Ryan Murphy made it only about 30 seconds into his pitch for Feud before FX’s John Landgraf stopped him to buy the anthology series, which will star Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon as Old Hollywood’s rivaling grandes dames Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in its first season.
“He instantly liked the idea that it’s a show where every season is pretty much a two-hander feud, and the first show I wanted it to be was Bette Davis and Joan Crawford,” Murphy told us at FX and Vanity Fair’s Primetime Emmy Nominee Party on Saturday, sponsored by Chase Sapphire, Movado, and Sterling Vineyards. And although there will be plenty of sudsy drama, salty one-liners, and legendary old-Hollywood diva behavior in the series, Murphy sees the female-fronted franchise as a means to proving a greater, more profound point to audiences.
“I want to use that feud to explore really how nothing has changed for women in Hollywood, and in all areas of business. It’s empirical in the way it looks at how women don’t really work after 40. So I do feel like it is about something universal.”
In that respect, Feud has a meta poignance, as it gives stars Sarandon and Lange, both incredible dramatic actresses in their late 60s, the kind of complex starring roles uncommon for women of a certain age.
“Susan and Jessica have been attached to it for this many years and have always been obsessed with making it,” Murphy said of his collaborators, who seem to have been on board for most of Feud’s seven-year behind-the-scenes journey. “They like that we are doing it as a miniseries because it can be eight hours as opposed to two. And every episode is so juicy for them. They are so different from who they are playing which is funny.”
(This past May, Sarandon confessed that she’s “kinda scared” to play Bette Davis, her Oscar-winning predecessor, in the project. “We’re doing a miniseries with Ryan Murphy about Hollywood and whether or not it has changed since those gals were trying to find their way through,” Sarandon said. “So that’ll be a stretch and scary.”)
Murphy has been fantasizing about the series ever since 2009, when he bought a script about Davis and Crawford called Best Actress by Jaffe Cohen and Michael Zam. The American Horror Story and American Crime Story mastermind told us that he has been waiting for the right opportunity to pitch the show, though, knowing how difficult it can be to sell a female-centric project. “It’s hard to make things with women as the leads,” Murphy said. “And I had a moment in time where I was able to push it through. I actually thought it was going to be much harder to sell.”
Murphy has been as lucky in casting the series as he was pitching it. Stanley Tucci has signed on to play studio titan Jack Warner. (FX’s John Solberg, who has seen the camera tests, said that Tucci’s interpretation of Warner is going to be the stuff of scene-stealing legend.) Murphy muse Sarah Paulson will play Geraldine Page; Alfred Molina will portray Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? director Robert Aldrich; and Judy Davis will play gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. And just last month, Murphy confirmed that he had lured Catherine Zeta-Jones away from film and into his television universe to play Olivia De Havilland, a close friend and frequent co-star of Davis’s, in Feud.
“I courted her,” Murphy admitted of Zeta-Jones. “I wanted her badly.”
De Havilland notoriously starred in her own feud with sister Joan Fontaine, and Murphy revealed that this warring relationship—the most notorious sibling rivalry in Hollywood history—will play a supporting role in the first season, which premieres next year.
“We talk about her feud in the scripts,” Murphy said. “Olivia versus Joan Fontaine is a big deal.”
Big enough of a deal to make Zeta-Jones the star of Feud’s second season, giving de Havilland and Fontaine’s rivalry a close-up?
When we asked, Murphy grinned and looked away, a glint in his eye, before turning back to us.
“Catherine hasn’t mentioned it,” he said of the Oscar winner’s potential interest in her own Feud season. “And she hasn’t started shooting yet, so we’ll have to wait and see.” Smiling, he promised us of the old-Hollywood drama, “It’s really good.”
SOURCE : www.vanityfair.com