It's "fiction." Except it's not.
After the family of slain fashion mogul Gianni Versace released a statement calling FX's upcoming installment of American Crime Story "a work of fiction," executive producer Ryan Murphy is standing up for his show and the journalist whose work is behind it.
"The book that we based our show off of, that we own, Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth, has been out for nearly 20 years," Murphy tells E! News. "And it's a work of nonfiction. It's been scrutinized and vetted for close to two decades. And a lot of if not all of Maureen's reporting in that book was on the record, and it's been sourced out, and we had our own sources.
"So I just respectfully say," Murphy continues, "It is not a work of fiction. And I stand by the reporting of our female reporter. And to sort of impune her and say that what she dedicated a large portion of her life to, to say to a female journalist, ‘You're a liar and what you're saying is not the truth,' I don't think that's cool."
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story stars Édgar Ramírez as Gianni Versace, Darren Criss as Gianni's killer, Andrew Cunanan, Ricky Martin as Gianni's partner and Penélope Cruz as Gianni's sister Donatella Versace.
"When Penélope read the scripts," Murphy tells E! News, "she really loved them and she said, ‘I cant do this unless I talk to Donatella.' And Donatella thought, OK, if anyone was going to play her, she was glad it was Penelope. So she said, ‘I'm glad it's you.' And Penélope would never do anything in any negative way that would shine a negative light on Donatella or the family. And I think that the show, you'll see as it goes on, that, a la Marcia Clark, she was put in an impossible situation and she persevered, and she saved her family and she saved her business and she was up against an incredible cadre of men who tried to tell her what to do and she said no. So I think that she's portrayed beautifully by Penélope."
Donatella, who has known Cruz for years, also sent the actress flowers on Sunday. "She said congratulations and good luck before Penélope went on stage [at the Golden Globes] with our guys and represented the show," Murphy tells E! News.
The Versace family hasn't yet seen any of the episodes, according to Murphy. "I had very limited interaction with Donatella," he explains. "It was mostly through Penélope, and the one thing she said was I really hope and prey that you don't put my children in the show. And they were there, and they were active during that period. So we did have those characters in early versions of the script. But as a parent with two young children, I felt I understood and I reached out and I said, ‘I understand and I respect you as a mother and we won't do that.' So we removed the children characters, who were really only in the first two episodes."
The Assassination of Gianni Versace premieres Wednesday, Jan. 17 on FX. The first season of ACS, The People v. O.J. Simpson, was a critical and ratings success, scoring nine Emmys and two Golden Globes.