Jessica Lange on the “Extraordinary Experience” of Playing Joan Crawford in Feud: Bette and Joan
It sounds like Jessica Lange loved playing Joan Crawford as much as fans loved watching her on Feud: Bette and Joan.
“I certainly learned a lot about Joan Crawford that I never knew before and inhabiting her was an extraordinary experience, really,” Lange told E! News at a Feud: Bette and Joan FYC event. “I found all sorts of contradictions and wonderful strengths and weaknesses, an incredible past. She’s a very complex character…To be given a role like this, it was great in that I was able to go to so many different areas and to play so many different emotions.”
Feud: Bette and Joan told the story of the legendary feud between Crawford and Bette Davis. The two only starred in one movie together: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? The FX miniseries from Ryan Murphy chronicled the making of that flick, the doomed reteaming of Crawford and Davis on Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte and their later lives. The series finale depicted Crawford’s unraveling health as well as her work on her last movie, Trog.
“Well, hopefully they’ll be very moved by it,” Lange told us before the finale aired. “I think the ending is very moving. It kind of wraps the story up. I do hope that yes, it touches people. I think it’s very emotional—the ending.”
Lange’s character has a dream in which she and Susan Sarandon‘s Davis quash their feud and tell tales with Hedda Hopper (Judy Davis) and Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci).
Murphy broke down the scene with E! News’ Kristin Dos Santos.
“Well, the reason for that scene was twofold. In our research about the last month of Joan Crawford’s life, we had it from several sources that she was very ill, she had cancer and she would be found in a room hallucinating and having imaginary conversations from her past. So we were reading about that and we thought that’s so interesting,” Murphy explained. “So she really did have these hallucinations, which many older people who are dying of cancer have. And when she was found having those conversations, she would be brought back to Earth and they were always conversations she was having with people from her happier days. The height of her power and everything. So there’s that.”
Murphy noted when he interviewed Davis he was struck by her regrets with how her feud with Crawford unfolded and “how she wished that she had been nicer and kinder.” Murphy said Davis came to the realization after she worked with Faye Dunaway on a film.
“That she had regrets and she wished that she had reached out to Joan and she had wished that they had made some kind of peace. But she didn’t know how good she had it with Joan until she worked with Faye,” he said. “And of course when she would go on television and she realized that part of her iconography was talking s–t about Joan Crawford and she liked the money and she wasn’t about to part with that,” Murphy said.
“So, I thought, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be great that, since we know Joan had imaginary conversations, and Bette did tell me that she was sorry, what if we put all of those together?’ Because I do think that the audience wanted to have a moment of peace that I think they had in their minds and in their wishes, but that actually they didn’t get to have. I wanted to do that. I feel like the essence of what they said was absolutely true,” he continued.
Click play on the video at top for more from Lange, including talk of a return to American Horror Story, and the video in the center for Sarandon’s take on Feud: Bette and Joan. Feud will return for a second season, Feud: Charles and Diana, about Prince Charles and his late ex-wife Princess Diana.