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[This story contains spoilers from Sunday’s episode of Feud.]
Stanley Tucci has made a career as a character actor, playing everything from a wisecracking TV show host in The Hunger Games to a bone-chilling killer in The Lovely Bones. But on FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan, Tucci takes on the role of feared and unlikable studio head Jack Warner, the man largely responsible for perpetrating the ongoing feud between Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon).
During Sunday’s “Hagsploitation” episode, Warner’s showcase reaches a climax as the “hag horror” genre explodes on the heels of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane’s success when he solicits director Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) to reunite Joan and Bette for a sequel of sorts in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. In the end, Aldrich gets the ultimate comeuppance when he takes the film to rival studio 20th Century Fox, effectively burning bridges with Warner once and for all.
To dig deeper into what it took to get into Jack Warner’s skin and find out whether Hollywood has gotten any better with its treatment of women, THR caught up with Tucci.
What was it like getting into this role and how in-depth was your research?
I did a certain amount of research. I read a bit about it and I was able to find just a few things on YouTube that were very helpful. If you have a film of someone that can go a long way, it can be like reading 12 books about them. He was a little thick around the middle so I had them build a pad for me around my stomach so that the suits would fit. I wanted him to have a thickness to him so that he wasn’t portly, but almost portly. It was more appropriate to him. And then I wanted to get the teeth right because he had these sort of perfectly capped, white teeth and that little mustache. And his hair was very specific with the way it was slicked back so we had the wigmaker here where I live in London make it. And I had the teeth made here.
Where did Jack Warner sit on your peripheral before taking the role?
I didn’t know a lot about the Warner brothers. I knew about some of the other studio heads; I narrated a film about Irving Thalberg years ago and that was a very interesting story. Jack Warner was not a particularly nice guy. There were some interviews with people who knew him; James Garner in particular had an interview I watched about Jack Warner and he said he wasn’t a very nice guy at all.
Did you find anything likable about him in playing him? How did you find sympathy for him?
He was charming and funny. So you use that. But he was cutthroat. He wanted to be successful and on top. So he used his charm to get what he wanted but he was a tough, tough businessman.
The way aging women in Hollywood have been treated was a central theme in Feud. How have things changed over the course of your career?
To a certain extent, there’s a change but not nearly enough. We need more women in positions of power. There seems to be some sort of deep-seeded fear or misogyny in America. The basis of it…I don’t get it.
Is that something you thought about before you signed on to Feud?
It’s something that’s always on your mind. What’s interesting about this show is that it makes a really pointed effort to shine a light on the way women are treated. How often do you go to see a movie you’ve got a guy who’s like 60 years old and his wife is like 35 in the movie or something? And you think, “Really?” Yes, that does happen, but it’s very seldom that you’ll see the wife really be the same age as the male lead.
When you’re taking roles and realize you’re in that situation, do you voice an opinion about that?
You take the role on the role itself and you do your best because if it’s not your movie you only have so much control over it. It’s not my place to say, “I really think this person should be the same age.”
What kind of familiarity did you have with Ryan Murphy before you got the call for this role?
I had seen some of his stuff and we have a close mutual friend in Peter Liguori who used to be at Fox and was one of the guys who really sort of created FX. He’s a big fan of Ryan’s as am I. So I talked to Ryan on the phone and he was so nice. And that role is just so great, how do you say no to it?
Will you be involved with Feud season two, Charles and Diana?
[Laughs.] Yeah, I don’t think they’ll put me in that one. Maybe if they shoot it in London, yes. I would love to do another project with Ryan. I can’t think of anything offhand but Ryan is so brilliant in what he comes up with; I hope there’d be something.
Feud: Bette and Joan airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on FX. Thoughts? Sound off in the comments below.
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