'Feud' director Ryan Murphy on working with women over 40

Murphy appears on "Popcorn With Peter Travers" to talk about his new FX series, "Feud."
21:00 | 03/22/17

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Transcript for 'Feud' director Ryan Murphy on working with women over 40
My star. I hate the fact saying I love. That's seen too much exposition she's a big lunches nose in it she stole a line like leaves and the I don't need subtext I need context. That he is today's work it's a good scene and Joan likes an exit. I agree with Betty. Writing this team to capture how women get under each others didn't. Intend to stand. He executions act passed. You are come up. Religion didn't. Anxiously evaluating every right. Anxiously. Of. It's a pretty picture. And finally came home and to think going last week there wishing each other dead. Hi everybody I'm Peter Travers this is popcorn where we tell you what is happening in the culture and then there is a show on FX eight episodes back. Called feud. Bette and Joan. Which is the brainchild. Of my guests today Ryan Murphy who you all know from every show nipped. Cool the American heart story the fabulous normal heart. And last year's. Winning everything that people vs OJ Simpson so rides that been on the show before and now I have you that after I you are here thrilled to be here and you sir have made something that delights me. Every second watching I love that because. It's a Larry yes yeah and it's hard break. Yeah so you think you know everything about Betty Davis and Joan crowd roared when they made what ever happened to baby Jane in 1961. You don't right now. Tell me what made you say and do this meant to make this because it's viewed as part of an anthology you can you know famous feuds famous feud. It started you know Peter a year ago with me were IA was working OJ UT. And it was very important to me that a woman direct episode six of that show was called it was called Marsha Marsha him into it we had a wonderful woman director. Slater and in two weeks before we started shooting she had to go in for an emergency surgery and we sort of talked about it and I know. And have worked with Sarah Paulson so well for all you know well to Stewart soy did and it turned out great. But at the end of that I filled a huge amount of shame that I did not help more fantastic female directors in my back pocket so are formed a foundation. A my company called a half our nation. And the thesis statement about how foundations from that day forward 50% of Volvo directorial slots will be women. And in fact a year into it we're doing even better than that like 60%. So in forming a foundation I got to talk to a lot of women in Hollywood. I was asking them what can I do better work in the industry do better. And I was very moved at a lot of the stories that they were telling me stories about misogyny and sexism and not making as much money is man. And that dovetailed. Those conversations with the creation I was thinking of wanting to do something about famous to handers. I remembered that Brett hit 92009. Bought a great block lists script called best actress that was about the making of whatever happened to baby Jane. So all of the sort of came to me at once that I reached out to Susan in Jessica. And I said what if we do this is sort of an eight hour movie instead of a two. What if we really go deeper into these issues that I'm hearing women talk about. In Troy and sort of drew a period piece that is dealing with modern themes select luckily for me they said yes. The thing is there isn't there are moments in this aware there's a character of Pauline played by Allison Wright and I guess who's the assistant to the director Robert altered he's trying to pitch. Her own script. You try Crawford and Joan corporates as well coming. You're a woman do in the first movie. You know what that it happens if that's just not going to be. Yeah and it's that acceptance of the fact because we look at the figures even how many women are directing anything. What's going on and that even women themselves are forced to accept something because it's the way it's done. Right. I was very I was very moved by and a lot of doubt that stuff in that episode. Which is about. A very Smart woman. Who should be of film director trying to break into the business and being told wolf now we're not gonna do that because that's not the way to spin me if you look at. My business you know in television. Only 15%. Of the slots are given to women. Which is why I want to quantify it within my company and make it fifty it's even worse in movies I think it's like. Four to 6%. Yes so I love that we could sort of take a period p.'s. But it's a very modern story about women sort of trying to break in and you know. Jessica and I talked a lot about that. I Jiabao many times it's it's women who keep other women down you know because. And our culture I think. We live in a world where there's not a lot of slots. Afforded to women so they sort of come up through the business feeling very competitive. Susan like talked about you know that's what you get. The media I think writing about women vs women in cat fights all the time he. It's just part of our Coulter that's in grade what. Eighteen crane but why is it that we find so appealing about it. I don't know because you've made this story and what we see when we watch what you've made infused. Is. Two women that may be didn't have to be pissed off its all right and that. Big guys that they work for the studios Jack Warner's and Robert alt futures are told this good for business. That there have an attack book sells papers it sells what. It's always first then it would probably get hits now. Yeah you know about what that it's Jessica wins she did agree with what it pal through they got along great but the media only ran that they were on each other's throat and Susan famously did. You don't Thelma Lou we use Sheehan Gena Davis were great friends and collaborators but all anybody wanted to talk about this where you fighting with sir you know behind the scenes tension so. I think for me what I was so moved out with the baby Jane story. And making a story about the film as was a great line the last slide in the movie. We're Betty Davis has him in all this time we could have been friends and out was the jumping off point for me or when it's right or shall bow. Well they should have been friends they have more common at up more than any two people on the planet they both were Oscar winners they both of single mothers they both had four husbands. They should have been in it to win it together but the system. Kept them apart and they drank the cool laid sort of speak it was a tragedy to me that's what I loved about it was very upsetting and sad. It is but in in making us in talking about baby Jane I guess which was shot and 1961. Released in 62. Was there about this particular property because that's the only time they've worked together I write this with it yeah and what you're seeing in there is the beginning in their careers where they started to do on the harm him is because it was all that they. Left yeah just right he you yourself with American heart story at kind of turned that around. And me Clark tried well here thinks Jessica Lange would be the first set I mean look at it it's taken seriously. But nobody knew they wanted to think when they were making baby Jane they were making a bee movie. Yeah and that it was something that was really little disreputable but they get people to see it because of these two women idea that your. Well I just think that. You know. I do work with a lot of women in my company I ride a lot of roles for women over forty I think in futile loan. We have fifteen roles for women over forty which are very proud about and I hear time and time again that you know. There's these amazingly talented women who at the you know at the age of forty you're just sort of figuring out who you are you getting started in Bloomington down comes the curtain in the industry doesn't. Write to them they don't. They're not interest in that demographic which is never made sense to me because that demographic controls. So much money and has so much economic power. I was really it was in the baby Jane soared because you know when. When Bette and Joan made up moving they were done their careers were pretty much wrapped at fifty. And I as a man and fifty and I feel like I'm just getting started so when the writing process where I was writing it working on it. I came in that place will how would I feel. If I was just sort of figuring out large power in my strength and what I was good and down came the wall and people said Bob all right go out to pasture you know I was moved by that and I and I felt for them I also just felt that there were these two. Legendary women who should have had a much greater third act you know they should have their peers did you know John Wayne. When an Academy Award in 1970 and Spencer Tracy was getting amazing parts all of their contemporaries than male contemporaries were. Alive and kicking and they were fighting for the scrap season and they were very ambitious women and they kept fighting until the very end and discipline thing about the show is. The show ends in 1977. Which is that your of Joseph Crawford to death. So we get to see Betty Davis and Joan Crawford not just making baby Jane in the early sixties but onward into. You have this very painful slide that they vote. I was removed by all the time working. What when you're playing the part you get so into it and you watching that feud escalate. For reasons that don't really have much to do with them and with other people on the outside media. And Gigi she did in sequence he did. We did shooting in sequence which you know we were very lucky to do so that like every episode with sort of a milestone. In terms of passage in those two women's lives and we read a lot we have a huge amount of research. And you the interesting thing was a was friendly with Bette Davis eyes are sorted writing written two papers whoever is ten years old I I've only written to their letters in my life. What it was too Betty day in this and one was too. And action and run play of the plate or shock and welcome mark yeah really never replied but Betty Davis did of course well that's important Ireland's reply he didn't. Betty sat down with the letter she wrote me and when I was when he I had a syndicated column and she was so I think irritated by my constant barrage that she's okay come out meet me. So I actually went to LA and it's when he minute interview I was given turned into four hours. So. I have an incredible amount of material based on my own conversation with her about her life but I was able to put that reportage in two. The screenplay. So a lot of the stuff in the storm really proud about which was her sort of off the record. Musings on her own life for her friendship pour in and me with Joan Crawford in what it was like to sort of be. You know treated so poorly by studio heads who never went into pavers much is the man and elements up so. That also sent an address the feud when you were writing total yeah that meeting idea. I mean. I was always very interest and in that and her. You know Betty had a brand make no mistake we're publicly she Wednesday. Source and or keep things about Joan Crawford and she had dined out on that on talk shows for years as she admitted that that was part of for Lawrence she was gonna take it to the bank. But. She spoke very movingly with a lot of regret. About how the thing with her and Joan Crawford went down and she. Fell. That she wished that they had not. Done what they had done that there are some. Distance with time came for her where she wished that they had been born allies and fought back against the publicity. That kept them you know wanted to put them together I was very moved by that sort of a lot of that into the show did you ever meet John crop. I didn't I wish I had. I did she was did you meet there with you she was terrifying. While I met her only because of her imperious. And what year with I think it was. Mid seventies this marriage but before she died now I was the kid and John springer who is handling or as a PR person. To reelection at the raffles Cobb and brought me over to the table she loves you all dressed up and better dressed than she said to John you're eating. Whatever we were having like the page. And I was watching you in mission that. Seeing this so you see it but I got the feeling she's playing John croft. You know that's when cuts affect what it I mean Jessica. And I talked to law a lot about he was a woman who. You know put her self through school. Scrubbing toilets for millions of eleven on his she was a dancer and then she sort of Eunice was very brassy and a good time girl and then she. Sort of started to get parts and she recreated. Herself using a sort of in G. Intercontinental. Very you know acts it's proper stuff so Jessica. You know really approached her from there was the public Joan Crawford when she when I was I was very well I'm and and then when you were alone with her which we've never really seen a lot of except for mommy dearest. Which we didn't want him. You know there was a lot of pain she was an alcoholic she was alone. Achieve. It's screwed up a lot of her relationships with some of for children so we really lean into that idea that there was the public Joan in the private Jones. I was locally here people who matter cause our I would only imagine how terrifying. She was because she was very imperious and shoot survival has. Like nineteen years fell to shoot it scared me anyway but he was she was enjoying scaring. So it was you're seeing that I'm basically not your friend. And who are you need to have that. Dealt with that in our area but you you're saying you wrote that letter when you were ten years old I mean I gotta go back to you. And how you become you know how because now. You all are in terms of what you do in all of these areas kind of an institution itself wolf thank you doing well if you feel very old. Well it shouldn't because in the fact is that nothing is old about what you'd go yeah it it basically said is flying in the face of what. You should do when we hear about television fare say it's becoming less sick man. But we've just crazy about movie stars and the people of that period when you're growing you're an Indian and us. Yes Negroponte in the I was. An altar boy with a very strict father where you. And movies were always my escape you know. Are they escaped into them and the Betty Davis connection was weird for me because. I was very much raised by my grandmother who kind of was spending it assumes she looked she acted like Betty Davis. So my first connection to Betty Davis was I would my grandmother having during the week and I stepped down at like. 1130. Sunday summer night and I turn on the TV when everyone in my house was asleep. And it the first thing I saw Betty Davis was the letter. Which has that very dramatic opening where she comes should. And that was a well not really reminds me of my grandmother read. Most people have different feelings I know rent but. I had an -- staying maternal. Feeling about her she room and I guess it was like it was a way for me to be with my grandmother what I was it was my grandmother. So from then on it I became very interest that in her I got snow all her movies and they would air them. You own Sunday nights in the summer. And that's why I wrote her I wrote her I think in my first letter I just said how much I. Admired her and how much you made me feel happy because you remind me of my Grammy. I think that type something in her. This little weirdo. Ten year old writing me a fan letter which are probably was the only one at the time. And she was sort of tickled by it I think but. I've always felt. Interestingly enough talking about my career Erica some reaching that that point in your career where you can sort of stop and look back at what you daughter what you've created. And I feel like. I'm the same personnel that was then we're art are very much felt like an outsider. That I didn't belong and yet I was interested in working in the system you know I've always been interested and making commercial things I've never somebody who you know wanted to juice quote unquote independent. Projects and you know. And we're I've been so blessed and so lucky is that my awed ball outsider interest I've been able to get. People within fox primarily due sort of have always believed in me you. Say well that's weird but okay if you wanna do you let's try it out in. How did you get to the point where they would say if you want to do it that's what I'm saying you writing the letters you growing up. You've you've mentioned you have a problem with you death did that come from you coming out was that wise probably I mean he always. I was felt my dad loved me but was sort of you know back then. There was no Ellen there was no we have Poland and that was that. You know and rumors of rock cuts and and he and so I'd guess to answer your question I grew up. Very much. With a sense of well. I just gotta fight I just gotta keep fighting for what I believe in for who I am and I was very lucky with the I had my grandmother. Told me from a really young age you know you were and usual but you can be special if you've just don't give in and don't stop. And I always had that quality and I have that kind try yeah. Because people are gonna tear you down. What you want and I've always. I don't know if that's psychological disorder you know I sort of Felix the bugs it's. Media happy undiagnosed clinical experts this is something that I have. Leaned into that and I'm interested in at this point particularly in my career. You know with an interest in OJ ever I was never interested in them murder and and it when people found out I was gonna introduction of oh. Well of course because it's going to be bloody and it's plea tied him with an interest I was interested. In Marsha. Clark particularly and that story of being a single mother and having all these men. Say no no no no no no no but we didn't know about yeah I was interest in the race component of that story. In understanding it through the prism of the riots two years earlier. And you now with feud it's the same way I'm interest in this sort of signing a spotlight on. Women and women's issues things that you know I think we need to be talking about sometimes are not. This shows the first time you've been on Etsy don't know that it ends in song a little bit some. I was an almost we're gonna let me say just the. Tiniest bit. There must be something. That this. Meiji you know is a great scene in where Susan Sarandon has to recreate. The wonderful moment Beijing about I've written letters to that area yes. Can you do that and that he gave I cannot open a can unlock things I don't I don't want to it would be horrible if you could. The whole point of this to have an Clint Eastwood who every here I can just feel Ritson that to dad. Scheduled debate I think it's great that's what I mean the volume would come up. That's it I can't come in have been you say now it's just nobody wants to hear I feel let's just ended with. We'll do it together and you know meaning of fellow citizen thing these are not singer come say. I love you look at how you'll way I you know and I got to limit. They think is there.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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