Why Did Truman Capote Talk Like That? Exploring His Unique Voice

Melissa Willets - Author

Feb. 1 2024, Published 11:06 a.m. ET

Truman Capote sitting in a chair in his United Nations Plaza residence in 1980
Source: Getty Images

Writer Truman Capote has been dead for decades, but our fascination with his work and life persists. Just consider that FX created a series about the last part of his life called Feud, in which Tom Hollander plays the prolific In Cold Blood writer.

The American figure has even been imitated on the silver screen, most notably perhaps in the 2005 film Capote, in which late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman gave an Oscar-worthy performance that included trying out Truman's unique voice.

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For anyone who isn't familiar with how the screenwriter spoke, his voice was high pitched and deeply affected.

But why did Truman Capote talk like that? Here's what we know.

Truman Capote wearing a tuxedo in the 1960s
Source: Getty Images
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So, why did Truman Capote talk like that?

No one really knows why Truman had such a distinctive voice, but it was only one part of his extremely unique personality.

If you aren't sure how the author sounded, just take a look at this clip of Truman appearing on Johnny Carson's show before his death. In an odd twist of fate, the former socialite died in the late night host's ex-wife Joann's home in 1984.

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Philip talked with NPR in 2005 about his portrayal of the author, and specifically about his voice.

"Yeah, he has that very odd way of speaking," the star acknowledged. He also said, "And he was a very small man, a diminutive man. He was much smaller than I."

It has been reported that Truman stood at just 5'2".

"I mean, there was just something about him that just was vastly different," Philip went on to say in the interview. Later, the actor said in part, "And he also had a way of telling a story that kept you captive, and that had something to do with his voice and his rhythms."

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When it came to getting that voice right, Philip admitted, "Well, first of all, I don't think it's just right, I mean, 'cause I didn't worry about having it be just right. I knew that it had to be true, which sounds kind of corny, but I knew it had to be honest, and then I knew it had to express the vitality and the nuances of Truman Capote. But, ultimately, you know, no one can just — 'cause that's kind of a mimic thing and that thing isn't as interesting."

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Tom Hollander has also talked about how he took on Truman Capote's unique way of talking.

Tom is the latest actor to try and master Truman's very individual way of talking. He spoke about how the creator of Feud, Ryan Murphy, helped him frame the challenge.

“Ryan was very helpful. He said, ‘Get the flamboyance and get the classic stuff in early so that the audience feels reassured that they’re seeing the person they imagined they were going to see, and then later you can start being your version more,’” Hollander said.

It seems Tom is onto something because fans feel he has nailed his Truman Capote voice. One tweeted, "How tf did Tom Hollander do Capote's voice so good? His British accent is so strong. He deserves an Emmy."

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