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In 1959 novelist Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) travels with childhood friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) to Kansas to write an article about the Clutter family murders. Though his childlike voice and fey mannerisms arouse initial hostility, Capote quickly wins the trust of the locals, including Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper) of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. After Capote visits killers Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Dick Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) in jail, he begins work on In Cold Blood, his acclaimed work of non-fiction. Written by Dan Futterman, based on the book by Gerald Clarke. Directed by Bennett Miller (The Cruise).


Truman Capote was at the epicenter of the social elite of his time. He knew everyone…the rich, the famous, the powerful, the gifted…from Marilyn Monroe to Jackie Kennedy. He had a genius for disarming people and endearing himself to them. His charisma, however, belied a dark side.

In November of 1959, Capote read about a horrible killing in western Kansas. Four members of a family were discovered brutally murdered…tied-up and shot-gunned, point blank, in their faces. Capote was attracted to the story. He saw an angle that he thought would make a good article for The New Yorker magazine. It was, to Capote, a story about the loss of innocence. He went to Kansas with his childhood friend, Harper Lee, expecting to write an article about how the slayings would change the people of Holcomb. What he would actually find in Kansas would help make him the most famous writer in the world. It would also destroy him.

What Capote would find was Perry Smith…a cold-blooded murderer with whom he had a connection that few, if any, could understand. Years later, after In Cold Blood had been published, Capote attempted to explain to a journalist his “intense relationship” with Perry as “having to do with his ‘total loneliness’ and my feelings of pity for him and even a kind of affection.”

Despite their apparent differences, Truman and Perry were, at heart, profoundly similar. Truman understood that “total loneliness.” It disarmed him and drew him to Perry.

What follows is the true story of an American tragedy. Years later, when Truman’s life was in ruins, he would tell a friend that he never recovered from the experience of writing In Cold Blood. The book would earn him incredible wealth and praise, but had he known how long it would take, and what it would take out of him, he would not have stopped in Kansas. He would have driven on, “like a bat out of hell.”

Initially, after reading Dan Futterman’s first draft of Capote, I was reluctant to get involved. I was deterred by the amount of plot. It’s a great story and beautifully written, but I thought the narrative demands actually threatened what the film was really after…threatened the deeper aspects of the film.

What makes this a fascinating story for the screen is that Capote is, to a great degree, an internal story. It’s the private tragedy of a public person. He is alone. Despite the fact that he is such a social and public figure, his core experience, which is what the film is really about, is private. It is not explicitly expressed by him in the film. On the surface there’s this elaborate story of a writer doing all sorts of things to complete his masterpiece, but nobody—and to some degree not even he himself—really understands the course he’s on and the tragic fate he is creating.