Penelope Cruz Interview: ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’
Penelope Cruz had met Donatella Versace occasionally over the years, and she felt “affection and admiration” for her, so she felt it was important to get the famous fashion designer’s blessing before playing her in the FX limited series “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” Cruz explains, “We had a long conversation, and she said to me, ‘If somebody’s going to do it, I prefer that it’s you’ … So that’s what I did. It was my personal homage to her.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Cruz above.
Playing Donatella was a technical challenge. Cruz is Spanish, so not only did she have to learn to portray her “unique way of communicating” and her “rock-and-roll” style and personality, she also had to do it in English with an Italian accent.
But Cruz also wanted to better understand the artistic and familial relationship between Gianni and Donatella, so the actress “became kind of obsessed with watching material of them … and especially those little moments. There’s not a lot of footage of them backstage in those crazy few minutes before a show, but I found some, and you can see a lot about their personalities, their relationship, and the relationship they had with creating with fashion, how they had this passion since they were little kids … It was beautiful to see.”
This was Cruz’s first experience in American television, but she was eager to spend more time investing in one character and to work with writer-director-producer Ryan Murphy. “Right now he’s the king of TV,” she says. “He’s doing projects that are very interesting … He touches so many subjects that are important, that open a debate.” In that way Murphy reminds her of filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, who has directed Cruz in multiple films including “Live Flesh” (1997), “All About My Mother” (1999), and “Volver” (2006), the last of which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
“They have the same passion for what they do. They always choose subjects that matter,” Cruz adds about Murphy and Almodovar’s similarities. And they have both helped her get on the awards radar. “Volver” was her first Oscar nomination (she won two years later for her supporting role in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), and now she’s up for her first Emmy, Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actress for “Versace.”