The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story depicts the real-life murder of Italian designer Gianni Versace, who was shot on the steps of his Miami mansion 20 years ago. Premiering January 17 on FX and produced by Ryan Murphy, the show has all the workings of a hit TV drama: There’s sex! Fashion! Death! Speedos! Not to mention Penelope Cruz as Donatella Versace, Ricky Martin as the late designer’s boyfriend, Darren Criss as the cold-blooded serial killer, and Edgar Ramirez as Gianni Versace.
According to the Versace family, however, the show is just that: Good television. About a real-life family tragedy.
“The Versace family has neither authorized nor had any involvement whatsoever in the forthcoming TV series about the death of Mr. Gianni Versace,” the brand wrote in an official statement on Monday. “Since Versace did not authorize the book on which it is partly based [Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth] nor has it taken part in the writing of the screenplay, this TV series should only be considered as a work of fiction.”
The show was filmed in the actual Versace mansion, which still stands in all its glory on Ocean Drive in Miami, and functions as a hotel. Cruz also told Entertainment Weekly last summer that she had a “long conversation” with Ms. Versace. “I think she knows that the way I’m playing her, that I truly love her and respect her,” Cruz added.
Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions responded to Versace’s statement with the following:
Like the original American Crime Story series “The People Vs OJ 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.
On Wednesday, Versace issued its final comment on the matter, saying that Orth’s book is “full of gossip and speculation” as well, including “lurid claims” that Gianni Versace was H.I.V. positive at the time of his death. The statement reads:
As we have said, the Versace family has neither authorized nor had
any involvement whatsoever in the forthcoming TV series about the
death of Mr. Gianni Versace, which should only be considered as a work of fiction. The company producing the series claims it is relying on a book by Maureen Orth, but the Orth book itself is full of gossip and speculation. Orth never received any information from the Versace family and she has no basis to make claims about the intimate personal life of Gianni Versace or other family members. Instead, in her effort to create a sensational story, she presents second-hand hearsay that is full of contradictions.
As just one example, Orth makes assertions about Gianni Versace’s
medical condition based on a person who claims he reviewed a
post-mortem test result, but she admits it would have been illegal for
the person to have reviewed the report in the first place (if it
existed at all). In making her lurid claims, she ignores contrary
information provided by members of Mr. Versace’s family, who lived and worked closely with him and were in the best position to know the
facts of his life.
Gianni Versace was a brave and honest man, who engaged in humanitarian work for the benefit of others. Of all the possible portrayals of his life and legacy, it is sad and reprehensible that the producers have chosen to present the distorted and bogus version created by Maureen Orth.
The Versace family will issue no further comment on the matter.
This post has been updated to include new statements from Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions, as well as Versace.