolerated to a point."

'Feud: Capote vs. The Swans': Ryan Murphy calls infamous women 'the original influencers' (Photo by John Nacion/Variety via Getty Images)
Diane Lane, Chloë Sevigny, Naomi Watts, Tom Hollander, Molly Ringwald, Demi Moore and Calista Flockhart at the premiere of "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans" held at MOMA on January 23, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by John Nacion/Variety via Getty Images)

Ryan Murphy on being 'honest' with the inclusion of homophobic slur in series

But the relationship between Capote and The Swans, as depicted in Feud: Capote vs. The Swans, is complex. There's a very interesting, unique and dynamic push and pull between these women and the author.

"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,'" Watts said. "When she shares all of her secrets with Truman and through this bond, someone who actually cares about her wellbeing and she feels seen and listened to in the first time in such a deep way — her husband didn’t spend enough time appreciating her or really seeing what she needed and wanted."

"So she fell into this relationship as if it was the deepest romance she’d ever had, minus the sex, but I think that allowed her to go deeper. So when the betrayal occurs, she just comes undone and they all do, because they entrusted him. But for Babe, I think all of the wounds start coming to surface, not just the wound that he has created, but the wounds of her life."

Watch Feud: Capote vs. The Swans on Disney+ in canada. Until March 15, sign up for Disney+ for $1.99/month for 3 months.

$2 at Disney+

While there is an element of these women facing cruel misogyny, they aren't completely void of cruelty themselves. While Capote became their confidante, he also watched them as they use homophobic slurs and made derogatory comments, about not just the people around them, but Capote himself.

There's one particular moment when Ann Woodward finds out that Capote spread a rumour about her and she responds with a harsh slur. Additionally, there's a moment when Lee Radziwill uses the same slur to talk about a lawsuit Capote is involved in, both shown in the series.

"Obviously it’s a word none of us like, none of us use, and we had a lot of conversation about it," Murphy explained. "When he talks about Demi’s character, it is the thing that he references where he decided to go after her, and in the case of Lee, it’s an offhand remark that she made about a lawsuit he was in, and he was so stunned and hurt."

"So for us, it was about — as difficult as it was to articulate — being true to the characters and the time and the power of words. And so we researched that quite heavily and we had a lot of conversations about, 'Should we leave it in? Should we take it out?' But ultimately, we did [leave it in]. And as a gay person who that word has been used about since I was three years old, I really understand the wound of it and the pain of it, and how it really can turn your life upside down. So we decided to be honest."