Pop culture has always been fascinated with NYC's It-Girls, so it's no surprise Feud: Capote vs. the Swans is the latest TV series to examine an elite social group. Ryan Murphy and co.'s latest limited series depicts the aftermath of In Cold Blood author Truman Capote's fallout with his close circle of female friends, whom he dubbed his "swans," upon the publication of his short story “La Côte Basque, 1965” in Esquire in 1975. In the excerpt from his then-forthcoming novel Answered Prayers (which was ultimately never published), Capote spilled the scandalous, innermost secrets entrusted to him by his clique of wealthy and glamorous high-society women, including Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Lee Radziwill, and CZ Guest.
To bring to life the infamous literary scandal, which coincided with the end of Capote's literary career, producer Murphy, director Gus Van Sant, and writer Jon Robin Baitz gathered a stacked cast of beloved actresses, whose real-life glamour and esteem lends a rarefied air to this story of wealth, gossip, and intrigue. Read on to meet the cast of Feud: Capote vs. the Swans, and to see how closely the on-screen counterparts resemble the real-life socialites.
Naomi Watts as Babe Paley
Barbara “Babe” Cushing Mortimer Paley, the wife of CBS president William S. Paley, was the daughter of a renowned neurosurgeon and member of a family whose daughters married into America's most prominent families (including the Roosevelts and the Astors). As a young woman, she worked as a fashion editor at Vogue. She welcomed two children with her first husband Stanley Grafton Mortimer Jr.; their marriage spanned from 1940 to 1946. She and Bill Paley also had two children together, and remained married until her death from lung cancer in 1978 at the age 63. She also considered Capote her closest friend and confidant, so she was left the most devastated by his betrayal.
Naomi Watts, who gives a career-best performance in Feud: Capote vs. the Swans, is a British actress who rose to prominence after starring in David Lynch's 2001 thriller Mulholland Drive. She went on to receive Academy Award nominations for 2003's 21 Grams and 2012's The Impossible, and she most recently starred in Netflix's true crime series The Watcher. Also, congratulations are in order, as she married actor Billy Crudup last June.
Chloë Sevigny as CZ Guest
C.Z. Guest, born Lucy Douglas Cochrane, was a lifelong socialite, an avid horticulturist, and a horseback rider. Despite carrying herself as the epitome of elegance later in life, she had a wild side as a young woman, which included appearing as a stage actress in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1944, and posing for painters Diego Rivera, Salvador Dalí, and Andy Warhol. She married British-American polo champion Winston Frederick Churchill Guest (a relative of the former prime minister) and stayed with him until his death in 1982, raising two children together. She also was the only swan to forgive Truman after “La Côte Basque, 1965.”
Chloë Sevigny got her start in modeling and quickly garnered "it girl" status, even before her breakthrough film role (and an Oscar nomination) for 1999's Boys Don't Cry. She went on to star in films including 2000's American Psycho, 2002's Dogville, and 2007's Zodiac, as well as series including HBO's Big Love and two seasons of American Horror Story. In 2023, she sold a selection of her old clothes to the public, in what fashion lovers called the "sale of the century."
Diane Lane as Slim Keith
Lady Nancy Keith of Castleacre was born Mary Raye Gross in Salinas, California, where her father owned successful canneries in nearby Monterey. Nicknamed Slim and dubbed the original “California Girl,” Keith had already appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar by the age of 22, and was later named to Eleanor Lambert's International Best-Dressed List, along with Babe and C.Z. She was married three times: to film director Howard Hanks (from 1941 to 1949), producer Leland Hayward (from 1949 to 1960), and to British banker Kenneth Keith, Baron of of Castleacre (from 1962 to 1972). Keith cut all ties with Capote after the scandal, and on Feud, she is most adamant about excluding the author from New York society.
NYC native Diane Lane is best known for starring in acclaimed films including 1983's The Outsiders, 2002's Unfaithful, 2003's Under the Tuscan Sun, and 2010's Secretariat.
Tom Hollander as Truman Capote
Truman Capote was a lauded novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and actor, who wrote several works that are considered literary classics, including Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he had a troubled childhood; his parents divorced when he was young, and he was raised by relatives in Monroeville, Alabama, until he moved to New York City to reunite with his mother, Lillie May Faulk. In the timeframe of Feud—which spans his success post In Cold Blood, and later his ostracization following “La Côte Basque, 1965"—Capote grapples with his self-destructive tendencies, his battle with alcoholism, and his abusive relationship with his closeted suburban father, John O’Shea.
Tom Hollander is a British actor who started his career in theater and later gained international fame for his roles as Mr. Collins in 2005's Pride and Prejudice, and as Lord Beckett in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Most recently, he won a Screen Actors Guild Award alongside the ensemble for The White Lotus season 2.
Demi Moore as Ann Woodward
Ann Woodward was born in Kansas and moved to NYC at age 22, where she worked as a model, dancer, and radio actress known as "the most beautiful girl in radio." She married banking heir William "Billy" Woodward Jr. in 1943, and the couple welcomed two children. In October 1955, Ann shot Billy in a fatal accident, for which she was later acquitted in court. However, her assumed guilt was still the subject of NYC gossip, and Capote included the salacious story in “La Côte Basque, 1965." Per New York Magazine, Ann ingested cyanide and died ahead of the short story's publication.
Demi Moore is an actress and producer who has starred in box-office hits including 1990's Ghost, 1992's A Few Good Men, 1994's Disclosure, and 2003's Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. In 1996, she became the highest-paid actress in film history at the time. She also published her best-selling memoir Inside Out in 2019.
Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill
Best known as the younger sister of former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, Caroline Lee Bouvier Radziwill was an established star of high society. Her debutante was featured in a 1950 issue of Life magazine, her Paris and Manhattan homes were frequently featured in Elle Decor, and she was also one the International Best-Dressed List. She married three times: to publishing executive Michael Temple Canfield (from 1953 to 1958), Polish aristocrat Prince Stanislaw Albrecht Radziwill (from 1959 to 1974), and movie director and choreographer Herbert Ross (from 1988 to 2001). During her marriage to Prince Radziwill, she went by the title "Her Serene Highness Princess."
Calista Flockhart is a TV veteran, who received a Golden Globe and three Emmy nominations for portraying the titular role on Ally McBeal. She went on to appear in ABC's Brothers & Sisters and The CW's Supergirl, as well as the 1999 film A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson
Joanne Carson, née Copeland, was born in Los Angeles in 1931 and worked as a model before marrying The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson in 1963. She was co-host of the early 1960s game show Video Village, and later had her own syndicated health-and-fitness talk show, Joanne Carson’s V.I.P.’s. After her divorce from Johnny in 1972, Joanne became friends with Capote, and she remained as his closest friend after the literary scandal. Capote had a writing room in her Sunset Boulevard home and died there in August 1984.
Molly Ringwald is best known for her roles in John Hughes' iconic '80s films, including The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Sixteen Candles. After a stint living in Paris working on French films, she went on to appear in television shows including ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The CW's Riverdale, and Netflix's Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. She's also a jazz singer, novelist, and translator of French literature.
Treat Williams as Bill Paley
William Paley was a business tycoon who built the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) from a small radio network into one of the biggest media operations in the U.S. Born in Chicago in 1901, Paley changed broadcasting's business model and made sure CBS played a vital role in delivering news coverage to Americans during World War II. He was a notorious womanizer throughout his marriages to Dorothy Hart Hearst (they were together from 1932 to 1947) and Babe, and some of his affair partners included the New York governor's wife Happy Rockefeller (as seen in episode 1), and actress Louise Brooks.
The late Treat Williams, who tragically died in a motorcycle accident in 2023 after filming Feud, was a screen and stage actor who was starred in The CW's Everwood, CBS's Blue Bloods, and the Broadway productions of Hair and Grease.