Ryan Murphy on how his Half Foundation led to 'Feud'
Ryan Murphy oversees a small TV empire on FX, with series including American Horror Story, American Crime Story and his latest effort, Feud. The first cycle of that show focuses on the rivalry between movie icons Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. On all his shows, Murphy now has a strict rule: at least half of the directors and crew members must be women or minorities.
Prolific writer-director-producer Ryan Murphy is on a mission: he has a lot of shows on FX-- American Crime Story, American Horror Story and his latest, Feud -- and he wants half the people working behind the camera to be women or minorities. He talks about the inspiration behind those efforts and his new series, Feud, the first season of which focuses on the bitter rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford on the set of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? He also explains why he's at work on series about Charles and Diana as well as Monica Lewinsky, and the 2016 election.
Photo: (L-R) Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis and Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford in Feud: Bette and Joan. (Suzanne Tenner/FX)
Matt Belloni, editorial director of the Hollywood Reporter, joins Kim Masters to discuss top entertainment news stories of the week.
Hollywood is in a state of disarray. Two of the major studios -- Sony and Paramount -- are leaderless at the moment. Jim Gianopulos, formerly of Fox, is rumored to be taking the Paramount job, but he is also being courted by other companies as well. In the past, the studios might have drawn on someone from an up-and-coming executive class to be their CEO, but the clear hierarchy doesn’t exist any more as film studio jobs allow less autonomy and more people are going to places like Silicon Valley or Netflix.
The new FX anthology series Feud focuses on two iconic actresses -- Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Crawford started her film career in 1925 and Davis in 1930, and for years it was known that there was no love lost between the two. Davis famously turned down the role in Mildred Pierce for which Crawford won an Academy Award in 1945. But Davis wound up with two Oscars to Crawford’s one.
By the early 1960s, neither woman was getting much in the way of work. It was Crawford who found the horror novel What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?--a tale of two reclusive sisters who had once enjoyed stardom. She approached Davis with an offer that she believed would benefit them both. In Feud, Susan Sarandon plays Davis and Jessica Lange plays Crawford.
Our guest Ryan Murphy, is the executive producer of Feud, well as other FX series including American Horror Story and American Crime Story, the first season of which focused on the O.J. Simpson trial. The People vs. O.J. Simpson wowed critics and won 9 Emmys. Murphy also created the Fox shows Scream Queens and Glee.
A year ago, Murphy founded the Half Foundation. He has pledged to hire women or minorities for at least 50% of the directing and crew slots across all of his shows. The idea came out a moment on The People vs. O.J. Simpson that Murphy describes as a crisis of faith. He tells us what happened, what made him take action, and how conversations he had in the industry led to his decision to pick the current topic for Feud.
He also shares how he ends up picking other topics for his show, and why he wishes people would pause before immediately reacting to his choices.