Ryan Murphy details how Hollywood brought that pool party orgy to life
On the show, Henry Willson (Jim Parsons) brings Rock Hudson (Jake Picking) to one of Cukor's famous Sunday parties, in essence seeking to pimp him out to Hollywood producers to get his new client an audition. The party is further complicated by the presence of actual sex workers, including Archie (Jeremy Pope) and Jack (David Corenswet).
At Cukor's dinner table, Hudson meets Vivien Leigh (Katie McGuinness) and Tallulah Bankhead (Paget Brewster) among other famous faces. But as the night wears on, it devolves into an orgy complete with a naked pool party. The real Cukor home has since been significantly altered, so the Hollywood team filmed at two different houses over the course of a few weeks to bring to life a Golden Age rager of epic proportions.
It certainly wasn't all fun and games for the actors bringing the party to life, however. "Those outdoor scenes took around two weeks, and we did them in November. And it was freezing," Murphy tells EW. "So we had all these naked guys. And women too, by the way, huddling under heat lamps. But so many people did it just because they loved the George Cukor world."
In the series, the party is a veritable who's who of famous faces, as well as a hangout for closeted Hollywood brass and USC football players with Tinseltown aspirations. It's an event rife with Hollywood gossip, including a deleted scene Murphy says will be released later about why Clark Gable pressured David O. Selznick to remove Cukor as director of Gone With the Wind. This idea of clandestine gatherings appealed to Murphy's imagination.
"I've always been obsessed with George Cukor and those parties," he says. "Back then you if you went to a gay bar, you could be arrested and go to prison and be beaten by the cops. So what [Cukor] did is he created an environment where you can come to his house, men and women, and be who you were without fear of going to jail or being hurt or abused."
Hollywood's take on the parties was based on personal accounts Murphy heard from others over the years. "I grew up hearing stories," he says. "When I first moved to LA, it was 1989, and I had a couple of neighbors who were older gay guys who had actually been to those parties."
It's widely disputed whether Cukor's famous parties ever played host to orgies or other wild sexual activities. But one thing that everyone can agree on is that the legendary director's soirees were definitively a place where people could go expecting a good time and the opportunity to be themselves.
As Murphy puts it, "I was always very interested in the idea that George Cukor was sort of this libertine who offered people a way to be themselves."
Hollywood is now streaming on Netflix.