The true story behind Ryan Murphy's new series Feud contains glamorous socialites, murder and revenge.

Seven years after its first season aired, Ryan Murphy's anthology series Feud is returning with one hell of a cast.

The star-studded second season titled Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans will feature Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Chloë Sevigny, Calista Flockhart, Demi Moore, and Molly Ringwald, along with Tom Hollander in the role of famed writer Truman Capote. 

The first season of Feud aired back in March 2017 and was centred on the rivalry between Hollywood icons Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, as portrayed by Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon. Across eight episodes, the rivalry between the actors was explored during the filming of their 1962 film, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.

The highly anticipated second season will be an eight-episode limited series set in the 1970s, taking inspiration from Laurence Leamer’s best-selling book Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era

Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans will focus on Capote and the glamorous circle of New York socialites he surrounded himself with, who he affectionately categorised as 'the swans'.

Watch the trailer for Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans. Post continued after video.

Video via Binge. 

In the series, executive producer Naomi Watts will play Babe Paley, Diane Lane as Slim Keith, Chloë Sevigny as C.Z. Guest, Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill, Demi Moore as Ann 'Bang-Bang' Woodward, with Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson.


Ahead of the premiere next month, we're diving into the true story that inspired the Ryan Murphy creation.

The true story that inspired Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans. 

The antagonist of this tale is Truman Capote, an American novelist, screenwriter, playwright and actor born in New Orleans, who remains one of history's most influential writers.

His most famous works include the novels Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood, with his writing adapted into several films and television dramas.

Aside from his prolific work, Capote was known as a staple of the New York party scene in the '60s and '70s, recognisable for his fashion sense, high-pitched voice, quirky mannerisms, and for always being surrounded by high society people – especially women.

Truman Capote (left) and Tom Hollander (right) playing him in Feud. Image: Getty/Binge. 


This brings us to 'the swans', the rich and beautiful ladies who accompanied Capote to parties such as his legendary masked ball, The Black And White Ball, joined him on yachts, and travelled with him around the world. 

The first swan pertinent to this story is It Girl, Barbara 'Babe' Paley (Naomi Watts), who held a 10-year tenure as a fashion editor for American Vogue and was once ranked the second-best-dressed woman in the world by Time magazine. 

Along with this impressive resume, as the daughter of famous brain surgeon Harvey Cushing, she and her younger sisters Minnie and Betsey were known as 'the fabulous Cushing sisters,' for their reputation for marrying powerful, wealthy men. Babe would marry William S. Paley, the chief executive of the CBS television network, forming one hell of a power couple on the New York social scene. 

Then there's socialite Lee Radziwill (Calista Flockhart), a woman most known as Jackie Kennedy’s younger sister. Lee had three husbands throughout her life, including the Polish Prince Radziwill, with whom she had two children. 


Princess Lee Radziwill (left) and Calista Flockhart (right) playing her in Feud. Image: Getty/Binge. 

Nancy ‘Slim’ Keith (Diane Lane) was a fashion icon, appearing on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, and winning the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award in 1946.

She was often photographed at parties with the likes of Cary Grant, and pursued by Clark Gable and Ernest Hemingway. Slim ended up marrying Howard Hawks before moving on to a second husband, movie producer Leland Hayward.


Socialite C.Z. Guest (Chloë Sevigny) was an American actress, writer, horse rider and designer, known for her minimalistic all-American style. She ended up marrying Winston Frederick Churchill Guest, a relative of Winston Churchill. 

And finally, to round out the swans, there's Ann Woodward (Demi Moore) who was an actress and model who burst into high society after marrying banking heir, William Woodward Jr. Ann shot and killed William in 1955, claiming she thought he was a burglar, despite whispers around town she had murdered him.

Okay, now that we've caught up on all the main characters in this story, given the show's title, what was this feud all about? 

The book that turned 'The Swans' against Truman Capote. 

In 1966, Capote signed a contract to write a novel he titled Answered Prayers, a book to lift the lid on New York's high society. The tell-all novel was commissioned by Random House, which gave Capote an advance of $25,000 but the book was delayed repeatedly. 

Capote finally allowed Esquire to publish four chapters of the unfinished novel in 1975 and 1976. The first 'Mojave' was relatively harmless, but the second, 'La Côte Basque 1965' spilled all sorts of dirty laundry about the swans.

The writer laid out the dysfunctional personal lives of his swans, who were mentioned either by name or under pseudonyms. 

Psychologist Carolyn Mair hypothesised in a feature in Vogue in 2022 that while Capote initially craved the acceptance of the social elite, he eventually began to resent them. 

According to Mair, the writer's impressive ability to recollect entire conversations word-for-word positioned him as a valuable vessel for keeping secrets. "His ability to remember conversations verbatim made him a good source of gossip,” she said. “Yet as his psychological problems worsened, it seems reasonable to assume that his judgement also worsened.”


In the most notorious excerpt, Capote alluded to Ann Woodward murdering her husband by relaying a fictional version of the real-life case, with the character even being called Ann in Answered Prayers.

Ann Woodward (left) and Demi Moore (right) playing her in Feud. Image: Getty/Binge. 


Ahead of the publication in Esquire, it was rumoured that Woodward was warned about the contents of the book and had killed herself with cyanide in response. 

As soon as the excerpt was published, Capote was shunned by the swans and in turn, cut off from high society. 

Snitches get stitches, or in Capote's case, he became a social pariah. 

The once beloved figure became the subject of disdain, with many friends refusing to ever speak to him again for betraying their confidence. 

“I didn’t mean to – I thought they’d come back," Capote said at the time, as the writer was often seen in tears. 

In light of his social isolation, Capote increasingly turned to drug abuse and alcoholism, he was in and out of rehab for drugs, and in a disturbing 1978 on-air interview, an intoxicated Capote said "I'll kill myself... without meaning to," which made national headlines.

In the years before his 1984 death from liver disease, he became a social recluse. 

He continued to promote Answered Prayers, but the final book was never submitted.

An incomplete version was published in the UK in 1986 and in the U.S. the following year, however, the completed manuscript was never found — some have suggested it never existed.

Feud: Capote vs. the Swans is now streaming on Binge, new episodes drop weekly. 

Feature image: Binge.