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See the Stars of “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans” Compared to the Real-Life Socialites They Play

Demi Moore, Naomi Watts and Tom Hollander step back in time to bring Truman Capote's explosive social fallout to screens in the sophomore season of 'Feud'

<p>FX</p> FX

FX

FX's 'Feud: Capote vs. The Swans'

Feud is back to tell another true story of dramatic social fallout. The FX show's season 2 focuses on Truman Capote's exile from the elite after he penned an exposé dishing the scandalous secrets of his influential friends, a group of glamorous women he called his "swans."

In 1975, Esquire published "La Cote Basque, 1965," an excerpt from his novel in the works, Answered Prayers, which was a thinly veiled account of the private lives of the swans and their husbands. The fallout was instantaneous.

The latest installment of Ryan Murphy's anthology series features some Hollywood's biggest names. Demi Moore, Naomi Watts and Chloë Sevigny are just a few of the A-listers tasked to live up to the swans' big reputations. The late Treat Williams stars in his final on-screen role as media mogul Bill Paley, and on the other side of the bitter battle, Tom Hollander plays the titular literary legend Truman Capote.

See the cast of Feud: Capote vs. The Swans in character as the real-life friends and foes who once dominated high society.

Naomi Watts as Babe Paley

<p>Pari Dukovic/FX; Tony Palmieri/WWD/Penske Media via Getty</p> Naomi Watts as Babe Paley

Pari Dukovic/FX; Tony Palmieri/WWD/Penske Media via Getty

Naomi Watts as Babe Paley

Babe Paley turned heads as a fashion editor for Vogue before she married William S. Paley, who founded CBS. She remained a prominent figure in the couture world and was eventually inducted into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1958.

Naomi Watts plays Paley, who died of lung cancer in 1978, one day after her 63rd birthday.

Diane Lane as Nancy 'Slim' Keith

<p>Pari Dukovic/FX; Bettmann</p> Diane Lane as Slim Keith

Pari Dukovic/FX; Bettmann

Diane Lane as Slim Keith

In addition to her elite status, Slim Keith acquired a Ladyship title thanks to her third husband, British banker Baron Keith of Castleacre. Per her New York Times obituary published after her death in 1990, Capote referred to the California-born swan as "Big Mama" before their famed falling out.

Viewers got a taste of Diane Lane's fiery portrayal of Keith in the trailer for Feud: Capote vs. The Swans. During her character's confrontation with the titular writer, Lane angrily shatters a plate against a wall.

Chloë Sevigny as C. Z. Guest

<p>Pari Dukovic/FX; Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty</p> Chloë Sevigny as C. Z. Guest

Pari Dukovic/FX; Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty

Chloë Sevigny as C. Z. Guest

C.Z. Guest found fame in New York society as a fashion icon, clothing designer and gardening expert. Like her fellow swans, Chloë Sevigny's character was surrounded by elite figures: her husband was related to Winston Churchill, and they were married at Ernest Hemingway's home in Cuba.

Guest went on to welcome son Alexander and daughter Cornelia, the latter of whom followed in her mother's footsteps to become a stylish socialite in her own right. Guest died at age 83 in 2003.

Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill

<p>Pari Dukovic/FX; Reg Burkett/Express/Getty</p> Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill

Pari Dukovic/FX; Reg Burkett/Express/Getty

Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill

In Ryan Murphy's new series, Calista Flockhart plays Lee Radziwill, the socialite younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy, who was married to a Polish aristocrat from 1959 to 1974. In 2021, writer Laurence Leamer spoke to PEOPLE about Capote's fascination with Radziwill's relationship with the former First Lady — which at times was fueled by jealousy and resentment.

"Lee just couldn't let go. It was a sickness. It really destroyed her life," said Leamer just before the release of his own book Capote's Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, And a Swan Song for an Era, which provided the basis for the FX series.

Demi Moore as Ann Woodward

<p>Pari Dukovic/FX; Bettmann</p> Demi Moore as Ann Woodward

Pari Dukovic/FX; Bettmann

Demi Moore as Ann Woodward

In the salacious exposé that severed his ties with the swans, Capote referred to Ann Woodward — portrayed by Demi Moore in Feud — by the nickname "Big Bang." The title stemmed from allegations that the former showgirl shot her husband. (The incident was deemed an accident.)

Woodward died by suicide in 1975, shortly before Esquire published excerpts from Capote's Answered Prayers.

Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson

<p>Pari Dukovic/FX; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty</p> Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson

Pari Dukovic/FX; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson

In Feud's sophomore season, Molly Ringwald takes on the role of the lateTonight Show host Johnny Carson's ex-wife. Before her death in 2015, Joanne Carson was a close confidante of Capote's; he even died at the writing room he kept at her home, per her obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

A few years after Capote died, Joanne alleged someone stole the writer's ashes during a soirée at her home. Shortly after, his ashes were miraculously returned to her home, leaving partygoers like Laurence Leamer skeptical.

PEOPLE sent a reporter to the party, who spoke to Joanne about her whimsical relationship with the late writer.

"He used to say to me, 'My precious, I have a treat for you. Tomorrow we go to Paris. Is your passport handy?' " she recalled to PEOPLE in 1988. "In the morning I would wake up and we would have croissants on a tray with little jelly jars from the Crillon hotel in Paris. This house was our playpen."

Tom Hollander as Truman Capote

<p>Pari Dukovic/FX; John Downing/Express/Getty</p> Tom Hollander as Truman Capote

Pari Dukovic/FX; John Downing/Express/Getty

Tom Hollander as Truman Capote

Speaking to PEOPLE at the N.Y.C. premiere of Feud: Capote vs. The Swans, Tom Hollander called his character a "rebel."

"I think [at a time] where people were much more repressed, he was a great show off in a world where everyone is showing off all the time," the British actor said.

While Truman Capote's legacy spans far beyond his fraught relationship with his so-called swans, Feud focuses on the fallout that followed the publication of the Answered Prayers excerpt "La Côte Basque, 1965." According to a synopsis of the series, the In Cold Blood writer's resulting banishment from high society sent him “into a spiral of self-destruction from which he would ultimately never recover."

Many people assumed that Capote died by suicide at age 59 in 1984; his official cause of death was liver disease, phlebitis and drug intoxication. However, his longterm partner Jack Dunphy shut down the suggestion to PEOPLE shortly after, claiming Capote was "unhappy, but he wasn't suicidal."

Treat Williams as Bill Paley

<p>Pari Dukovic/FX; CBS via Getty</p> Treat Williams as Bill Paley

Pari Dukovic/FX; CBS via Getty

Treat Williams as Bill Paley

Treat Williams — who died unexpectedly at age 71 in a June motorcycle accident — makes his final on-screen appearance as Babe Paley's media tycoon husband on the anthology series.

Williams' family attended the Feud premiere in New York City in January, where Ryan Murphy dedicated the season to his memory. In a heartfelt speech, the show's co-creator shared the final words Williams said to him during a celebratory group dinner held after they wrapped filming.

“The last thing he said to me was, he grabbed my face and said, 'I loved every minute,’ ” Murphy recalled.

Joe Mantello as Jack Dunphy

<p>Pari Dukovic/FX</p> Joe Mantello as Jack Dunphy

Pari Dukovic/FX

Joe Mantello as Jack Dunphy

Two-time Tony winner Joe Mantello stars as Capote's partner Jack Dunphy. The two writers met in 1948 and remained romantically involved until Capote's death at age 59 in 1984. In the months that followed, Dunphy spoke to PEOPLE about his memories with the late literary icon and the consequences of his unfinished novel based on the swans and their scandals.

“If Truman hadn’t published Answered Prayers in parts, he’d have had the drive to finish it. The peacocks took it away from him,” Dunphy said bitterly, as reported in the article published in October 1984.

Russell Tovey as John O'Shea

<p>Ray Mickshaw/FX</p> Russell Tovey as John O'Shea

Ray Mickshaw/FX

Russell Tovey as John O'Shea

Russell Tovey plays Capote's lover John O'Shea; the two were entangled in a notoriously destructive affair. O'Shea eventually left Capote, but he remained supportive of O'Shea's daughter Kerry, played in Feud by Ella Beatty, whose parents are Warren Beatty and Annette Bening.

Chris Chalk as James Baldwin

<p>Monica Schipper/Getty; Anthony Barboza/Getty</p> Chris Chalk as James Baldwin

Monica Schipper/Getty; Anthony Barboza/Getty

Chris Chalk as James Baldwin

Chris Chalk revives civil rights activist James Baldwin for the small screen in Feud. Capote and Baldwin were contemporaries as fiction writers and openly gay men in literary society.

Speaking to Deadline in March 2023, Chalk said he has "always wanted to play" the Go Tell It on the Mountain author.

Jessica Lange as Lillie Mae Faulk

<p>FX</p> Jessica Lange as Lillie Mae Faulk

FX

Jessica Lange as Lillie Mae Faulk

Jessica Lange starred as Joan Crawford in Feud's debut season chronicling the behind-the-scenes antipathy between costars Crawford and Bette Davis (played by Susan Sarandon).

In season 2 of the anthology series, Lange plays Capote's mother, Lillie Mae Faulk, who died in 1954.

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