Naomi Watts will soon be seen in Hulu's Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans as Babe Paley, wife of CBS founder William Paley and magazine-editor-turned-socialite and friend of Truman Capote.
Modern Luxury caught up with Watts, post-strike, who discussed preparing for the role and why she thinks the story is so interesting. "It's the envy of everyone, but at the same time, you're looking for the cracks."
Read our full Q& A below:
Why do you think people have such an appetite for high society and scandal?
It's the American dream we all long for: watching these people live enviable lives with perfect houses, perfect relationships, perfect outfits. Just being able to get a glimpse into the corner of these people's lives, it's the envy of everyone, but at the same time, you're looking for the cracks and assuming that it's not all as good as it looks. We are just waiting for that moment when it all comes undone, because how could life be so perfect? Why does it appear that way? My belief is that they're experts at hiding things. And I think what’s behind the curtain is what's more interesting.
Were you previously a fan of Capote's work?
I’ve watched the films that have been made of his stories and about Truman. He was obviously known for his overly interesting life—not that it preceded his gift for writing. He certainly was an extraordinary writer and wrote from early childhood because of how lonely he was. He learned to read and write before he even entered school, and his work was prolific. But what ended up happening particularly towards the end of his life was that he became more known for his behavior and his lifestyle, which moved further and further into a tragic, scandalous, and messy direction. He was clearly a broken man who didn't achieve all of the things he wanted to achieve, which I think most of all was love.
What did you find most interesting or surprising in your research about Babe Paley? How did you prepare for the role?
Babe, too, was a sort of broken woman, I think that's why she became so closely involved with Truman, because there was never going to be a romance, so she felt safer about becoming so close with him and letting herself be seen, which I don't think she'd ever allowed herself to be seen by anyone else in the world. There was something very, very tragic about Babe, which she covered with high level perfection in the way she dressed and in the way she behaved. She succeeded unbelievably well in covering up her brokenness, and I think this is why Truman was completely taken with her, because he knew underneath there was a vulnerable woman who needed love, just like himself. The two of them were like peas in a pod. Playing that tragedy, hidden by such a need for high praise and perfection, was an interesting dichotomy.
I gathered my research from a variety of places. My information was gathered from reading different books about how she was raised and books about Capote. We leaned on the source material as well, which was Laurence Leamer’s book, Capote's Women.
There's so much out there, but, unfortunately, nothing was available in terms of footage of Babe or recordings of her voice, so I had to make that up on my own. The biggest thing to work with was her teeth. At a very young age, Babe lost her teeth in a car accident, and had to have false teeth. The teeth were the hardest thing to work with in my preparation, because they interfere with the way you speak. But that ultimately helped me get closer to the character, because you have to speak more carefully and pronounce words more delicately. I think that was her whole intention, to be seen in an elevated and graceful way.
Babe And William Paley Circa 1952
Paley In 1954
Gloria Guiness, Truman Capote and Paley in 1954
Paley Photographed At Home In 1963