Feud: Capote Vs the Swans star Tom Hollander ‘intimidated’ to play Truman Capote in mini-series

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Philip Seymour Hoffman is one hard act to follow.

Eight years before his death in 2014, he had the role of a lifetime portraying Truman Capote in the big-screen biopic Capote.

The Hollywood star won a Best Actor Oscar for his immaculate performance as the celebrated American author, who brought the world novels such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood.

Now, Capote’s life and times will be brought to the small screen in the FX mini-series Feud: Capote Vs the Swans, which airs locally on BINGE from February 1.

And this time, Capote will be played by British actor Tom Hollander.

Speaking to news.com.au ahead of the series premiere on Thursday, the 56-year-old admits he was “intimidated” taking on the role, given the great Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his take on Capote.

“Philip got an Oscar, which is annoying, but not annoying of him. Obviously he was a genius and he deserved all the lovely things that happened to him and none of the horrible things,” Hollander says of Hoffman, who died in 2014 from a drug overdose.

“I just mean that it was intimidating.”

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But Hollander takes comfort in the fact Feud: Capote Vs the Swans focuses on the ‘60s and ‘70s period of the author’s life – a time when he surrounded himself with New York City’s finest, richest women, whom he referred to as his “swans”.

His so-called swans included the likes of former magazine editor Barbara “Babe” Paley (played by Aussie actress Naomi Watts); Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ younger sister Lee Radziwill (Calista Flockhart); stage actress C.Z. Guest (Chloë Sevigny); socialites Ann Woodward (Demi Moore), and Nancy “Slim” Keith (Diane Lane), and Johnny Carson’s ex-wife Joanne Carson (Molly Ringwald).

They were his glamorous muses and he was their flamboyant confidant … until Capote – who is considered the greatest writer of his generation – betrayed them for a story. The series then follows the fallout between the author and his subjects.

“Luckily, this story was a very different Truman from certainly the one in [Seymour Hoffman’s] film, that was very much about a specific time in Truman’s life when he was writing In Cold Blood,” Hollander says of what differentiates the movie from the series, which is based on Laurence Leamer’s bestseller, Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, And A Swan Song For An Era.

“And in a way it’s a more sober Truman, it is Truman at his kind of zenith, at his most capable. Our story is Truman breaking down, really falling apart – the Canvas was completely different. So, actually, I was playing a different part.”

Hollander says after “the initial gulp” of playing the acclaimed novelist, he thought the role was “just wonderful” and praised series creator Ryan Murphy, director Gus Van Sant and writer Jon Robin Baitz who “made it completely different”.

“Rather than become Truman Capote, I tried to be someone who could only be Truman Capote. That is Truman Capote. It’s not, ‘Oh my God, it’s a facsimile of Truman Capote,’” Hollander explains in a later press conference attended by news.com.au.

“So I watched him and watched his television appearances again and again and again, and I’m trying to find the bits of me that could be him or the bits of him that were like me, and then you somehow try and meet the character somewhere in the middle.

“Not quite in the middle, a little bit further towards him, I would say, because vocally and physically, he’s so distinctive.”

In order to nail the novelist’s unique accent, Hollander – who is also loved for his work in The White Lotus, Bird Box, Bohemian Rhapsody and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise – said he listened to Capote’s voice religiously while also working with a voice coach.

“Honestly, I just listened to it a lot and I was helped enormously by the most brilliant voice coach called Jerome Butler, who was there with me every day,” he recalls.

“Then Truman himself was on my phone in my ear before every take, and so I could be with him whenever I wanted to and remind myself what he sounded like. And so you just keep scratching away at it. It’s not something that you get and then you’ve got it, then you can hold on to it. You have to keep going, keep working at it.”

Feud: Capote VS. The Swans premieres Thursday, February 1 on BINGE

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