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
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
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.