Expanded into eight hours, Feud goes beyond the events of the making of the 1962 thriller to add context to the rivalry that peaked when Davis was nominated for Best Actress for her role as Jane Hudson while Crawford was overlooked as her crippled sister Blanche. The shooting of the film and the Academy Awards showdown are all there in the first five episodes, of course, but the show dives deep into the pain that drove both women to do the things that they did to each other. “The thesis statement of our show is that last line of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?,” Murphy says, referring to when Jane says, “You mean, all this time, we could have been friends?”
“That was our jumping-off point,” Murphy continues, adding that the real tragedy is the fact that Crawford and Davis did have so much in common and could have been friends if Hollywood and their own insecurities hadn’t pitted them against each other.
“We wanted to say something about the culture of the time in
the country and Hollywood,” executive producer Tim Minear says of Feud: Bette and Joan, which, in 2017, is
also an examination of Hollywood ageism and sexism, which very much still
exists today. He adds that the show couldn’t have been done without Sarandon.
“I can say that now, not while she was making her deal.”
MORE: Why Did Joan Crawford and Bette Davis 'Feud'? Here's Everything You Need to Know Before Watching
The cast alone, which features nine women -- Sarandon, Lange,
Judy Davis, Jackie Hoffman, Alison Wright, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kathy Bates,
Sarah Paulson and Molly Price -- over the age of 40, is a rare feat for any
screen. “Everyone thinks that women don’t like to work with women. But the fact
is we never get a chance,” says Zeta-Jones, who portrays Olivia de Havilland,
adding that the beauty of being part of a show like this is the opportunity to
work with women she’s admired for so many years.
While Murphy didn’t go into Feud with a quota to fill, he did set out to prove that a show
about women is not a risk. “Good programming is good programming,” he says,
adding: “Women, in particular, are starved for shows about their lives.”
And right now, it seems, TV is the only place to tell those
stories. “Television is definitely much further ahead than film. A lot of very
powerful parts are on TV,” Sarandon says while lamenting the fact that some
studios can’t empathize with women. “It’s hard for male executives to look at a
female in a lead and identify with that.”