Separating fact from fiction when it comes to the murder itself and how well Versace and his killer really knew each other.
While most people know the Versace brand and about Gianni's horrific end, the details about murderer Andrew Cunanan's life are certainly less widely-known. The series is largely adapted from reporter Maureen Orth's book, "Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History," with screenwriter Tom Rob Smith filling in the blanks when it comes to the conversations between all the key players.
Wednesday's episode opened with Versace's brutal murder by the serial killer, with each subsequent episode working backwards to highlight the events in Cunanan's life that led to the shooting. Each week, TooFab plans to break down the biggest moments, drawing comparisons to Orth's book, interviews with the real people involved and news reports from the time to separate fact from fiction.
Here's everything you need to know about the series premiere.
Did Versace Really Know Cunanan?
In the episode, the two crossed paths at a San Francisco gay bar in October 1990, while Versace was in town to design costumes for the opera "Capriccio." The duo also shared champagne and a private conversation after Cunanan attended the show.
According to Orth, one of these two things did in fact happen. In the book, Cunanan told friends he had already met Versace when he sought the designer out at popular nightclub Colossus. "I know you. Lago di Como, no?" Versace asked him, using what Orth described as a line he'd drop "when he wanted to strike up a conversation with someone."
Though Cunanan later told friends he had gone to the opera "with" Versace, that was never verified, and if they did meet there, there's no record of their conversation. Another person told Orth he once saw Cunanan and Versace with man-about-town Harry de Wildt, who "categorically" denied ever being in the same car with them.
Yes, That Really Was Versace's Home
Gianni purchased the massive estate in 1992, before completely renovating the place with his signature style.
The mansion was first sold in 2000, three years after his death, and converted into a boutique hotel. While it has changed owners, it still operates as a luxury hotel with 10 rooms.
FX rented out the entire establishment in May 2017 for filming, with TMZ reporting the network dropped 6 figures for the space. This is apparently a source of contention for the Versace family, who was "appalled the show was able to dramatize the death scene on the very steps Gianni was gunned down."
Just How Accurate Was the Murder Itself?
Pretty accurate, it turns out.
The morning of July 15, 1997 started fairly normal for Versace, who went to a local cafe to pick up a few magazines before returning to his home. Around 8:45 AM he was shot as he unlocked the front gate, though there were no witnesses to confirm what happened immediately before or after the shooting.
A Newsweek article from 1997 also confirmed that a tourist did rip "Versace ads from a glossy magazine and daubed them in the designer's blood, as a keepsake," as shown in the premiere.
And yes, a dead bird was found next to Versace's body, after it was struck by a bullet which ricocheted off the gate. According to Miami Beach police lieutenant Carlos Noriega, investigators initially viewed the bird as a "sign of a Mafia hit," before the murder was eventually linked to Cunanan.
Versace's partner, Antonio D'Amico, previously expressed his problem with how he was depicted after paparazzi photos of Ricky Martin hit the Internet. "The picture of Ricky Martin holding the body in his arms is ridiculous, maybe it’s the director’s poetic license, but that is not how I reacted," he said. "The house had stained glass windows so we couldn't see what had happened from inside, so we had to open the gate. I saw Gianni lying on the steps, with blood around him. At that point, everything went dark. I was pulled away, I didn’t see any more."
The Botched Investigation
The FBI had already been looking for Cunanan for several months in connection with four other murders which the show will delve into in the weeks to come. According to both Orth's book and local news reports, there wasn't any publicity around Cunanan in Miami before Versace's death, even though the FBI had suspected he could be in the area.
"Before the Versace murder, just one television station, WSVN-7, did a story warning that Cunanan's possible destination could be South Florida," reports the Miami Herald. "It was aired only after a reporter stumbled upon an FBI flyer. The FBI 'led us to believe the fliers were fairly routine and not a major concern for the community,' the station's news director said in 1997."
Sergeant Lori Wieder (played by Dascha Polanco) also told Orth the FBI had come to Miami Police with just one flyer of Cunanan, which she photocopied. She says she was instructed to not distribute them.
Cunanan's visit to a local pawn shop also fell through the cracks. Andrew had pawned a gold coin he stole from another victim just a week before the Versace murder, submitting his real name, passport and fingerprints when he did it, as required by law. The pawn shop mailed that receipt to the police, but they apparently missed it. The slips are now computerized.
"The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story" airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.