While most people know the Versace brand and about Gianni's horrific end, the details about his murderer's life and Cunanan's other victims 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. Working backwards, each new episode takes place before the last.
Each week, TooFab is breaking down the biggest moments, drawing comparisons to Orth's book, interviews with the real people involved and news reports from the time to try to understand what actually happened.
Here's what could use a closer look from "Ascent":
Penelope Cruz really got the chance to shine on Wednesday's episode, which put the focus on Donatella Versace's rise to power in the family business. With Gianni (Edgar Ramirez) battling an illness -- which the family claimed was inner-ear cancer -- he urged his sister to have a more active role in the company in the hopes she'd take over if and when he passed.
While she had lofty ideas for what their brand should embody, she had a harder time sketching them down and nailing the specifics of design. Gianni worked with her on a dress, "as if it were the last dress we'll ever make," he told her. "This dress is not my legacy, you are."
After working together to create one of the brand's iconic bondage dresses, he then wanted her to wear it, so the world could "see you in a way that you have never been seen before." Though she thought she'd look "absurd," she hit the red carpet in it and stole the show. The look made headlines.
In reality, Donatella certainly did make a splash when she wore a look from his bondage collection on the red carpet. It's unclear how much input she actually had in the design and how much was just to push her storyline. One of the show's costume designers, Allison Leach, previously talked about why this outfit was so important.
"It is such an iconic dress, and it it was scripted that it definitely needed to be that dress to tell the story of her coming into her of her own stardom," Leach told Vanity Fair. "Just from a construction standpoint and materials, it was such beautiful leather dress that had to fit perfectly—and all these different angles that the neck and the, you know, skirt had to swath just, just right."
They definitely nailed it.
Tonight, we witnessed Donatella fill everyone at the company in on Versace's illness. "My brother is sick, you all know this. Gianni is suffering from a rare form of ear cancer," she explained. "While he is recovering, I will be taking care of the day to day operations. He will be communicating through me. My brother is stubborn, don't forget that. He's stubborn about life. And he will beat this illness. We must be talked about or we're nothing. We have to be even more bold, not less."
The official story from the family was that he suffered from inner-ear cancer and, yes, he was preparing for his death.
"He was sick with cancer in his ear before he was murdered. The last two years of his life, Gianni was hiding, hiding up in his apartment in Via Gesú, because his ear was so big," Donatella told New York Magazine in an old interview. "It was impossible to do a surgery because of the position, because to do a surgery, part of his face was supposed to drop. That's why the will and everything was done, and I knew everything about, because he thought he was going to die. But then it was declared cured six months before he was murdered. We celebrated; we drink champagne and everything. Six months later, he was killed."
Previous episodes insinuated that Versace also had HIV, something his family and partner Antonio D'Amico staunchly refuted.
In the series, Cunanan's (Darren Criss) seen applying for a "job" at an escort agency. The recruiter was reluctant to take him on, however, noting his Asian-American ethnicity as an issue. "Straight men like Asian women, but gay clients don't ask for Asian men. If someone asks for a Latino, I can't send them an Asian," she bluntly explained.
He countered by saying he was "well endowed," could more than hold his own with dinner table conversation and was "very good" with older men. "My clients rarely ask for Asians and they never ask for Asians with attitude," she replied. "I can't sell a clever Filipino, even one with a big dick." He then took it on himself to "sell myself."
Most of this interaction came from an account in Orth's book from "a well-known San Diego gay, who fixes up dates as a favor for visiting VIPs":
"One of my boys called me up to meet him. He said, 'He's part Asian.' I said, 'I've never had a call asking for an Asian.' The guy said, 'Well, he's real smart and cute.' I thought, Maybe a dinner date, but it's usually sex they want. Andrew came over to my apartment. Right away, I didn't think he was that cute. I said, 'What are your best attributes?' He said, 'My smile and my eyes. I think I have sexy eyes.' I said, 'Anything else?' Andrew said, 'I'm OK, I'm about average there.' He looked around my apartment and talked about the art, so I took a mental note that he was a good conversationalist. He only fit with about four people in all those years."
Before he started shacking up with Norman Blachford, Andrew was a "kept boy" for wealthy businessman Lincoln Aston. Andrew's terms: a weekly allowance and an expense account. He also said he could organize parties and make Aston the center of gay society.
On the series, Aston flipped when he realized Andrew was spending his money on other men and was soon after brutally murdered by another man he picked up at a bar. The man, Kevin Bond, later turned himself into the authorities.
According to an account from San Diego party boy Vance Coukoulis in Orth's book, Lincoln "had grown disillusioned with Andrew and was trying delicately to extricate himself from his clutches by giving him 'twenty or thirty thousand dollars to go away'" before he was murdered.
Though Bond did actually confess to the murder, a friend of victim Jeff Trail, Michael Williams, told the San Diego Reader in 1997 he thought it was possible Andrew actually killed Aston. "I do think it's a possibility. Aston was a friend of Andrew's and Jeff's," Williams explained. "I think that Jeff must have known something in order for Andrew to [attack] him like that. I think it's very odd that the man was killed in that fashion, and Jeff was killed in that fashion. And Jeff told me Andrew told him he — Andrew — was the one who found [Aston's] body."
Meeting David Madson
Was anyone else screaming at the television for David (Cody Fern) not to accept Andrew's invitation to join his friends for dinner?
Viewers witnessed the moment Cunanan first met one of his future victims, by first sending him a drink and then later inviting him to his hotel room. The two were seen having sex in the shower, before some sweet pillow talk.
Orth detailed their first meeting in her book and it went down almost exactly shown on the series. "It was pretty sparky," a friend who witnessed the interaction told her. One major difference, however, is that someone Orth spoke to described the evening as a "nonsexual sleepover."
According to the book, Cunanan was also already in a relationship with Norman, who believed Andrew went to San Diego to visit his fake ex-wife and daughter.
The scene of Andrew flipping out after his mother bought a cheap brand of ice cream? That could be true.
An anonymous op-ed from 2009 in the San Diego Reader referenced a similar moment the writer's mother -- a friend of the Cunanans -- witnessed. "After a spaghetti dinner, the two women were chatting over coffee at the kitchen table when my mom heard the freezer door pop open," the article reads. "A flying object hit the wall near Mary Ann's head. Andrew had hurled a block of Thrifty-brand ice cream across the room, leaving a dent. 'I only want Häagen-Dazs!' he shouted. Both women were stunned."
As for Andrew's account of how Häagen-Dazs got its name, creator Reuben Mattus told Tablet, "The only country which saved the Jews during World War II was Denmark, so I put together a totally fictitious Danish name and had it registered. Häagen-Dazs doesn't mean anything. [But] it would attract attention, especially with the umlaut."
The more you know ...
"The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story" airs Wednesdays on FX.