Literary Giants

Literary Giants

Lisa Immordino Vreeland, the director of documentaries Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel (2011), Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (2015) and Love, Cecil (2017), turns to two more 20th century icons for her new film Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation. In it, she examines the friendship between authors Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams.

ASFF: Of the two writers, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, who did you fall in love with the hardest?
LIV: We were very, very attentive not to try to show that favouritism…[but] I just fell in love with Tennessee. I fell in love with the way he approached life, the honesty with which he approached life. And that was something that was always really very hard to deal with Truman, because he was on the make from such a young age. And he really had this desire to reinvent himself – there was a lack of sincerity sometimes in his words, and you have this juxtaposition of these two human beings who really were trying to express themselves, and the absence of love that they had as children, through their written words.

ASFF: Do you feel younger viewers will know Capote’s work now?
I think people know Truman. I would hope in literature classes and American lit classes that he is studied. In Cold Blood is just chilling, to the bone. I mean, I’ve read that several times in my life. And it’s just the kind of book that you read it and you feel scared. You just really, really feel scared. And Breakfast at Tiffany’s – everybody knows because of the movie. There are a lot of women and girls who still dream of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Life hasn’t changed that much!

ASFF: You include photos by Cecil Beaton – the subject of your last film, Love, Cecil. So do you feel this film has grown from your earlier work?
There is always something in all of these films! Don’t forget, Truman was very good friends with Beaton. He knew Diana Vreeland very well. He knew Peggy Guggenheim very well. I don’t do it purposely but it’s all these worlds are, they’re tied together. Truman wrote part of one of his books at the Peggy’s palazzo. And Peggy even went on a trip with Tennessee. She was very close to Tennessee at one point. So it’s funny, but the world was so much smaller back then.

ASFF: You have Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto voicing Capote and Williams, respectively. Were they your first choices?
I have to say they were the dream team that I wanted, but that doesn’t mean it happens. Zach has performed a lot of Tennessee…he’s a huge Tennessee Williams fan. And he really helped me secure Jim. He was amazing. It was just so nice. They have no need to do anything like this. They really don’t. And I cannot tell you how appreciative they were. Zach paid me a compliment. We did a Zoom call. And he says ‘I love your films’. Come on! People are not like that. And he was very, very complimentary.

ASFF: Is there another 20th century icon you’d like to make a film on next?
LIV: Definitely. I already had it in my head. I’m doing Gertrude Stein next. It’s a bigger challenge. And I’ll tell you why it’s a bigger challenge, because there’s a lot less footage of her.

Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation is available on demand from 30 April. For more details click here.

James Mottram

1. Photo of Truman Capote 1978, Globe Photos, Mediapunch, Shutterstock & Tennessee WIlliams Courtesy of the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s.
2. Tennessee Williams. Courtesy of Getty Images
3. Truman & Tennessee – An Intimate Conversation. Photo of Tennessee Williams Courtesy by Clifford Coffin & Truman Capote, 1948 by Irving Penn © The Irving Penn Foundation