Was Truman Capote gay? The fascinating story behind Feud: Capote vs. The Swans

Created by Ryan Murphy, the writer behind the likes of Pose and American Horror Story, Feud: Capote vs. The Swans tells the real-life story of one of America’s most notable playwrights, Truman Capote.

Based on the book Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era, Tom Hollander (In The Loop, The White Lotus) brings Capote back to life in the eight-part FX series, which premiered on 31 January.

The retelling largely navigates the deterioration of Capote’s relationships with the socialites of New York City high society after he began to document the hedonism of their personal lives in Answered Prayers, and alongside Hollander, features Russell Tovey, Molly Ringwald and Demi Moore.

As the drama resurfaces with the season premiere, fans have been left with one crucial question: was Truman Capote gay?

Who was Truman Capote?

Truman Capote was an American novelist, screenwriter, playwright and actor best known for novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s and true crime novel In Cold Blood. He spent years working on the latter following the murder of a family in their Kansas farm home, and was helped by his lifelong friend Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird.

The pair grew up together, and Capote alleged that he was a “character” in Lee’s book, “which takes place in the same small town in Alabama where we lived.” When they were little, the pair used to “go trials all the time” and “went to trials instead of going to the movies.”

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Was Truman Capote gay?

Yes, Truman Capote was gay. One of his first lovers was Newton Arvin, a literature professor at the prestigious Smith College, who Capote dedicated Other Voices, Other Rooms to.

After Arvin, Capote spent the majority of his life in a relationship with fellow novelist and playwright Jack Dunphy. When Capote died in 1984, he named Dunphy as the chief beneficiary in his will.

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A memorial stone dedicated to the pair lies by the Crooked Pond in the Long Pond Greenbelt in Southampton, New York, with Dunphy’s quote reading: “I was grieving the way the earth seems to grieve for spring in the dead of winter, but I wasn’t afraid, because nothing, I told myself, can take our halcyon days away.”

Despite his sexuality, Capote never outwardly embraced the LGBTQ+ rights movement – but nevertheless his openness has established him as an important figure amongst the community.

What has Tom Hollander said about his sexuality?

Tom Hollander takes part in SiriusXM's Town Hall with the cast of Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans hosted by Andy Cohen at SiriusXM Studio on January 23, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
Tom Hollander’s is playing gay US novelist Truman Capote in Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans. (Cindy Ord/Getty for SiriusXM)

Following his high-profile role as Truman Capote, Tom Hollander has commented on his sexuality and the reason he believes he’s been cast in an array of gay roles over the years, including Quentin in the second series of The White Lotus and Oscar Wilde’s lover Bosie in The Judas Kiss.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, the 56-year-old actor said “apparently when I play these characters, it’s believable.”

“For some reason, who I am, who I am as a person allows me to present as gay”, the actor explained.

“Yeah, sometimes I do present as gay,” he added, labelling his own experiences exploring his sexuality as “sufficiently liberal” and “not anyone’s business.”

“My own sexuality is sufficiently liberal to have encompassed many different experiences, which are not anyone’s business,” he added.

“You have to be able to imagine something and do it with seriousness and take it seriously, approach it with sufficient sort of solemnity and plausibility, and then you imaginatively put yourself into those shoes,” he said, noting that with acting “you are always pretending to be something that you are not.”

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