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American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace’s Anatomy

The inspirations behind Ryan Murphy's series on the famous designer and his enigmatic killer

American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace’s Anatomy  The inspirations behind Ryan Murphy's series on the famous designer and his enigmatic killer

On 15 July 20 years ago, Gianni Versace was killed in Miami by Andrew Cunanan.

This is the second season of American Crime Story, the anthological series created by Ryan Murphy.

Based on Maureen Orth's book Vulgar Favors: The Hunt for Andrew Cunanan, The Man Who Killed Gianni Versace, the show does not tell the story of the famous Italian designer, but that of his killer, as erroneously hypothesized by many.

The real protagonist is not the murdered man, but the killer.

Versace (played by Édgar Ramírez), his family and the world of fashion serve only as a counter, distorted mirror of the unhappy epic of a boy poised between lies, aspirations of greatness and growing madness. In the background, American homophobia emerged in the mid-1990s: the rights of the gay population, the policy of "Do not ask Do not tell" (the US political line between 1993 and 2010, in to the question of sexual orientation of members of the military service), the fear of AIDS, social persecution.

And the choice, from the narrative point of view, works, thanks to the excellent interpretation of Darren Criss (character from the tv series Glee).

The cast also features Ricky Martin in the role of Antonio D'Amico, Gianni's partner, and Penelope Cruz who played Donatella Versace.


Feel like: Baroque sculpture (Rodin, Bernini)

Gianni Versace's relationship with art was so visceral that in an old interview he revealed:

"while I was working from a work of art, the work itself was so inside of me that ideas were created spontaneously, practically without that I thought about it".

During his amazing career the designer has designed costumes for choreographers and directors such as Maurice Béjart, Joseph Russillo, William Forsythe and Bob Wilson and has collaborated with many of the major contemporary artists such as Pomodoro or Rotella.

In his works you can read influences and references to the entire history of art: from classical culture (singular the similarity between certain statues of Rodin and the same Gianni), passing through the Renaissance, Romanticism, Klimt, Delaunay, Calder, Cubism, Art Deco, until the 20th century by Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel, Op Art, Frank Moore, Rotella, Schifano and many others.

As many know and it is also evident watching the FX TV series, Versace was also a great collector.

As Santo Versace revealed in an interview

"Gianni filled the house in New York with pieces of modern art (Picasso, Moore, Dine, Schnabel, Hockney, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Basquiat, Matisse); he wanted the house in Miami to be full of joy and sunshine, with works by Schifano, Rotella, Paladino, Moore, Dufy, Picasso; while for the house in Milan he let his love for ancient art emerge, in particular Greek, made to live with modern art".


Dress like: Versace


Making the costumes of a series that has as its protagonist an iconic designer without having the support of his fashion house, is not a simple job.

To side-step the problem, costume designer Lou Eyrich and her team spent 12 hours a day researching clothes online to create a sort of archive, buying hundreds of vintage Versace pieces from boutiques around the world, such as The Way We Wore and Catwalk in Los Angeles or C Madeleinesin in Miami.

In addition to the original garments, it was essential to recreate the rest, all trying to respect the style of the brand as much as possible.

"We did not produce replicas, it would not be legal or respectful. We have however used quality materials and made the famous safety pins gold plated» - points out Eyrich and recalls - "For a pink silk, curve-hugging evening dress, for example, “we collaborated with Penelope on the design. We wanted her to look uber-sexy, so it’s corseted and skin-baring. We were inspired by a Versace key piece design from 1996".

More than the choice of the garments, to superimpose the figures of the Spanish actress and Donatella, the silhouettes played a key role, for this reason in the series the star wears a lot of black and has the waistline highlighted with belts and jeweled elements.

Gianni's wardrobe, on the other hand, is made up of rococo-style printed shirts and swimwear, but most of all, from room wear, because Ryan Murphy, the creator of the series, wanted his character to walk through the sumptuous rooms of Casa Casuarina with fluttering silk behind him.

"Ryan is such a visual person; he wanted to show the opulent world of the Versace estate in opposition to Andrew Cunanan's upbringing" explains Eyrich, who describes Cunanan as a gigolo and his style as "West Coast-preppy, aspiring to look rich."


Think like: “Vulgar Favours: The Hunt for Andrew Cunanan, The Man Who Killed Gianni Versace” by Maureen Orth


As many know, the second season of American Crime Story is based on Maureen Orth's 1999 book Vulgar Favors: The Hunt for Andrew Cunanan, The Man Who Killed Gianni Versace.

Within its pages, the journalist of Vanity Fair, conducts a long investigation, trying to reconstruct the life of the killer, from infancy to suicide.

Who was he really? Why did that damn morning of July 15, 1997 shoot at Versace? Did he and the famous designer really meet? And if so, what was the relationship between them? What is the real motive that pushed Cunanan to kill?

These are some of the questions that Orth tried to find answers by interviewing hundreds of people among the policemen, friends and acquaintances of Andrew and the protagonists of his story.

Reading the book, but also watching the TV series that inspired, you can find out the version of events of the journalist, a reconstruction of the Versace family has always defined a work of fiction, "full of gossip and speculation."


Sound like: “Adagio in G Minor” by Remo Giazotto (also known as by Albinoni) 


Although the supervision of the soundtrack of American Crime Story 2 is by Amanda Krieg Thomas and the original songs were composed by Mac Quayle, the choice of music that accompanies the first eight minutes of the series, the Adagio in G minor by Remo Giazotto, is an idea of showrunner Ryan Murphy.

The symphony introduces the characters of Gianni Versace and Andrew Cunanan and becomes both a mirror and a metaphor of the dichotomy of their lives.

The famous designer with apparently perfect existence and the chronic-lying liar.

Versace as Albinoni, Cunanan as Giazotto, the author of the most significant fraud in the history of classical music.

The lie of a musicologist named Remo who, in 1949, while he is writing a book on the eighteenth-century Venetian master Tomaso Albinoni, claims to have discovered an unpublished work. Too bad, however, that the Baroque composition is exclusive merit of Giazotto.

It is the irresistible fascination of mystification, the thread that sews together also the fragments of the various personalities of the Versace killer, as many as the interlocutors that man stands before.

There is not only classical music, but also pop in the tracklist of the FX series.

There are songs by Lisa Stansfield, Laura Branigan, La Bouche, Indeep, Soul II Soul, Jocelyn Enriquez, Phil Collins, Technotronic, George Michael and others, the soundscape full of club music and hit dance of South Beach between the end of the 80s and early 90s.


Taste like: espresso


Love like: Darren Criss


Darren Criss is great to give back to the audience madness and unbridled ambition Cunanan, a man unable to show his true self, a chameleon that changes according to the habitat in which he is.