Monday, May 1, 2023

Recasting 2019 (supporting): "The Assassination of Gianni Versace"

For anyone reading the title of this week's post and thinking that 1) the year is wrong, and 2) this series was released before last week's choice of Sharp Objects, hold your horses. Yes, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story was indeed released on HBO a few months prior to Sharp Objects. But as I have done with other selections in this and my lead recasting projects, if there are two projects from the same year that I want to choose, I often place first the one that was filmed first. In this case, it was Sharp Objects, hence Versace coming afterward. 

Based on real events, this miniseries follows the life of Andrew Cunanan (played by Darren Criss), who ended a three-month killing spree with the murder of famous Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, his fifth victim. Cunanan's third victim was real estate tycoon, Lee Miglin. Miglin was a closeted gay man who had met the much younger Cunanan, who was an escort at the time, at a party. It is Miglin's wife, Marilyn, whom I have chosen to recast in this production. Brilliantly portrayed by Judith Light, Marilyn, a long-time host on the Home Shopping Network, came back from a business trip to their home in Chicago in 1997 to find her husband murdered. It's the aftermath of this discovery and the sort of mental hoops the character goes through when dealing with police and the press that make for a fascinating opportunity for any actor. 

This would be such a great character to unpack. If you've seen the entire episode (Marilyn basically has one episode of the nine in which she's prominently featured, as well as a small amount at the end), you get a feeling that Marilyn may have suspicions about her husband's sexuality, without it being directly acknowledged. She insists after Lee's death that it be portrayed as a random killing in the press. This likely became next to impossible to maintain the more the country and the world learned about Cunanan and the nature of his crimes. Light does an amazing job in the role. It's one of those tricky scenarios where the actor has to portray someone who's basically pretending within the role as well. Marilyn puts up quite the front on her shopping network, and seems to sort of hide behind the cover of her work, perhaps to not have to deal with the reality of not only her loss, but the fact that she'd been married to someone for over forty years without fully knowing them. Of course there's some creative license in all this, as we don't know for sure what Marilyn knew about her husband. Regardless, it's a tale as old as time, where the seemingly deceived wife (or husband) has to struggle to not beat themselves up for not realizing the truth. It's easy to see how denial is a natural rabbit hole to go down.  

I've watched this series twice, and it still kind of boggles my mind that the first killings took place so close to where I grew up. I have vague memories of the news of Cunanan, but the first four murders were sort of lost in the background (I was 17 at the time) of his extremely high-profile final victim. Watching the backstory of his first two victims, Jeffrey Trail and Davis Madson, it's wild and sad the extent to which gay men had to be fearful of being outed in their lives (understandably, particularly in the military) less than thirty years ago. 

The series was very well-received by critics, currently holding an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 74 on Metacritic. Six actors were nominated for Primetime Emmy awards for their performances, including Light (along with Edgar Ramírez as Versace, Penélope Cruz as his sister Donatella, Ricky Martin as Versace's partner Antonio D'Amico, and Finn Wittrock as Trail). Criss deservedly won for his lead performance, while Ryan Murphy (at his best in this series in my opinion) earned a win for directing the show's premiere episode.  


    - Jamie

  2. Oh no please no more Mamma Mia!

  3. I'm so silly, I actually posted my 2019 idea last week! I think I was thrown by your mention of "Big Little Lies 2" and didn't properly check!

    For 2018 I don't see much to tickle my fancy at all. I loved "Can You Ever Forgive Me" but there is no part really suitable for Meryl. "Tully" was interesting and a better effort from Diablo Cody than "Ricki" but again, nothing Meryl could have played. Same for "A Star is Born", would have been great for an older female part of it was included but again no dice. I would also suggest "Boy Erased" as it was quite a powerful movie but nothing suitable for Meryl there either.

    I'm going to risk saying the psychological horror "Hereditary" mainly based on it being a success and giving Meryl an opportunity to work with the marvellous Toni Collette. I remember similar reasoning for my 1994 suggestion of "Muriel's Wedding"! The Ann Dowd supporting role of Annie's friend Joan would have been something fresh and exciting for Meryl, whose never been a "scream queen" yet.

    Sorry for my mix up with the years!

  4. Judith Light was perfection in this and should have won the Emmy. Her nail clicking scene when she hears the scream and good.