American Crime Story’s enthralling first season which followed the 1995 trial of O.J. Simpson went on to win 9 Emmy Awards including Best Limited Series. The second season of the same, ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’ exceeds the standard set in the previous season. An entire episode is dedicated to each of the killer, Andrew Cunanan’s victims: Jeff Trail, David Madson, Lee Miglin and William Reese which act as the catalyst that leads to the bigger picture, i.e. the murder of Gianni Versace played by Édgar Ramírez. It is this inventive story-telling that has viewers hook to the screen, biting their nails.
Therefore, the result being a fascinating odyssey that races across America from California’s wealthy gay underworld to modest Midwestern homes of families mourning their slaughtered sons to the celebration of decadence that is Versace’s South Beach.
The show that gives a riveting account of the murder is based on Maureen Orth’s ‘Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History’. The Versace family has long denied a number of accounts covered in the book calling it “full of gossip and speculation”. And hours before the premiere of the show, the family said in a statement, “The Versace family has neither authorized nor had any involvement whatsoever in the forthcoming TV series about the death of Mr. Gianni Versace.”
“Since Versace did not authorize the book on which it is partly based nor has it taken part in the writing of the screenplay, this TV series should only be considered as a work of fiction,” they added.
Now, while the Versace family has denied Cunanan knowing Versace before the murder, many eyewitnesses have confirmed seeing the two together at a nightclub in Miami and at the San Francisco Opera following a performance of Capriccio as we see in Episode 1: The Man Who Would Be Vogue. And while Cunanan gave countless fabricated monologues of the celebrities he encountered, it would not be surprising that Versace and Cunanan’s paths intersected as both dabbled in gay escort service – Versace as the procurer, Cunanan as the purveyor.
Penelope Cruz plays the role of Versace’s sister, Donatella who was regarded as Versace’s muse. Cruz has the voice and mannerisms down pat. Speaking about Cruz playing her character, Donatella explained she has no intention of watching the show, “I spoke with Penélope. She is a friend, she said she will treat me with respect — yes, but I don’t know what will be [shown], from a book that says incredible falsehoods.”
Gianni Versace’s then-boyfriend and partner, Antonio D’Amico too expressed his distaste for certain aspects of the show. “The picture of Ricky Martin holding the body [of Gianni] in his arms is ridiculous.” D’Amico added, “Maybe it’s the director’s poetic license, but that is not how I reacted.”
On another account of Versace being HIV positive as shown in Episode 2: Manhunt, is also regarded as a work of fiction by the Versace family. However, Orth retorts the claims and says, “I was told on the record by the lead detective on Miami Beach that he had heard from the medical examiner who did the blood work that he was [HIV-positive].”
And excluding all the controversial statements, the fact remains that Gianni Versace was murdered by Andrew Cunanan. While the motive is guised under many layers, right off the bat, the show starts with the have’s and have not’s which only go on to show the parallels between the two characters. Both homosexual, both incredibly talented but one paves his way to success and is celebrated while the other drowns in envy of what he could have.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story season 2 is currently streaming on HotStar.