If there's one thing to take away from the first season of Ryan Murphy's FX limited series Feud: Bette and Joan, which chronicles the rivalry between screen legends Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon), it's that being a woman in Hollywood is still difficult.
"Aging is hard, and being a woman is hard," executive producer Tim Minear told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet at a screening of the finale at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, which also served as a filming location for the series, on Friday night. "I would say a great thing that people could take away from this is not every story needs to be about a 30-year-old white male. That the stories of other people, older women - those are going to be richer stories and are going to have more emotional terrain to explore. We're not reinventing the wheel here, but you know, a couple more wheels would be good."
Gina Welch, who wrote the episode, agreed. "Part of the most profound and new thing about the series to me is the way in which these women internalized a lot of the pressures and insecurities that were foisted upon them - that sort of internalized sexism that really I think made their lives difficult," she said.
Put simply, said supervising producer John J. Gray, "Relevance doesn't end at 35."
Star Sarandon told THR that she enjoyed examining why Bette and Joan fought so much. "I think what Ryan did that was interesting - and the writers, and the directors - was to look at the fact that when people, and not just women, but anybody when they have feuds, when they lock into these contentious relationships, at the base of it is pain and fear," she said. "The easiest way to deal with pain and fear is to be angry and to strike out. I think that's a valuable lesson, is to understand what this is about when you see that happen."
Alfred Molina, who played What Ever Happened to Baby Jane director Robert Aldrich, said that although it might be the most obvious take-away, it still needs to be said that "not very much has changed for women in Hollywood. You know, all the struggles that Bette and Joan were dealing with, I think actresses are dealing with it now," he told THR. "The disparity in pay scales, the different standards that they're held to as opposed to men - really none of that has changed very much. I think partly that's why the show has become so compelling to audiences, because they are recognizing that."
After a screening of the final episode, Sarandon, Lange, Molina and Kiernan Shipka, who played Bette's daughter BD, joined Murphy, Minear, Gray, Welch and executive producers Dede Gardner and Alexis Martin Woodall for a panel in the auditorium to discuss the making of the series. They touched on topics including the painstaking re-creation of the 1963 Oscars (and the lack of Academy permission), Sarandon learning the infamous Baby Jane song and the genesis of the series. Murphy also confirmed that he's now in the casting process for season two of Feud, the story of Princess Diana and Prince Charles' divorce.
"Charles and Diana's story literally begins with filing the divorce papers," he said on the panel. "It's about that pain of the dissolving of a fairy tale, particularly for Diana. It starts with the filing of divorce papers and takes you up until her death."
He also confirmed that both Lange and Sarandon are involved as executive producers, although there's "always" an onscreen role for them.
After the panel, Emmy voters trickled (literally - through one small hallway) into the Wilshire Ebell courtyard for a cocktail reception where they dined on sliders and tacos and left with a Feud-themed Sprinkles cupcake.