From one crime case to an­other

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - — Yvonne Vil­lar­real

TV’s Ryan Murphy, above, ex­plores Gianni Ver­sace’s death on the next “Amer­i­can Crime Story.”

The semi­an­nual Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics Assn. press tour — dur­ing which var­i­ous net­works and stream­ing plat­forms present their new and re­turn­ing shows to the me­dia — has fin­ished in Bev­erly Hills. This week’s pre­sen­ta­tions in­cluded pan­els from Fox and FX.

Ver­sace ‘did not have to die’

Af­ter hook­ing view­ers with a look back at the machi­na­tions in­side and out­side the so-called Trial of the Cen­tury in “The Peo­ple v. O.J. Simp­son: Amer­i­can Crime Story,” heavy­weight TV pro­ducer Ryan Murphy ex­plores the chill­ing 1997 mur­der of fash­ion design icon Gianni Ver­sace.

Dur­ing an ap­pear­ance Thurs­day at the Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics Assn. press tour on the Fox lot in Cen­tury City, Murphy spoke of his in­ten­tions for the sec­ond in­stall­ment of the an­thol­ogy se­ries, ti­tled “The As­sas­si­na­tion of Gianni Ver­sace,” pre­mier­ing in Jan­uary.

“I think it’s more than why [Ver­sace] was killed; it was sort of why it was al­lowed to hap­pen,” Murphy told re­porters.

Ver­sace was gunned down in July 1997 in front of his Mi­ami Beach home. The de­signer’s death was the fifth slay­ing in four states that po­lice at­trib­uted to An­drew Cu­nanan. (Cu­nanan, 27, killed him­self days later.)

Murphy said the show, which uses Maureen Orth’s “Vul­gar Fa­vors: An­drew Cu­nanan, Gianni Ver­sace, and the Largest Failed Man­hunt in U.S. His­tory” as its source ma­te­rial, will aim to ex­am­ine Cu­nanan’s mo­tives and the larger theme of ho­mo­pho­bia. (Ver­sace was one of the few openly gay celebri­ties of the time.)

“We’re try­ing to talk about a crime within a so­cial idea,” Murphy said. “Ver­sace, who was [Cu­nanan’s] last vic­tim, did not have to die. One of the rea­sons he was able to make his way across the coun­try and pick off these victims, many of whom were gay, was be­cause of ho­mo­pho­bia at the time.”

Murphy was joined on­stage by stars Ricky Martin, who plays Ver­sace’s long­time part­ner, An­to­nio D’Amico; Dar­ren Criss, who plays Cu­nanan; Edgar Ramirez, who plays Ver­sace; as well as writer-ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Tom Rob Smith and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Brad Simp­son.

Among the top­ics dis­cussed were the in­tri­ca­cies of ex­am­in­ing a true story through a dra­ma­tized lens — and the deft­ness re­quired in telling that story while also be­ing re­spect­ful to Ver­sace’s fam­ily.

One re­porter brought up how Orth’s book makes the case that Ver­sace was HIV-pos­i­tive — a de­tail that never has been con­firmed by the fam­ily. A pre­view of the drama’s open­ing scene screened for re­porters ahead of the panel showed Ramirez’s Ver­sace tak­ing med­i­ca­tion.

“The Ver­saces,” Murphy ac­knowl­edged, “will like some of what they see, and some of it they will be un­com­fort­able with.”

Murphy also was asked about D’Amico’s de­nounce­ment of the drama, spurred when pho­tos from the se­ries leaked on­line.

“It’s very hard to judge any­thing that you’re watch­ing based on a pa­parazzi pho­to­graph,” said Murphy, who told re­porters that he re­cently spoke to D’Amico by phone and had a pos­i­tive dis­cus­sion.

“You’re not do­ing a doc­u­men­tary — you’re do­ing a docu­d­rama,” he con­tin­ued. “My re­sponse to that was I think that you have to see the show, and then com­ment. But I think he un­der­stands that now, and he’s cer­tainly al­lowed his opin­ions.”

Chris Pizzello Invision/AP

Pho­to­graphs by Chris Pizzello Invision / As­so­ci­ated Press

RYAN MURPHY, pro­ducer of “The As­sas­si­na­tion of Gianni Ver­sace,” at­tributes the killer’s abil­ity to travel and slay mul­ti­ple peo­ple in 1997 to ho­mo­pho­bia.

RICKY MARTIN, left, plays Ver­sace’s part­ner, and Dar­ren Criss stars as An­drew Cu­nanan, the killer.

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