Versace: after the murder, the mystery

Hollywood vultures are sniffing around the corpses, writes Tim Cornwell. But foreign fashion designers and gay serial killers are not the easiest to sell

Andrew Cunanan's suicide - a gunshot to the mouth, when he was startled by a frightened caretaker - changed the character of his story overnight. For the man who had been hunted as an elusive monster, portrayed as a murderous Svengali who changed his appearance at will, it seemed a small, sad and messy death.

Cunanan was portrayed as the terror of the gay community and the world of fashion, rumoured to be roaming the streets in drag, armed with a hit list; in death he was rendered a pathetic figure. How much more fitting if he had died in a hail of bullets, snarling defiance with his last breath, brandishing the handgun with which he killed Gianni Versace.

That, at least, is how Hollywood seems to be thinking. Faced with the tale of the spree killer, the male prostitute cum socialite who fed on the fringes of gay high society, the film industry's response so far has been thanks, but no thanks. The hunt for Cunanan revived the FBI's moribund Ten Most Wanted list, and the shooting of Versace was an electrifying and extraordinary news story. But its finale has failed to turn Hollywood on.

Certainly, some vultures are descending, or at least sniffing around the corpse. The Washington Post reports that Sam Lupowitz, a Miami-based producer, is rushing a $2m feature film Fatal Encounter into production. "I don't care if everyone in this town thinks I'm an exploitative sleaze," Lupowitz said. "The curiosity factor has got to be immense."

True crime tales are one thing in print: their stock in trade is to be gory, tasteless, and voyeuristic. And so St Martin's Press is rushing Death at Every Stop on to bookshelves, edited by Charles Spicer, a veteran of instant books on cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer and Susan Smith, the mother who drowned her two young sons. There is talk of a television movie.

But producer Michael O'Hara, an expert at bringing tales of crime and passion, true and fictional, to the small screen, explains what Entertainment Weekly called the "Silence of the Screens". "It's a very interesting story from a journalism standpoint," said O'Hara. "But I find it a very narrow story from a dramatist's standpoint." In any case, he noted, "his death is kind of unpleasant."

On the face of it, Versace was the stuff of movies: he chatted with Diana, dressed Madonna, dined with Mike Tyson, and was even reportedly scheduled to appear as himself in a Woody Allen film to begin shooting this autumn. But he was not reckoned a household name in the heartland until his death; middle Americans don't celebrate designers the way some Europeans do.

A film, particularly from a major studio or a network, also threatens to be a political minefield. Sympathetic gay characters are said to be hot in Hollywood following Rupert Everett's winning performance with Julia Robert's in this summer's My Best Friend's Wedding.

But Cunanan conjures up images that are deeply politically incorrect, and already the community is turning vocal on the subject. "They didn't say he was a serial killer, they say a homosexual killed Versace," said Eric Shore, a Los Angeles designer. "I would hope that any film represents fairly that he was a psychopath."

At the same time, the Southern Baptists have protested Disney's "anti- family" policies, particularly with the public outing of Ellen DeGeneres in its eponymous comedy series, Ellen. The story of Versace would by necessity be laden with sleaze, violence and homosexuality, but misses a binding relationship between victim and killer, and risks coming under fire from left and right.

Mr O'Hara has produced two dozen fact-based films for television, including a mini-series about Charles Starkweather, claimed as America's first serial killer.

But he is cautious about the possibilities for a Versace movie. "Normally we would do a police pro- cedural, find the cop tracking the guy. In this case you don't have that. Versace is a very interesting man, but what are you going to do, somehow put his life story into this movie? That would be an Italian rather than an American film."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map