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"Shawn didn't talk that way"

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Rush & Molloy:

'Capote' figure called un-Tru

Oscar handicappers are calling Philip Seymour Hoffman the man to beat for his portrayal of writer Truman Capote in "Capote." But old hands at the New Yorker are rankled by the movie's take on the magazine's late and beloved editor William Shawn, as played by Bob Balaban.

Longtime New Yorker contributor Roger Angell notes that the film has the painfully shy Shawn holding a press conference "and talking about how to make [Capote's book] 'In Cold Blood' more newsworthy. Shawn never did anything in his life to make something more newsworthy."

In the movie, Shawn also accompanies Capote to the execution of the murderers. "He was too nervous to travel, by and large," Angell tells us.

Writer Ken Auletta likewise took exception with the brusque and terribly social Shawn of "Capote."

"I don't believe he would have had that kind of breathless quality [Balaban has]," Auletta told us yesterday at a Newhouse School panel. "Shawn didn't talk that way. He held writers' hands. He held Capote's hand, and nurtured him and supported him."

Shawn's actor son, Wallace, couldn't be reached yesterday, but we're sure he'll have some thoughts.


Angell drives me nuts - when I first started reading his memoir pieces in the NYer I thought they were satiric fiction, they were so over the top pretentious. But when I read them as satiric fiction, I kind of love them … But I also like the retrospective characterizations of Shawn that emerge now and then in the NYer. I like too the idea of a shy celebrity, or a shy boss.

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