‘Versace’ stars say anti-gay bias led to killing
By Lynn Elber
AP Television Writer
Do the intersecting lives of a fashion designer and the serial killer who murdered him add up to a political saga?
Absolutely, says Ryan Murphy, the powerhouse executive producer of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” season two of the FX showcase that debuted with 2016’s Emmy-winning “The People v. O.J. Simpson.”
“It was a political murder,” Murphy said, defending the striking use of “assassination” in the title of the 10-episode series that begins airing at 10 p.m. on Wednesday. The 1997 shooting by Andrew Cunanan of the groundbreaking Italian designer is enveloped in social issues that resonate today, Murphy and series stars Edgar Ramirez and Ricky Martin said.
Cunanan (“Glee” star Darren Criss) was a “person who targeted people specifically to shame them and to out them, and to have a form of payback for a life that he felt he could not live,” Murphy said during a Q&A with reporters.
Ramirez, who plays the adult Versace, and Martin, who portrays his longtime partner, Antonio D’Amico, concurred in separate interviews with Murphy’s assessment.
Versace, who was 50 and reaching new heights of success when he was gunned down in front of his lavish Miami Beach estate, died because of prejudice, said Ramirez (who, with weight added and hair dyed and thinned for “Versace,” is unrecognizable as the actor who appeared in “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Carlos”).
Although Cunanan was on the FBI’s most-wanted list and circulated openly in Miami Beach before Versace became his final victim in a cross-country rampage, he wasn’t stopped because of his gay connections, Ramirez said. Cunanan, 27, fatally shot himself about six weeks after Versace’s murder.
“The underlying subject is homophobia and how homophobia killed him,” Ramirez said. “That’s something that comes up over and over when we look into the investigation. ... Cunanan was on the news every night, on the most-wanted list, and for some reason all the law-enforcement authorities couldn’t get him.”
The California-born Cunanan, portrayed as a deeply disturbed con man, had cultivated relationships with wealthy older men and reportedly had been lovers or friends with two of the five men whose deaths are blamed on him. The other victims included a wealthy Chicago developer and a New Jersey cemetery caretaker.
Illuminating anti-gay bias is important because the LGBTQ community still must fight it, Martin said. As a member of the community, the pop star-actor said, he feels compelled to use his fame to combat hate and discrimination.
“If I don’t use the power that that music gives or, in this case, a character like this gives me, I’d be allowing the crime to happen,” Martin said. His friendships with Ramirez and Cruz were other inducements to join the series, as was its depiction of the Versace-D’Amico relationship.
Their attachment was illuminated in a conversation Martin had with D’Amico, who in the show’s opening scene is shown discovering Versace’s body immediately after the shooting.
“Ricky, my love for Gianni, our love, was open,”’ Martin quoted D’Amico as saying. “And I’ve lost him, and I’ve never been the same.”