Much like its predecessor in the American Crime Story anthology series, The Assassination of Gianni Versace examines crime through the lens of social commentary and American culture. This time, the titular victim is famed Italian designer Gianni Versace (played by Édgar Ramírez), whose favored Medusa head designs, over-the-top aesthetic, and runway shows with supermodels Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss catapulted Versace into pop culture icon status and created a billion dollar-empire. The designer’s tenure at the legendary fashion house came to an abrupt halt when he was gunned down in front of his lavish Miami Beach mansion in 1997 by serial killer Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss).
Debuting tonight, the series weaves the story of Cunanan’s cross-country murder spree which culminated in Versace’s death and delves into key aspects of Versace’s life, including his relationships with longtime partner Antonio D’Amico (Ricky Martin) and sister Donatella (Penelope Cruz), who was attempting to carve a name for herself in the family business. Helmed by producer Ryan Murphy, the show also touches upon LGBT rights, the AIDS crisis, and homophobia during the late ‘90s. Here, CR breaks down the most illuminating moments from the premiere.
The murder was partially motivated by prejudice
Versace was openly gay and dated and lived with his partner D’Amico for over 15 years. The show begins with the grisly murder in Miami Beach and uses Cunanan as a storytelling device, working backwards all the way to his childhood and visiting the different locales in which he frequented and killed his victims.
Cunanan himself also grappled with being gay and as his friend notes in the premiere, “You tell your gay friends you’re gay and your straight friends you’re straight.” “I tell them what they want to hear,” Cunanan replies. His journey is marked by his struggles with sexuality and homophobia, which serves as the larger theme behind the show. While his true motives were never discovered (the manhunt for Cunanan ended when he turned the .40-caliber murder weapon on himself, eight days after killing Versace), Murphy postulates that Cunanan resented Versace for his success in fashion and for having the life he never lived.
“It was a political murder. This was a person who specifically went out of his way to shame and out people,” Murphy said about Cunanan, “He was having a form of payback for a life he could not live.”
The inspiration behind Versace’s Medusa head designs
Versace ushered in a pivotal era in fashion in which over-the-top decadence was revered and the concept of the supermodel was beginning to take hold. Versace counted Princess Diana and Elizabeth Hurley among his fans and filled the front rows of his shows with celebrities and musicians alike. In a flashback scene in which Versace invites Cunanan to a showing of Richard Strauss’s opera Capriccio, for which he designed the costumes, the designer explains the inspiration behind his iconic Medusa logo and what he hopes people feel when they watch his shows.
“As children we used to play in ancient ruins close to our home in Calabria and one day I saw the medusa’s head with the hair of snakes carved in the stone and I fell in love,” Versace says. “I know many people call it pretentious but I don’t care. How could my childhood be pretentious? My hope is that when people wear my clothes, they will get to know me a little bit. They will get to know my character, my love for life.”
Donatella served as Gianni’s muse
Although the Versace family has released two statements calling the series a “work of fiction” Cruz reportedly obtained permission from Donatella herself to play the sister of Gianni and current creative director of the Versace empire.
The show portrays Donatella as extremely close to her brother and often at odds with D’Amico. In the series (and in real life), Donatella served as Versace’s muse. “The first dress I ever made was for my sister Donatella,” he says to Cunanan in one scene. “Maybe every dress I make is for her.”
When Donatella steps off the plane from Europe to Miami, after just hearing news that Versace has been killed, she is more determined than ever to keep the family legacy alive. “He is still alive as long as Versace is alive,” she says. “I will not allow that man, that nobody, to kill my brother twice.”
Versace and Cunanan met before the murder
Cunanan was known to fabricate fantastical tales in order to impress others, but Maureen Orth, the author of Vulgar Favors, for which the show based, claimed that the two had met in a San Francisco nightclub in 1990, seven years before the murder took place. The premiere re-creates this moment through a flashback, in which Cunanan approaches Versace at the club and is subsequently invited to attend the opera with him. They two bond over their similar experiences living in Italy.
After her investigation of Cunanan’s crime spree, Orth wrote about the moment the two met in real life:
“That night, October 21, an eyewitness recalls, Cunanan was smugly pleased that Versace seemed to recognize him,” Orth wrote. “‘I know you,’ Versace said, wagging a finger in the then 21-year-old’s direction. ‘Lago di Como, no?’ And Cunanan replied, ‘Thank you for remembering, Signor Versace.’”
The show focuses on a larger context of LGBT rights
Coming off of the height of the AIDS epidemic and in the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” the struggle for LGBT rights is significant throughout the series and provides the larger cultural framework for the show. In a poignant scene, a grieving D’Amico is questioned by the police, who ask him repeatedly what he means when he says he was Versace’s partner (“Business partner?” the officer asks). The interview then becomes more about the nature of Versace’s relationship and D’Amico’s choice to bring in other sexual partners into the house instead of finding the true identity of the killer.
The FX series also highlights the fact that before Cunanan shot Versace, the serial killer had already murdered four others and was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List, but somehow managed to evade detection by the police. The bungled manhunt that followed and the fact that Cunanan was able to kill his way from San Francisco to Miami was due to homophobia and because his victims were gay. Versace’s death was, in part, blamed on the police for not having warned Miami’s LGBT community about Cunanan.
“Versace really did not have to die,” Murphy said. “One of the reasons Andrew Cunanan was able to make his way across the country and pick off these victims, many of whom were gay, was because of homophobia at the time, particularly within the various police organizations that refused in Miami to put up wanted posters, even though they knew Cunanan was probably headed that way.”
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story premieres January 17, 2018 on FX.END
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createdAt:Tue, 16 Jan 2018 03:45:31 +0000