Awards Daily TV’s Jazz Tangcay attends FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan For Your Consideration Emmy event hosted by Deadline’s Pete Hammond.
Deadline’s Pete Hammond moderated the Los Angeles Emmy’s FYC panel that followed FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan finale screening. The show’s leading ladies attended, Jessica Lange (Joan Crawford) and Susan Sarandon (Bette Davis). Emmy voters packed into the Wilshire Ebel Theatre and applauded their way through the episode which airs Sunday night on FX. Ryan Murphy, Kiernan Shipka (Davis’ daughter BD), Alfred Molina (director Robert Aldrich), Alexis Martin-Woodall, Tim Minear, co-producer, and writer Gina Welch also attended the panel discussion.
Murphy revealed, as a young boy, he wrote Bette Davis a fan letter. To his great surprise, she “wrote back in a week.” He told the enthused crowd and Hammond that they exchanged letters back and forth, and Davis invited him to interview her. A 20-minute moment turned into “four hours with her, and a lot of the stuff is seen on the show.” Feud: Bette and Joan was born. Murphy met with Lange and Sarandon for coffee: “We kept it alive for several years.” He added, “One day I woke up and thought, this should be an eight-hour show because there’s so much story, and that’s how it happened.”
The show deals with ageism, sexism, and misogynism in Old Hollywood, but these tragedies still resonate today. “We shot the first four episodes, thinking Hillary Clinton was going to win. Those were, how did we come so far, and halfway through shooting, the other scenario happened and nothing has really changed.” Murphy said.
Murphy said the conversation about Lange playing Joan Crawford actually pre-dated her joining his other Emmy-winning hit show on FX, American Horror Story. “It was one of the first conversations I had with her. Jessica was very interested in the idea of deciphering of how Crawford pulled herself up from nothing, a sexual abuse survivor, and an alcoholic.” On casting Sarandon, he joked, “With Susan, she said I was the ‘fifth fucking person who talked to her about playing Bette Davis.’ ”
“Part of it wasn’t playing the role of Joan Crawford as much as what was always underneath the skin, and that was Lucile LeSueur who was this poor, abandoned, abused, poverty stricken kid from San Antonio. As soon as I found my way into the character through Lucile then it all made sense to me and I knew how to play Joan,” Lange explained on how she was able to tap into Crawford’s character.
On the challenge of bringing Davis to the big screen, Sarandon said, “I remember saying to Ryan, ‘I’m really terrified,’ and he said, ‘I am too’ and that was really reassuring.” She joked, “I never found the right thing to play her and this seemed to be the scariest right thing.” Sarandon spent time watching interviews and her appearances at festivals. “Philosophically, her approach to her career as a character actress is something I related to. I see myself as someone who’s probably never going to retire as a workforce, as an East Coast person that’s not a movie star. I had to get in that way.” Sarandon said, “I’m not really that ambitious, my family comes first. She was so consumed by this need to do this.” She told the audience that she was moved to be part of the team and join the Ryan Murphy universe.
With that, Murphy revealed that the second season, Feud: Charles and Diana, will have Lange and Sarandon on board as producers.
Molina, who plays What Ever Happened to Baby Jane director Robert Aldrich, joked that when he first got the part, “the first thing I did was fall to my knees and thank God that I didn’t have to lose weight.”
The panel discussed the famous moment of Crawford accepting the Oscar for Anne Bancroft’s win in 1963 revisited in Episode 5 of the series. Talking about Crawford’s motivation for doing what she did, Lange said, “It takes a lot of nerve to pull it off the way she pulled it off. She was so deeply hurt and offended that her work wasn’t recognized, she ended up not with the showier role, and that was recognized by the Academy. I think there was a lot of the pain and anger. I think she wanted to have her moment, I think she really wanted to say, ‘Fuck this.’ ”
The final episode of Feud: Bette and Joan airs Sunday night on FX at 10pm ET.