Among designers, Donatella Versace’s story is one of the more dramatic ones. Here is a woman who has dealt with family tragedy, betrayal, addiction, and disapproving male authorities, and seems to have come out fabulously on top. You might say her tale has the makings of a Lifetime movie.
Which is exactly what it is now. Last night, the likes of Helena Christensen and Michael Stipe headed to the Museum of Modern Art, where the network screened its new biopic, House of Versace, with the Cinema Society. Like the book on which it’s based—Deborah Ball’s attention-getting 2010 exposé —the telefilm is unauthorized by its subject. The house of Versace didn’t participate in the Lifetime movie and dismissed it in a recent statement as “a work of fiction.”
That said, star Gina Gershon has the designer’s self-presentation down pat: the mannerisms, the sense of humor, the distinctively indistinct approach to English. Gershon smoked “one or two packs a day” to prepare for the role, she explained before last night’s screening, and walked around in higher heels than usual to perfect the gait. To keep her face resembling Versace’s as the years passed, Gershon added, “I tried a little bit of cotton, a little bit of gum. It kept falling out. I ended up using Scotch tape.” Hey, it’s a TV movie.
Director Sara Sugarman attended the same arts school as a child as Naomi Campbell, and considered reaching out. “I wanted to, but they thought it was a bad idea,” she explained. “I think they thought our budget was stretched enough without getting Naomi Campbell to be in one scene.”
House of Versace airs on Lifetime on Saturday, October 5, at 8 p.m.