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‘Feud’s’ Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange on Recreating Bette Davis and Joan Crawford

Variety logo Variety 4/22/2017 Diane Gordon
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The riveting performances by Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in FX’s “Feud” have shown the deeper story of two Hollywood legends. The show’s cast and producers, led by Ryan Murphy, reunited for a screening of the season one finale and a panel to talk about how the idea of making the show scared everyone at first.

Murphy praised the leading ladies, saying, “Jessica and Susan lean into their fears. It was intimidating to recreate these huge icons.” Sarandon said that after being approached to play Davis in various projects, “Feud” was “the scariest right thing” in which to finally tackle playing the Hollywood legend.

Lange commented on playing Joan Crawford: “Joan was a great mystery. She created ‘Joan Crawford,’ a character she played as a collaboration between her and MGM and she played it for fifty years. What fascinated me about her was not playing the role of Joan Crawford but what was underneath, Lucille LeSueur, a poor, abandoned, unloved, abused, poverty-stricken kid from San Antonio. Finding my way into the role by playing Lucille – then it all made sense to me.”

Co-producer Gina Welch penned the season one finale with executive producer Tim Minear and noted that because Davis and Crawford left behind interviews, books and TV appearances in addition to their onscreen performances, there was more to mine for material for the FX series.

Ryan Murphy talked about his favorite episode of season one, “And the Winner Is … (The Oscars of 1963),” which recreated the 1963 Academy Awards in painstaking detail. Murphy explained, “I wanted to get it right. It was a love letter to Hollywood. We did it respectfully and with love for a bygone era. I think it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever directed. I love everything about it. It ultimately became a tribute.”

Murphy also teased season two of “Feud,” which will examine the story of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. “I’m casting now,” he said. “Jessica and Susan are staying on as producers.” As for similarities between seasons one and two, Murphy reminded the audience that “feuds are about pain.”

Post-panel, guests enjoyed a buffet in the courtyard of the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, while ballads and pop songs from the 1950s and 1960s played. Parting gifts included Perino’s coffee to go — ​​referencing the popular restaurant that was lovingly recreated and featured in “Feud​” — and Sprinkles cupcakes.

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