PASADENA, Calif. -- Jessica Lange knows more than you might imagine about how a woman can become invisible to Hollywood.
The two-time Oscar winner, who starting Sunday can be seen playing Joan Crawford to Susan Sarandon's Bette Davis in FX's Feud: Bette and Joan, has won three Emmys and a Tony in recent years. But Lange says the drying up of opportunities that led Crawford and Davis to team up for the 1962 horror movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? still exists for older actresses.
"I have to thank my dear friend [Feud cocreator Ryan Murphy] for giving me these parts over the last five years," Lange told a small group of reporters after an FX news conference in January.
Not only did two of her Emmys come for roles in Murphy's American Horror Story, "but the fact that I won a Tony [in 2016] on Broadway for playing one of the greatest parts ever written ... was because he optioned the play for me, for Long Day's Journey Into Night," said Lange, who at 67 is about a decade older than Crawford was in the period covered by Feud.
"If it hadn't been for that, I think there would be very lean times. I do. I'm not offered the kind of roles that I was 20 years ago. And I actually don't think they're out there, really. I look back, and I think, in the last 10 years, what parts done by women my age would I have died to do? And I can't come up with one."
Lange met Davis early in her career -- "I was maybe 26 at the time. I remember her saying to me, 'You better court the press, honey' " -- but she never met Crawford, who died in 1977.
"She was a marvelous actress, I think," Lange said. "Because of her beauty, because of the way she was presented, she didn't get the credence that was due her. She was a much better actress than I think she was ever acknowledged for."
Crawford also had much to overcome, starting with a childhood that reads like a "tragic Dickens story," Lange said.
"The poverty, the physical abuse, you know, a mother who never wanted her, liked her. No father. The sexual relationship she had with her stepfather from the age of 11. I mean, there was just like one thing after another," she said. "It really is quite astonishing what she managed."