The Assassination of Gianni Versace explores the events that led up to the murder of designer Gianni Versace at the hands of Andrew Cunanan. The series then delves into the aftermath, while simultaneously examining the broader cultural issues at play in the crimes. But how true is it? What happened to the real Gianni Versace?
On the morning of July 15, 1997, Versace left his Miami Beach mansion to buy some magazine at a News Cafe a few blocks away, as reported by The New York Times. He was unlocking his gate upon his return when he was shot twice in the back of the head by Cunanan. Attempts were made to revive Versace, but he officially died at 9:15 a.m. at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Versace was one of the most famous designers in the world when he was killed, a man at the highest point in his career whose clothes defined a decade.
Cunanan fled after the shooting, but before he could ever be formally convicted of the crime, he killed himself eight days later while hiding out in a houseboat. The show aims to provide an in-depth look into Cunanan's past prior to ever meeting Versace, while taking inspiration from Maureen Orth's book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History.
But while the show may seem accurate, Versace's family released a statement to Entertainment Weekly, requesting that it be considered fiction:
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.
That seems fair, because it is technically a fictionalized series and not a documentary. Certain things may end up heightened for dramatic effect like they were in The People v. O.J. Simpson. (Remember that not necessarily true but not necessarily untrue romantic tension between Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden?). And some moments may be recreated in a slightly different way than they occurred in real life. However, despite dramatic license, there were very real events that inspired the series. The combined response to the Versace family from FX and 20th Century Fox indicate that they feel the show has truth to it:
Like the original American Crime Story series The People vs. O.J. Simpson, which was based on Jeffrey Toobin's non-fiction bestseller The Run of His Life, FX's follow-up The Assassination of Gianni Versace is based on Maureen Orth's heavily researched and authenticated non-fiction best-seller Vulgar Favors which examined the true-life crime spree of Andrew Cunanan. We stand by the meticulous reporting of Ms. Orth.
Versace's partner Antonio D'Amico (played by Ricky Martin in the series) has also taken issue with some aspects of the show. He told The Observer, "There has been so much written and said about the murder, and thousands of suppositions, but not a trace of reality." When filming images surfaced that showed Martin as D'Amico holding a dying Versace on the steps of the mansion, the real D'Amico said, "Maybe it's the director's poetic license, but that is not how I reacted."
According to an interview with Dateline, D'Amico saw Versace's body on the steps before being pulled away and did not see anything more. That is an instance of the show tweaking a real event to increase the drama and perhaps express a specific emotion, but deviating from what actually happened.
This is common with adaptations of true stories. While much of what happened to the real Gianni Versace might be explored on the show, one can't assume that it is the total, unadulterated truth.
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