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Why the New Versace Series Starring Penelope Cruz is Controversial

An overwhelming consumption of wealth, status and power are the themes evoked in the new series by FX, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, a drama based solely on depicting the murder mystery of renowned fashion designer Gianni Versace. The story tells of Andrew Cunanan, a young man whose disturbing obsession with a rich and powerful designer led him to eventually murder him outside his Miami Beach residence in 1997 and then shortly after take his own life.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace, which stars Penelope Cruz, Édgar Ramírez, and Darren Criss, is revealed in reverse chronology thus opening immediately with Versace’s murder, it then seamlessly glides into the introduction of lead act, Cunanan and a helpful insight into his life. The series aims to engage us in Cunanan’s obsession and greed for fame and fortune, which inevitably became his motive.

The controversial series is based on Vulgar Favors, a book portraying the late designer’s murder written by Maureen Orth 1999. Orth wrote the book after thoroughly researching the murder via interviews and evidence from the case from which the Versace family has distanced itself. The Versace family released a statement upon hearing about the intention of the series claiming that they had “neither authorized nor had any involvement whatsoever in the forthcoming TV series about Mr. Gianni Versace.” They strongly urged that “since Versace did not authorize the book on which it is partly based nor has it taken part in the writing of the screenplay, this TV series should only be considered as a work of fiction.”

The Versace family expressed their outrage about the series and their strong instinct to object the claims bought to light about Versace’s life before he was murdered. In her book Vulgar Favors, Orth elucidates Versace’s existing “medical condition” suggesting that he was HIV positive at the time of his death. These claims have been strongly dismissed by the family as nothing but “lurid claims”.

Initially, Cruz herself had second thoughts about taking on the role of Donatella. “I thought maybe about saying no but then I am a big admirer of Ryan’s work,” said the Spanish beauty. “I wanted to say yes but it was a difficult choice, one of the most difficult I have made in my career because I knew what a great undertaking this was and how sensitive and raw these events still are for the family,” she added.

Donatella Versace gave an interview to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, saying, “I haven’t seen (the series) nor will I see it, because after all this time, it still hurts to see Gianni represented untruthfully. The company producing the series claims it is relying on a book by Maureen Orth, but the Orth book itself is full of gossip and speculation. Orth never received any information from the Versace family.” Donatella Versace went on to say that “she has no basis to make claims about the intimate personal life of Gianni Versace or other family members. Instead, in her effort to create a sensational story, she presents secondhand hearsay that is full of contradictions and ignores contrary information provided by members of Mr. Versace’s family, who lived and worked closely with him and were in the best position to know the facts of his life.”

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