The True Story Behind Feud: Capote vs The Swans

By Ellie Smith

2 months ago

This new series tells the scandalous story of New York writer Truman Capote

With a cast that features Tom Hollander, Naomi Watts, Demi Moore and Chloë Sevigny, it would be worth tuning into Ryan Murphy’s new TV miniseries for the star factor alone. But Feud: Capote vs The Swans also has a juicy plot which will have you hooked. The series follows Murphy’s 2017 series Feud, which tells the tale of the real-life rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. This time round, it’s an entirely new story centred around American novelist and playwright Truman Capote, and the literary scandal which caused an uproar in his group of socialite friends, nicknamed the swans. 

Is Feud: Capote vs The Swans Based On A True Story?

Yes, the series tells the story of Truman Capote, one of the most well-connected writers in New York back in the ’50s and ’60s. He was the name behind classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and had a close friendship with Harper Lee, who helped Capote write In Cold Blood, one of the original true crime novels. By the ‘60s, Capote was deeply embedded in the higher echelons of Manhattan’s society, in particular with a group of wealthy, influential women who he called his ‘swans’. This included names like magazine editor Babe Paley, Lee Radziwill, the sister of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Italian art collector Marella Agnelli, and socialites Gloria Guinness and Ann Woodward. 

However, little did the swans know that throughout his life, Capote had been collecting observations for a tell-all novel, Answered Prayers. The first chapter appeared as a short story, Mojave, which was generally well-received – but the second, La Côte Basque 1965, was the beginning of Capote’s downfall. Published in Esquire, the short story spilled gossipy anecdotes from Capote’s decades of friendship with New York’s glitterati. Paley, who once considered Capote her greatest confidante, was particularly targeted by the accusations in the piece, which featured a story of her catching her husband in bed with another woman. 

This was the beginning of the end for Capote: his relationship with the swans never recovered, and he was cast out of high society. He became reliant on drugs and alcohol, and died of liver disease in 1984, aged 59. A few years later, the unfinished manuscript of Answered Prayers was published – and in 2012, Vanity Fair discovered another unfinished chapter, titled Yachts and Things.

Many years later, in 2021, the tale was turned into a book by Laurence Leamer, Capote’s Women, which Murphy has now transformed into a TV series.

 Feud: Capote vs The Swans

Russell Tovey as John O’Shea in Feud: Capote vs The Swans, image from FX

Who Is In The Cast?

Fittingly, Feud: Capote vs The Swans is jam-packed with big names. Tom Hollander plays Capote, alongside Naomi Watts as Paley, Demi Moore as Ann Woodward and Chloë Sevigny as CZ Guest. The cast also includes:

  • Diane Lane as Slim Keith
  • Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill
  • Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson
  • Treat Williams as Bill Paley
  • Russell Tovey as John O’Shea

How To Stream Feud: Capote vs The Swans 

Feud: Capote vs The Swans originally began airing in the US and Hulu at the end of January, but it’s now available to stream in the UK. From 17 April 2024, all eight episodes are available to watch on Disney+.