Ryan Murphy is known for fictional flights of fancy on shows like Glee and American Horror Story. Even Feud got criticized for embellishing the real relationship between golden-age stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
But Murphy promises American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace will hew very close to actual historical events.
“We’ve spoken to other people who have definite ideas about what was going on with him at the time,” Murphy said at the recent Television Critics Association summer conference.
“I think we’ve been very respectful to his family, particularly. Donatella had some requests about how the children were depicted in the show. I listened to that. As a father, I understood. I wasn’t interested in going there, out of respect for her.”
One thing that will be touched upon is Versace’s HIV status, despite the designer’s desire to keep it under wraps. Murphy said he understood Versace not disclosing he was positive while he was alive. In the 1990s, stigma about HIV was even higher than it is now.
“You could literally lose your business, lose everything that you had,” he said. “Versace’s company was about to go public, and he was terrified of anything negative coming out about his personal life. We delve into that in the show.”
The season is based primarily on Maureen Orth’s account of the murder in Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History. Murphy admits the designer’s family may not love everything they see.
“I think that the Versaces will like some of what we do, and I think that some of it they will be uncomfortable about. And I understand that. But we’re going off a book, and other reporting that we’ve done. I think [the show] is moving. I think it’s powerful.”