LOS ANGELES – A US television mini-series, "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story", aims to highlight the homophobia of the 1990s and the role it played in the Italian fashion designer's death.
Producer Ryan Murphy told reporters that the show, filmed largely at Versace's Miami waterfront mansion where he was gunned down in July 1997, would show how much times had changed.
Starring Venezuelan heartthrob Edgar Ramirez as Versace, as well as Penelope Cruz and singer Ricky Martin, the series is slated to air next year on the FX network.
Versace's international fashion empire included clothes, fragrances and home furnishings. He was 50 when he was killed by Andrew Cunanan, whose motives remain a mystery.
Cunanan, portrayed by actor Darren Criss, had killed at least four other people on a bloody journey before reaching Miami Beach. He committed suicide a few days after slaying Versace.
"Andrew Cunanan was allowed to go across the country and pickup his victims which most of them were gay it because of the homophobia at the time," said Murphy on Wednesday at a Television Critics Association (TCA) event in Los Angeles.
"It was a huge thing" for Versace "to announce he was gay," said Murphy, co-producer of the "American Crime Story" mini-series.
At the time there was no openly gay celebrity other than singer Elton John, said series co-producer Brad Simpson.
Versace "gave an interview with his partner and that's why he was killed," Simpson said.
Pop singer Martin, who came out as gay in 2010, plays the role of Versace's partner Antonio D’Amico, while Cruz is the designer's sister.
"Gianni was very compulsive in his work almost obsessive, but in his life it was very different," said Martin.
Versace for example would eat a banana and drop the peel on the floor, or take a shower and drop the towels, and D'Amico was always there to take care of him, Martin said.
Their love story "affects me in a very personal way," said Martin, tearfully.
The "docu-drama" is adapted from a book by journalist Maureen Orth, who claims that Versace was HIV-positive.
"At that time you could lose everything if you were HIV-positive," Murphy said.
Although most filming took place in Versace's Florida mansion, part of it is being shot at the Fox Studio in Los Angeles, where the luxurious home was recreated to the last detail, including its flamboyant Greco-Roman paintings.
The first season of the "American Crime Story" mini-series, which focused on fallen American football star O.J. Simpson, got rave reviews and won several awards.
The third season will focus on Hurricane Katrina and the slow response of the US authorities to the 2005 disaster.