×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Assassination of Gianni Versace’ Team on Exploring ‘What Went Wrong’ That Made Andrew Cunanan Kill

The latest installment of FX and Ryan Murphy’s anthology drama “American Crime Story,” “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” starts with the murder of the fashion icon (played here by Edgar Ramirez), but that is just the jumping off point for a deep dive into a handful of horrific crimes committed by Andrew Cunanan (played by Darren Criss) in the 1990s.

“This case is famous because of the murder of Versace,” executive producer Tom Rob Smith said at FX’s Television Critics Assn. press tour Friday in Pasadena, Calif. “That’s all I knew, but it was the tip of the iceberg.”

Smith, alongside executive producers Murphy, Brad Simpson and Nina Jacobson used Maureen Orth’s 1999 book “Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in US History” as research and the basis for the nine-episode series.

Since Cunanan’s victims were no longer alive to confirm exactly how events took place, Smith, who also wrote the episodes, pieced together the facts from Orth’s book and imagined what might have happened in between the gaps. “We have these tiny points of truth, and you try to connect the tissue between them, but I would never use the term ’embellish,'” Smith said.

While Simpson pointed out that Versace is a “thread that goes all the way through” all nine episodes, the show is designed to be an ensemble, and they wanted to pay respect to all of Cunanan’s victims, including Lee Miglin (Mike Farrell), David Madson (Cody Fern) and Jeffrey Trail (Finn Wittrock). “Each victims were tragic in their own way,” he said.

Although the show follows Cunanan as he dips in and out of these other men’s lives (and ultimately takes their lives), Simpson noted they didn’t want to put his name in the title because it felt like it would have been “elevating him to a place we didn’t want to put him.”

Jacobson pointed out the title of the series instead describes the political and public action that made Cunanan famous. “Some of the themes [in the series are] the contrasts between Cunanan and Versace in the destroyer and the curator. One character is an authentic, honest creator drawing on his heritage, his background his family… and the other goes on a path of destruction because he wants the fame without the work or the talent,” she said.

Jacobson also felt strongly that Versace did not have to die, but the homophobia at the time allowed the prior victims’ cases to be mishandled or under-investigated. “Cunanan was going out clubbing right across the street from the police department. The neglect and the isolation and the ‘otherness’ in the way the police handled the deaths of gay men, with the exception of one of the victims, [made Versace’s death] a death that didn’t have to happen,” Jacobson said.

The distinction between victims is an important element not only for the way their cases were handled but also for the way the murders occurred and the motivations behind them, per Smith. “When Andrew’s life fell apart, he murdered his closest friend and his lover, but those murders are different from Lee Miglin and Gianni Versace,” he said. “Once he crossed the line and became a killer, he began to kill to pursue ideas.”

Those ideas, according to Murphy, included targeting people “specifically to shame them and out them and have a form of payback for a life that he felt he could not live.” And Smith was adamant about calling Cunanan a “spree killer” whose pathology more closely mirrored terrorism than that of a “serial killer.”

“This is someone who had a [great] education and was brilliant and was witty and had the world at his feet. Why does this person end up killing five people? You have to explore the intellect. You have to explore what went wrong,” Smith said, noting that Cunanan was a man who felt invisible who was desperate to find a way to be seen.

“Once he realizes he lost everything, either you build something that impresses someone which takes a lot of work, or if you don’t want anonymity, you can try to rip something down,” Smith continued. “Andrew ripped down the success of Lee Miglin and Versace.”

Orth, as well, felt Cunanan’s desperation was what drove him — and ultimately what doomed him. “He was willing to kill to become famous. Now you can be an Instagram star or a YouTube star. If he had been born later, maybe that’s what he would have gone for, but he wanted to be famous that he was willing to kill for it,” Orth said.

“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” premieres Jan. 17 at 10pm on FX.

More TV

  • Win Rosenfeld, Jordan Peele and Simon

    'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'Twilight Zone' Bring Energy, Emotion to PaleyFest

    Both the CBS All Access shows “Star Trek: Discovery” and the upcoming “Twilight Zone” reboot held PaleyFest panels on Sunday, with both sets of cast and creators bringing energy, humor, and emotion to the stage. Both panels were moderated by Variety‘s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway. First up was “Discovery,” where series star Doug [...]

  • Marvel's Runaways Review

    'Marvel's Runaways' Renewed for Third Season at Hulu

    Hulu has renewed “Marvel’s Runaways” for a third season. Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Runaways” stars Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, and Allegra Acosta as the Runaways, six teenagers from different backgrounds who unite against their parents, the Pride, portrayed by Angel Parker, Ryan Sands, Annie Wersching, Kip Pardue, Ever Carradine, James Marsters, Brigid Brannagh, Kevin Weisman, Brittany Ishibashi, and James Yaegashi. The new order is [...]

  • Robert Mueller Report

    TV News Scrambles Schedules in Wake of Mueller Report

    The “Mueller Report” has prompted a bevy of new reports from the nation’s big TV-news outlets. CBS News plotted a Monday primetime special to cover the disclosure of a summary of the report prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that had examined Russian influence on the 2016 U.S. presidential election and probed whether President Donald [...]

  • Noah CentineoNickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Show,

    Kids’ Choice Awards 2019: JoJo Siwa, Noah Centineo Take on Bullying

    This year’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards was full of positivity and encouragement to be yourself. DJ Khaled, known for his upbeat mantras, hosted the 32nd annual awards ceremony alongside JoJo Siwa at USC’s Galen center. Siwa accepted the award for favorite social music star. Siwa said in her acceptance speech, “I get hated on every [...]

  • Bette Midler, Judith Light Join Netflix's

    Bette Midler and Judith Light Join Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician' on Netflix

    Bette Midler and Judith Light will guest star on “The Politician,” the first series Ryan Murphy will launch on Netflix after he inked a deal with the streamer last year. Murphy made the announcement at the end of Saturday’s PaleyFest panel for his FX series “Pose,” and noted that Midler and Light will both appear [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Billy Porter, Indya MooreFX's

    Patti LuPone Joins FX's 'Pose' as Season 2 Jumps to 1990

    “Pose” co-creator Ryan Murphy revealed that Broadway legend Patti LuPone will guest star on the upcoming second season of the FX drama, and that the series will jump ahead to 1990. Murphy made the announcement while moderating the “Pose” panel at PaleyFest on Saturday, telling lead actress MJ Rodriguez that she will share many scenes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content