Both Elizabeth Olsen and Jessica Biel portray the housewife in two different limited series on HBO Max and Hulu.
Over 40 years after housewife Betty Gore was brutally killed in 1980, two limited, true-crime series -- Candy and Love & Death -- are chronicling the lives in the small Texas town of Wylie and the events leading up to her death at the hands of accused axe murderer Candy Montgomery.
Not since the 1990 TV movie, A Killing in a Small Town, has Montgomery's story been explored this in-depth onscreen, with Jessica Biel portraying her in the five-part Candy, which is now streaming on Hulu, while Elizabeth Olsen takes over the role in Love & Death, which unfolds over seven episodes on HBO Max.
While the two projects have naturally drawn comparisons, there's more to each series, with Olsen explaining to ET that "stories that are interesting deserve to be told and every way you're going to tell it."
And just like the crime -- and everything surrounding Betty's death, including the other real-life characters and scandals involved -- Candy's story is far more complicated than one woman taking an axe to another.
Married to Pat Montgomery and a mother of two children, Candy was a seemingly typical, 30-year-old housewife living in Collin County, Texas, who became close friends with Betty, a fellow housewife and mother who was also a middle school teacher.
According to Texas Monthly, it was the regularly attended service at the First United Methodist Church of Lucas "that first brought Candy Montgomery and Betty Gore together, and it was the church that led them to their times of closeness and, eventually, to their mutual hatred and Betty’s brutal death."
The church is also where Candy, who had grown bored with Pat, decided to have an affair with Betty’s husband, Allan Gore. More specifically, the moment that pushed her over the edge "happened on the church volleyball court, on a late-summer day in 1978," when the two collided during a play.
After that, Candy set her sights on Allan. And after months of negotiating with him, he finally agreed to cheat on his wife and the two engaged in an extended affair that only ended after Allan wanted to focus his attention on Betty, who had grown more anxious about their relationship, and their family.
On June 13, 1980, Betty confronted Candy about the affair before attacking her with an axe. As the two fought, Candy gained control of the weapon and "brought the blade down on the back of Betty’s head," before killing her. (Betty was reportedly assaulted 41 times.)
Eventually, Candy was arrested and charged in the murder of Betty. In court, she pleaded self-defense with her lawyer arguing that "after being struck twice with the axe by [Betty] and then gaining control of the weapon, the heavier and larger [Betty] refused to let [Candy] go." The prosecution, meanwhile, argued that Candy could have fled "rather than bludgeon" Betty to death.
Months later, on Oct. 30, 1980, a jury of nine women and three men found Candy not guilty of Betty’s murder.
First debuting in May 2022, Candy was created by Nick Antosca and Robin Veith with Biel joined by Melanie Lynskey as Betty, Pablo Schreiber as Allan and Timothy Simons as Pat. Supporting cast members include surprise cameos made by Biel and Lynskey's husbands, Justin Timberlake and Jason Ritter, respectively.
When it comes to the series’ unsettling vibe, "it really does hold up," Simons said, giving credit to Veith and director Michael Uppendahl for establishing "that tone in such a beautiful way. I think you really feel that in the setup of each of these marriages and the kind of monotony of suburban life that is established in this."
He added, "That really leaves you feeling unsettled and like something bad can come from this and is lurking just on the other side."
As for the series’ portrayal of mothers, especially women at the time who faced constant pressure to maintain an ideal home and family life, Biel found it very relatable -- even 42 years later. "I think every mom and every dad in the entire world can relate to at least one day feeling overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed almost every day, truly," Biel said.
"I think, like the women at that time and in that community, it was just a given that they would do all of that work," Lynskey added. "It wasn’t a discussion. And to think of doing all of that, being so tired and no thanks for it just kind of makes the expectation that every single day of your life is gonna look like this would be really overwhelming."
Love & Death (HBO Max)
Writers Jim Atkinson and John Bloom, who wrote the Texas Monthly articles, served as consulting producers on Candy, while their book, Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs, was adapted by David E. Kelley for Love & Death.
"I was sent the two Texas Monthly articles and I read them in like a nanosecond and I was blown away. Like truly, if this wasn't true, you couldn't make it up. It is absolutely an example where true life is way way stranger than fiction," said director Lesli Linka Glatter, explaining that after reading Evidence of Love, she teamed up with Kelley to create a series about "these complicated. layered complex characters."
The HBO Max series, which debuted in April 2023, is led by Olsen, with Jesse Plemons as Allan, Patrick Fugit as Pat and Lily Rabe as Betty. Additional cast members include Brian d’Arcy James, Elizabeth Marvel and Krysten Ritter.
When it comes to its own, sardonic tone, Olsen said it wasn't about bringing lightness to something dark. Instead, "I thought of it as these interesting characters being placed in absurd circumstances that lent itself to humor," she explained. "And my on-camera husband, Patrick Fugit, really chewed up the scenery. He was making us laugh all the time with the choices he's made, but we weren't trying to, like, make jokes. There's no like, 'ha-ha element,' actually. When the characters are trying to make jokes, you're kind of uncomfortable."
She added that it's more about these situations, and natural pauses and deep-seated relationships "that are creating these awkward moments that's creating humor, and I deeply enjoy those kinds of scenes."
For his part, Fugit credits Kelley for putting it all in the script. "The creative structure, like the fabric of the project, is super high level and prestigious, of course, like on paper," he offered. "But then like reading it, it's so human and authentic as David's writing always is. Everything just seems so self-evident in terms of what I was meant to be doing."
If nothing else, this take on Candy's story is about a journey and how certain pieces paved the way for what came next. "We're telling events that are absurd and [it's] sometimes funny that this chain of events leads to this one horrible tragedy. And we're basically telling a story that says, 'If you were to take one element of that out, maybe that never would have happened,'" she shared.
While Olsen added that they're "not trying to let anyone off the hook," that "no one is a psychopath in this show." It's not as simple as that, with Love & Death trying to "understand how something so crazy could happen," she concluded.
While viewers are naturally going to be comparing one project with the other, analyzing one performance against the next, everyone involved says there's no competition or fight to the end between the two.
In fact, after both projects were announced, Biel even got in touch with Olsen. "I was very happy that she reached out in that way," Olsen said, explaining that "there's no need to have competition." And given each show's approach to the real-life events, "it's impossible for it to be the same," she added.
Not only did Biel connect with Olsen, but according to WSJ. Magazine, their conversation at the time helped put the latter at ease about any worries over their shows coming out around the same time.
"It was more just kind of like, 'Oh, great. This is nice that we are both acknowledging this thing because we were filming simultaneously," Olsen explained, adding that Biel "didn't wanna hide from the idea that there would be comparisons, I guess."
For her part, Biel took to Instagram to share her excitement for Olsen's take on Candy. "The METAVERSE IS REAL," she wrote. "Can’t wait to watch #ElizabethOlsen KILL in this role."
But when it comes to having two options or two versions of Candy's story to stream, Rabe said it's hardly a bad thing.
"When you read your kids a story and they're interested in the story, they never say, 'Oh my god, please never read that story to me again,' or, 'I don't want to hear it.' They say, 'I'd like to hear you read it,'" she said, explaining that interest and fandom surrounding Candy allows for more than one version of her story to be told.
Rabe added, "We are just storytellers and we're shining a light on this particular story and I think it's just a wonderful opportunity for viewers to get to experience this story more than once, if they choose to do so."
Reporting by Deidre Behar and Lauren Zima