Naomi Watts and Tom Hollander Reflect on Babe Paley and Truman Capote's Friendship

tom hollander and naomi watts
Naomi Watts & Tom Hollander on Babe & TrumanGetty Images; Design by Michael Stillwell

Spoilers ahead through episode seven of Feud: Capote vs. the Swans.

The tragic friendship between Babe Paley and Truman Capote forms the emotional core of Feud: Capote vs. the Swans, and comes to a heartbreaking close in episode seven, which depicts the deaths of both Paley and Capote. In the show's rendering, in each of their final moments, the other one appears as a vision.

"Those scenes are deeply important," series writer Jon Robin Baitz tells T&C, "because friendship is very precious and sometimes you can't do anything about its end. Sometimes you can't help it. That to me is a tragic, tragic thing—where for some reason or another, you can't make peace with someone you love or they can't make peace with you. And so you lose a part of yourself."

He adds, "We all have precious friendships that somehow eroded—it may have been a betrayal, it may have been a miscommunication, but whatever it is, but the hurt never goes away. It becomes a stone in you, and adds weight to your life."

Babe and Truman's connection is portrayed vividly by Naomi Watts and Tom Hollander throughout the series. The duo, Baitz says, had "extraordinary chemistry," and they brought deep emotion to those final scenes. In a conversation ahead of the premiere, Watts and Hollander speak with T&C all about their real life bond, filming episode seven, and how they view romantic relationships versus friendship.

om hollander as truman capote, naomi watts as babe paley cr fx
Hollander and Watts in Feud: Capote vs. the Swans episode 7, "Beautiful Babe." FX

Why do you think Babe and Truman were so drawn to each other?

Naomi Watts: They had this deep friendship, an exchange of love and pain. I know that Babe trusted him almost instantly. He showed his vulnerabilities; she felt safe to show hers. I think there was a hole in her life. She needed this person at exactly this point in her life, having suffered in a lonely loveless marriage where [her husband, Bill Paley] was causing her a great deal of pain. So [Truman] comes along, he's smart, he taught her about literature and art, as well as being playful and fun and silly and naughty—that was a side of her that she didn't, she couldn't put forward in the world. She had to be this graceful wife, this wife that worked hard to make everything look good and people feel good. Something about their relationship was very unique.

Tom Hollander: Their story, it's a feud and it's a love story and it's the end of a love story. That's what the show is. We came at it like that. We became close doing it.

Sometimes friendship breakups are more devastating than romantic breakups. That's really clear in the show.

NW: Sometimes the love is deeper, as well.

TH: That's very helpful. That's a good one.

NW [to Hollander]: And why do you think that's the case, breakups in friendships? Do you give more of yourself? I don't know. It's a good question.

TH: I suppose because with romantic love, there's this sort of 'all's fair in love and war' principle—which I've never actually thought was a reasonable saying, but people say it. Whereas friendships, you think, well, if the friendships sustain, I can get over the sensational, more dramatic, 'Oh, I've lost another boyfriend.' But then a true love would also be a friendship, wouldn't it? And if you lost that, that would be equally devastating. I suppose it's that the emotion. The friendship is the emotion without the sex, isn't it?

In a way, the sex is an annoying, physical compulsion which, in a way, when it disappears as a relief. Whereas the heart stuff and the mind stuff and the companionship, that's the stuff that keeps you sane. Sex makes you mad actually where the friendship stuff makes you survive.

NW: And you don't expect it. You don't expect a betrayal in a friendship. You can expect—or not expect, you can imagine that a love relationship, a sexual relationship, can go horribly wrong because of other temptations.

tom hollander as truman capote, naomi watts as babe paley cr fx
The two embrace in a scene earlier in the season.FX

Do you think Babe and Truman were each other's true love?

NW [quickly]: Yes.

TH: Yes, I don't know, but they are in this story. That's what we were depicting.

NW: Yes, in this story, it really feels like it. That was what we were really exploring.

In terms of episode seven, the penultimate chapter in the show, what was it like recreating Babe and Truman’s final moments? I was really struck that it’s Truman who appears to Babe, and vice versa.

TH: They were very powerful to play. Sometimes, you don't always feel close to the emotion that you're supposed to be playing—sometimes, you don't feel anything like it and you have to manufacture it. With those [scenes], it was very easy. There was something about the magical nature of appearing in each other's dreams that was very touching.

Also, we hadn't seen each other for quite a long time when we shot those, as far as I remember, the schedule meant that we'd not seen each other for a bit and then we suddenly came back together, it was very intense—

NW: And we were also aware of the end, the end of our time in a working environment.

TH: We'd been coming to the scene, we'd been waiting to shoot these scenes for a long time. They were quite freighted with expectation and emotion for both of us, I think. Jennifer [Lynch], who directed that, she was very emotional and very openly emotional as a director. She was very empathetic and she was very sensitive, kind, loving person. She encouraged us to be—she encouraged the emotion.

NW: It's very heartbreaking to get to that place where you know the end is near, and you start to think about how things have gone in your life. I say this like I know what that is. I'm not there yet! But you can imagine how one starts assessing things in their life, and what are the regrets and what does my life amount to, and if you had the fantasy of having that moment of this long feud that had gone on and all of the grief around it—like, what if we could have just had one more closing moment? What would it be? What would we say? What would we do? It's really quite beautiful to be able to play with that.

naomi wats as barbara paley, tom hollander as truman capote cr fx
Babe and Truman’s friendship forms the emotional core of the show. FX

What has lingered with you both since playing Babe and Truman?

NW: I really like him [motioning to Hollander]. He's gonna be a friend for life, I hope! [to Hollander]: What about you?

TH: Nothing to say after that!

NW [laughing]: It would be too corny to say it back?

TH: It would. Would it be alright if I don't?

NW: No, I need you to say it! [laughing]

TH [joking]: Not Naomi, but don't tell her, there was a couple of pairs of shoes... [more serious] No, it was a wonderful experience. I will cherish every moment and Naomi was obviously at the heart of it.

NW: The whole group, on camera, off camera. Wall to wall, great connections, made great friends.

The finale of Feud: Capote vs. the Swans airs next week.

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