Ryan Murphy’s new installment of his American Crime Story series, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, is the most anticipated show of 2018 because, well, it’s Ryan Murphy, and because he chose an all-star cast. Edgar Ramirez plays Gianni Versace and Ricky Martin is Gianni’s longtime partner Antonio D’Amico. But Penélope Cruz as Donatella Versace will actually give you severe fashion whiplash.
In sneak peeks for the show the actress’ resemblance to the designer is uncanny, but completely embodying Donatella was harder than just donning a platinum wig. In a new interview with friend Gwyneth Paltrow for Interview magazine, Cruz says she found a few challenges in the gig, including getting used to the rhythm of television and perfecting Donatella’s “rock ‘n’ roll” Italian accent.
“I worked a lot with a dialogue coach to find the way that Donatella speaks, which is a little different from the way she spoke in the ’90s,” Cruz explains. “The accent that she has, it’s Italian with a very international flavor—very rock ’n’ roll. I didn’t want to do an imitation of Donatella, or a caricature. I wanted to try to capture the essence of who she is.”
And Cruz’s perfectionism in getting the role right is out of respect for Donatella and the subject of the film. “I really hope that when [Donatella] sees the show, she’s going to be happy,” Cruz says. “I’m sure there are going to be scenes that are hard for her to watch, because it’s a lot about the loss of her brother … I did it with all my love. From that place of devastation, she had to keep this company going in his honor. I don’t know if she ever said this, but it was a way of keeping him alive.”
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Working with Murphy put her at ease that it would be sensitive to the designer’s feelings. “I had a few questions about how he was going to handle her portrayal, but he’s so classy, and he’s very respectful to people,” she explains.” This is a delicate story, because I’m playing someone who is alive, someone who lost her brother in a horrible way, and someone who still misses him very much 20 years later.”
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During her chat with Paltrow, the inevitable came up: the subject of aging in Hollywood. To get parts at a young age, Cruz says she used to lie and say she was older than she was, and she’s been haunted by the age question since. “Journalists have been asking me, since I was, like, 22, ‘Are you afraid of aging?’ That is such a crazy question for a 22-year-old girl or, for that matter, for a 42-year-old,” she says. “I combat that craziness by refusing to answer the question.”
And she’s not exaggerating. “When it comes to talking about aging as an actress, I feel like, ‘What the f–k? I’m not going to give you even two minutes to honor your question. It doesn’t deserve that’,” she says. “Something changed when I gave birth to my daughter. I started thinking, ‘Come on, it’s 2017. Why do women still have to be talking about this? It’s crazy.’ That sense only got bigger when I had children.”
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