And for his next FX anthology series, Ryan Murphy has picked one of the great battles of our time — you know, that one between Bette and Joan.
FX announced Thursday that Murphy will launch another anthology franchise, entitled “Feud,” the first installment of which will focus on the decades-long brawl between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Other famous standoffs in history (including Hollywood history) will be the subject of future chapters, per FX.
The new series — the third anthology one by the former “Glee” producer — reunites Murphy and Jessica Lange, who will play Crawford. Murphy effectively brought the two-time Oscar winner to television with “American Horror Story” (his first FX anthology, and a celebrated, Emmy-winning one, too). Lange sat out the last installment of “AHS.”
This first installment will also star Susan Sarandon as Davis — Sarandon last starred in an extended TV role on “The Big C” in 2012 — and Stanley Tucci as Warner chief Jack Warner. FX also said Judy Davis will star as famed — and famously venomous — gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. “Feud” will pick up in the early ’60s, when Crawford and Davis worked together on “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” which was produced by Robert Aldrich. He’ll be played by Alfred Molina.
Per FX, the inaugural chapter of “Feud” “tells the story of the legendary rivalry between two of the greatest movie stars of all time — Joan Crawford (Lange) and Bette Davis (Sarandon), and how they came together in 1962 to collaborate on a picture each hoped would revive their careers. The result, the critically acclaimed and box office smash ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?’ ultimately received five Academy Awards nominations and became a cult classic. But for its leads, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, the real horror was working together.”
The Crawford/Davis battles predated the 1962 film by decades, and its backstory felled whole forests for the tabloids and broadsheets that chronicled its many twists. The feud began as a professional standoff — Davis feeling perhaps a little overlooked by the press (in the early ’30s), which rushed (and kept on rushing) to cover Crawford and her love life, including her first marriage to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Then (apparently) the final insult: Davis, who had (reportedly) fallen in love with Franchot Tone, her co-star in 1935’s “Dangerous,” was enraged — if you choose to believe the coverage of the day — when Crawford divorced Fairbanks, then married Tone. Warner cast them alongside each other in “Baby Jane,” about a famed vaudevillian child actor (Davis) and her less-famous sister, Blanche (Crawford). Warner and Aldrich perhaps assumed the old enmity would add a certain electricity to their respective performances; they were not wrong. What went on off-screen was possibly more hair-raising than on. FX said the “Feud” pilot is adapted from the script “Best Actress” by Jaffe Cohen and Michael Zam. Cohen, a writer and actor, also wrote “As Good as It Gets.”
“Ryan [Murphy] keeps re-inventing TV,” said FX Networks CEO John Landgraf, in a statement about the new anthology, which does not yet have an airdate.