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The life and death of Italian fashion icon Gianni Versace has always seemed like ideal subject matter for the big screen. His mysterious 1997 murder and his ensuing legacy still haunts the world of fashion and beyond.
So it made sense in late 2015, when Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror), announced he was prepping a biopic of the Italian designer.
The Danish director attached Spanish actor Antonio Banderas to star, and preproduction was reportedly well on its way.
But last fall another Versace project was announced when Ryan Murphy decided he would focus his incredibly popular American Crime Story series on Versace’s murder. The high-profile cast includes Edgar Ramirez as Gianni Versace, Ricky Martin as his boyfriend Antonio D’Amico, Penelope Cruz as Donatella, and Darren Criss as serial killer Andrew Cunanan.
After evaluating what is sure to be one of the major television events of 2018, according to Banderas, he and August decided to back down.
“Actually I saw Bille at Cannes Film Festival,” says Banderas in an interview with THR at Italy’s Ischia Global Fest. “Because there was a TV show going on, that actually my friend Penelope is doing, we looked at each other and said ‘this movie doesn’t make sense anymore.’”
Additionally, Murphy’s project, titled The Assassination of Gianni Versace, will air earlier than was expected — in early 2018 — after swapping places with what will now be the third season of Crime Story, which will focus on Hurricane Katrina.
Banderas admits that in retrospect taking on a role like Versace might have been too much of a stretch for him.
“I have to confess now … I don’t think I am Gianni,” Banderas says. “I met him in the house where he was killed, actually, a couple of times. He was a very shy man, very laid back, beautiful, very sweet, but there was something about him that I don’t have.”
In addition to competing with Murphy’s project, August was also reportedly never able to see eye-to-eye with the Versace house, which has called the project unauthorized and “a work of fiction.” The film reportedly did not shy away from details about Gianni Versace’s personal life, salacious details and all, as well as his relationship with his family.
Banderas doesn’t ultimately think however that there can be too many films or shows about Versace.
“No, the guy deserves it,” he says. “It’s a story that deserves to be told, about a man who actually did something extraordinary, created something extraordinary for himself and for Italy and for the world. So no, I think it’s fair that people talk about him.”
But for now, according to Banderas, the public will have to be content with one new project.
“I think Penelope is a great actress. I know Donatella very well, and I know that Penelope is going to engulf her,” Banderas says of the upcoming show. “I’m going to watch it definitely.”
Italian production company Oberon in a statement said that “our project Gianni Versace is alive. Bille August is still attached. Preproduction is planned from November 2017.” Oberon confirmed though that Banderas is out, but says it is actively searching for his replacement. A rep for Bille August has not yet confirmed if the director is still attached, or if he will start working on the project in the fall.
Jul. 18, 2:30 a.m.: Updated with statement from Oberon Productions.
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