The name Candy Montgomery is known to many. But after the first three episodes of Love deathwill people better understand the woman known as the housewife who hit her friend with an ax 41 times.
“Oddly enough I think we made the show she wanted to make,” said Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Candy The Hollywood Reporter. “We really defend her, without trying to let her go completely. But we are, I think, telling her story.”
The seven-part Max series written by David E. Kelley (Big little lies, Undo it and many more) released the first three episodes before moving to a weekly release. And the three-part premiere, all of which were directed by Lesli Linka Glatter (Native country, Crazy men and much more), serve as the opening chapter for the retelling of the infamous true crime story.
On June 13, 1980, Texas housewife Candace “Candy” Montgomery was accused of brutally murdering Betty Gore (played by Lily Rabe), the wife of her former lover Allan Gore (played by Jesse Plemons). an axe. As will be revealed in later episodes when the series revisits the trial, a jury ultimately found her not guilty, after her side pleaded self-defense and a momentary rift caused by childhood trauma. As her lawyer points out, they couldn’t find her innocent, but they did find her not guilty.
Since then, Montgomery, who is now in his 70s, has not done any public interviews. Her only participation in the retellings of the case has been in the book Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs by John Bloom and Jim Atkinson, one of the source materials that inquired Love death. The other source here is the two part Texas monthly article “Love and Death in Silicon Prairie”, which led Glatter and Kelley to license the rights for their TV miniseries.
Montgomery’s years of silence and attempt to start over – the finale, also directed by Glatter, provides an update on her current whereabouts – is why the Love death team did not contact her when making their series.
“I knew she didn’t want that,” says Olsen. “And I really respect someone who takes such a hard line after such a national story that he never did an interview afterwards. In addition to participating in Evidence of love, she has not done a single interview since the trial. I can understand why anyone would want their anonymity and privacy, even though we dodge it by making the show.
The first three episodes introduce Candy, a young mother of two, as a beloved member of her small town and church community in Wylie, Texas. She should be pleased. But when she realizes she isn’t, she proposes to a neighbor and friend’s husband, Allan Gore, for what Glatter describes as the “most unsexy beginning of an affair ever.”
“They actually got together at her house and ate lasagna, and wrote a list on butcher paper of what to do and what not to do to try and be safe in this affair they were on. We directly copied it in terms of what those do’s and don’ts were. You couldn’t make that up for me,’ says Glatter THR of Candy and Allan’s documented three-month affair-planning process. “I am very interested in when things are not what they seem. That you have to look deeper to see what is really going on. In the late 1970s, women were getting married in their twenties. You had your two kids, you made your meals, you moved to the suburbs, you joined the church, you have a wonderful, supportive community—you did everything right. How come there’s a hole in your heart and psyche and mind that’s a mile wide?
Other elements of the story were, as the director describes, “weirder than fiction” and were also part of the call for her and Kelley to continue the story. “The Marriage Encounter really took place at a medieval-themed hotel, Dunfey’s Royal Inn, on Northwest Highway in Dallas, Texas. I would never have chosen that as a director unless it were true,” she shares her religious weekend experience with couples who attended both the Montgomerys and the Gores. “I found Marriage Encounter incredibly moving. If you’re not in therapy, that’s a place couples can go to be really honest and talk to each other – although Allan wasn’t completely honest.
Taking the time to set up Montgomery and Gore’s marriages, Candy and Allan’s affair, and Candy’s discontent in Wylie’s background was a different approach than the Hulu series, Sweets, starring Jessica Biel and Melanie Lynskey as Betty, which was released a year earlier. In Love deathit isn’t until the final moments of the third episode that Candy even arrives at Betty’s house that day, with the final shot ending on Betty holding the axe.
Glatter has shared their collective shock when they learned that two months into filming Love death, Hulu continued with their own version of the Montgomery-Gore story. Although that series was filmed afterwards, it ended and was released first. Glatter explains, “We had licensed all the underlying rights, so we thought we had all our bases covered, but it’s public domain material, so there’s nothing you can do about that.”
She adds: “For a long time I haven’t (look Sweets). We were already on our path, we did it the way we chose to do it. There is a beauty in the world in which it exists. We started with all the community building scenes and the way we ordered the shots, I thought, was critical to developing the world. This is a world that is very rural and beautiful on the surface, but what is underneath is quite something else. So all the scenes that we initially shot were the church scenes, the picnics, the singing. And it bonded the actors and all of us in a really profound way. So I felt like it was looking at something different and a different approach, although I respect everyone has their own way of looking at material.
Another change is the appearance of the characters. While Biel memorably wore Candy’s short curly wig and large glasses, Glatter’s vision wasn’t for Olsen and the cast to look exactly like the people they played. “She didn’t want my hair permed because she thought it would be distracting,” says Olsen. “I had a sense of freedom just from the choice Lesli made to tell the core of this story, rather than a documentary version of it.”
Glatter explains: “If she had played a character who would have been in the public zeitgeist, like Marcia Clark or Jackie Kennedy, then everyone knows who those people are and you have to be as realistic as possible. But Candy, no one really knew. So we decided not to even make a version of it, but something that fit the times. We adhered very clearly to the cloakroom in the courtroom – they found this crazy jacket that Candy was photographed in. But that was a choice not to wear a wig and to focus on that.
Although the lawsuit became national news, there were no recordings. So Olsen says she spent most of her time crafting Candy’s voice. “I would send Lesli so many voice memos saying, ‘What about a thicker change in the A sound? Or how about a higher voice?’ Once I got it and we started working, my voice did something physical that I wasn’t really aware of, and Tricia Sawyer, my old makeup artist, was with me one morning and just said, “There she is.” Your eyes shift when you enter Candy mode.’ And I never actively thought about that, but there’s a version of her in my head that felt so easy once I figured it out.
In THR‘s review of Love death, critic Angie Han said of Olsen’s striking portrayal, “Her saucer-like eyes prove to be her most effective weapon. Sometimes they seem to shine so big and bright it’s almost unnerving; in others they seek sympathy by overflowing with tears or completely dimming.
Olsen didn’t see it either Sweets, only spoke to Biel for the first time weeks ago about their shared role. But both she and Glatter agree that the inexplicable is why people are so drawn to this story. “I think as a spectator it would be an interesting exercise if you’ve seen that to see ours as well, or vice versa,” says Olsen. “It’s not about one person owning a story, it’s about how different people come together and tell a story or tell a version of a story, and how many ways there are to tell a story that I find endlessly fascinating. That’s why you come back to the theater and the same plays over and over. To me, it’s not us versus them. It’s more like, how does that inform this version of this story?
Still, many questions remain all these years later. And Glatter hopes Love death will help to answer them.
Olsen agrees: “Something very tragic happened and we don’t want to excuse or deny that in any way. But I think the exercise we’re doing is how do we tell someone’s story and still understand how their life has led up to that point? And having a little understanding of someone’s choices where we would normally pass judgment without having had this experience of the show.
Love death streams the first three episodes on Max, while the remaining four appear weekly on Thursdays.