Versace TV drama dismissed by family as 'fiction'

Dismissed as "fiction" by the Versace family and met with mixed reviews, a controversial new drama depicting the 1997 murder of Gianni Versace made its television debut.
Versace TV drama dismissed by family as 'fiction'

Gianni Versace

Dismissed as “fiction” by the Versace family and met with mixed reviews, a controversial new drama depicting the 1997 murder of Gianni Versace made its television debut.

“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”, a nine-episode series begins airing on television network FX late Wednesday, before being released on demand in Europe later.

Like “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” which won two Golden Globes and nine Emmy Awards, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” is a 1990s celebrity crime story, uniting fame and wealth with the darker underbelly of human nature.

Like “The People,” which spun a larger narrative of racial tension between black and white Americans, “The Assassination” paints a wider portrait of gay life in the US in the 1990s: prejudice, hostility and bigotry.

Versace is played by Venezuelan Edgar Ramirez, Penelope Cruz is Donatella, the hard-headed sister who took over the label after her brother’s death, and singer Ricky Martin is Versace’s long-term boyfriend, Antonio D’Amico.

But publicity in the run-up to its release has been dominated by the Versace family, who released an angry statement from their global fashion emporium in Milan on January 10.

They slammed the series as a “work of fiction” saying they had “neither authorized nor had any involvement whatsoever in it,” and reacted with fury to claims Versace was HIV-positive.

“After so many years we still lack respect for the dead, we want to create a scandal around someone who can no longer defend themselves,” said Donatella.

D’Amico, who found Versace on the steps of his beachfront Miami mansion moments after the July 15 killing, complained images he had seen of his reaction in the series are incorrect.

“The picture of Ricky Martin holding the body in his arms is ridiculous,” he said. “Maybe it’s the director’s poetic license, but that is not how I reacted.”

“Its responsibility may be to just be true enough. But there’s something tragic and unfair about becoming a spectacle in death, especially in a spectacle that’s more about a murderer than any of his victims,” griped a New York Times review.

The series is based on the book “Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace and the Largest Failed Manhunt in US History,” by Maureen Orth, published two years after the killing and retraces Cunanan’s three-month murder spree.

As such, the drama is centered less on the Italian fashion genius and more on spree killer, social climber and compulsive liar Andrew Cunanan, who murdered four other gay men before killing Versace. His motives remain shrouded in mystery.

Cunanan murdered men from San Diego to Miami. He committed suicide, aged 27, a few days after assassinating 50-year-old Versace. Cunanan, portrayed by actor Darren Criss, is at times brilliant and charming but also narcissistic and violent.

The 1990s were a time when living openly as a gay man was met with prejudice and bigotry in the US, 18 years before the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a legal right. Orth suggests in her book that the lackluster investigation into Cunanan’s murders stemmed at least in part from the fact that the victims were gay.

Special Reports