Ryan Murphy has responded to the Versace family calling his anthology drama “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” a work of fiction, by saying he doesn’t believe that to be true.
“We issued a statement saying that this story is based on Maureen Orth’s book, which is a very celebrated, lauded work of non-fiction that was vetted now for close to 20 years,” Murphy told Variety at the premiere event for the FX anthology drama in Los Angeles, Calif. “That’s really all I have to say about it, other than of course I feel if your family is ever portrayed in something, it’s natural to sort of have a ‘Well, let’s wait and see what happens’ [stance].”
Murphy also pointed out that on Sunday Donatella Versace, the fashion icon’s sister and vice president and chief designer of the Versace Group, made a complimentary gesture towards series star Penelope Cruz, who portrays her in the show and has long been acquainted with her.
“Donatella Versace sent Penelope Cruz a very large arrangement of flowers yesterday when she was representing the show at the Golden Globes,” Murphy said. “I don’t know if she is going to watch the show, but if she did I think that she would see that we treat her and her family with respect and kindness. She really is a feminist role model in my book, because she had to step into an impossible situation, which she did with grace and understanding. I think that she really loved Penelope and knows that Penelope would never do anything to represent her in a negative light. Hopefully she’ll read what I’m saying to you.”
Executive producer Brad Simpson said he feels that the Versaces are certainly allowed to have their own opinion of the series and fully expected a reaction from the “real victims and real families.”
“This isn’t authorized, and we don’t make any pretense at it being authorized,” Simpson said. “This is based on Maureen Orth’s book. She’s an incredibly respected journalist. It’s a non-fiction bestseller. And also, we’re not just telling the story of Versace. We’re telling the story of all the lives that were affected by the murders of Andrew Cunanan. They’re entitled to feel how they want to feel, but we stand by the veracity of the show.”
Orth, who also attended the premiere, had been working on the Cunanan case in advance of Versace’s shocking murder in July 1997. The spree killer had already left behind a string of at least four other victims.
“I had done two months of investigation for Vanity Fair because I just thought he was a very interesting, killer suspect – because here’s a guy who went to Bishop in La Jolla. He had a 147 IQ and he had tons of friends, he was extremely witty and well-read. What the heck is he doing being a suspect? Then, when he killed Versace, I was the only one who really knew that they had met before, and so then the whole media circus took off,” Orth said.
Executive producer Nina Simpson feels the way the show portrays all of the victims – including but not limited to Versace – will emphasize “the value and meaning of the lives lost.”
“There’s nothing casual about our portrayal of these folks, and I think that people will feel their loss even more,” Jacobson said.
And screenwriter Tom Rob Smith said that while the Versace family’s statement referenced their objections to Orth’s book, he wasn’t sure “if they were referencing the show directly.”
“I think there’s always this question of when you’re making and writing this kind of material – you feel like you want to support the fundamental truths,” said Smith. “And you are going to get some of the details wrong, or you’re going to have to fill in a gap at some point, where you don’t have access to the reality. I think the only way you are allowed to do that is if you’re supporting the bigger truth.”
For Smith, and therefore the show he set out to make, that bigger truth is that Versace was an amazing man. “The show is full of love for him,” Smith said. “I’m sure there are points where they could correct some of the smaller details, but I think the bigger picture is that this is a figure that we’re celebrating and a figure that we all fell in love with.”