Tom Hollander was anxious about playing Truman Capote in ‘Feud,’ but thrilled it’s been embraced

Tom Hollander is just the latest actor to portray the late writer Truman Capote, and that legacy all but added to the pressure.

Hollander told CNN in a recent interview that he was more than familiar with Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the writer in the 2005 film “Capote,” as well as that of Toby Jones in 2006’s “Infamous.”

As a matter of fact, Hollander said, he had auditioned for the part Jones ended up getting back in the mid-aughts, and went back to watch some of Jones’ and Hoffman’s performances “to reassure myself that I could, that there was something left for me to do.”

“I realized that (my performance) would be distinct. I would be doing my own version,” Hollander said. “One of (Capote’s) legacies, I suppose, is to be so extraordinary as a character that different actors all get to play him at different times. Because there are different ways of telling his story.”

The diminutive Capote, with his distinctive voice and penchant for gossip, is at the center of FX’s anthology series “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans,” which airs its final episode Thursday.

“This is a story, Truman and the Swans, that has not been told before,” the “White Lotus” actor said. “And so we were dealing with different stuff from either of those films.”

“Feud” tells the story of “In Cold Blood” writer Capote and the socialites in his life he called his “Swans” in 1960s New York City.

Tom Hollander as Truman Capote in "Feud: Capote vs. the Swans." - FX
Tom Hollander as Truman Capote in "Feud: Capote vs. the Swans." - FX

Ryan Murphy – who is behind the fashion and style-heavy project – brought in some major players for the series, from Gus Van Sant as director of six episodes to an all-star cast which included Chloë Sevigny, Diane Lane, Calista Flockhart, Molly Ringwald, Demi Moore, Naomi Watts and the late Treat Williams.

Hollander declined to name his “favorite swan,” instead hailing all the women for their performances as the group who turned on Capote after he revealed their secrets in a thinly disguised roman à clef.

But he did say he and Watts have grown close given the many scenes they shared portraying the incredibly involved, and sometimes toxic, relationship between Capote and Watts’ character Babe Paley.

“We sort of had to because we were, as Babe and Truman, so close and that’s such an important part of the story,” Hollander said. “So we spent time together before we shot. She was incredibly welcoming and kind and invited me over before we started shooting.”

Another cast member Hollander developed a deep affection for was Treat Williams.

In June 2023 Williams was hit and killed while motorcycling in his home state of Vermont. He was 71.

Hollander called the accident “a pointless bit of life tragedy where you just go, well, why does that have to happen to a man who was just the warmest, most generous, most delightful?”

Williams was thrilled with the role of media magnate William S. Paley, his costar said.

“He had been doing stuff that hadn’t been particularly fulfilling him,” Hollander said. “He was loving (the role as Bill Paley), a great part, which he was playing brilliantly.”

Such richness of character is something Hollander has also enjoyed himself about “Feud.”

His Capote is one who is spiraling from both alcoholism and the loss of the friendships that had meant so much to him. Hollander digs his teeth into every scene, from Capote spouting the rapier wit that the writer used to bring down more than a few, to cooking in his Manhattan apartment.

So what would Hollander, who is known to be a talent in the kitchen in real life, cook for Capote if he could?

The question illicits a smile and a chuckle from the actor.

“I like cooking for my family and for friends when they come,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to cook for a difficult celebrity drunk writer that who could turn at any moment.”

Sounds like sage advice.

“Feud: Capote vs. The Swans” is streaming on Hulu.

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