Penelope Cruz is American Crime Story’s Donatella Versace


Oscar-winning actress Penelope Cruz will play fashion designer Donatella Versace in the upcoming third installment of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story.

It looks like Ryan Murphy has found his star for one of the (two!) upcoming installments of his Emmy-winning series American Crime Story. According to Entertainment Weekly, Penelope Cruz will play Donatella Versace in the third chapter of the true-crime anthology. The sister of murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace, and a notable fashion industry figure in her own right, Donatella will certainly be a central – if not lead – character on the show.

Based on the book Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth, the Versace chapter of American Crime Story will focus on the shocking 1997 murder of the iconic fashion designer by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez will play Gianni Versace, with Glee alum Darren Criss taking on the role of Cunanan. And that’s about all we know about the Versace series, possibly because production hasn’t started yet. All we can say for sure is that the second and third seasons of ACS will both air in 2018, and American Crime Story: Katrina will broadcast first.

The first season of FX’s American Crime Story was wildly successful. Not only was The People Versus O.J. Simpson 2016’s most-watched new cable show, it scored 22 Emmy nominations. It took home nine of them. These included Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Lead Actor (Courtney B. Vance), Lead Actress (Sarah Paulson) and Supporting Actor (Sterling K. Brown) Awards in the Limited Series or Movie category. The show was a critical darling. Everyone in the media industry fell over themselves to sing its praises.

Now, People vs. O.J. was also excellent television, and the praise well deserved. But, if you watched any of Murphy’s other properties, you know that one great season doesn’t guarantee a second. (Looking at you, American Horror Story.)  But given the success of the first ACS installment, it should come as no surprise that A-list actresses are suddenly coming out of nowhere to take roles on this series.

Now, to be fair, Cruz is a solid actress. She won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar after all. (She’s particularly great in All About My Mother, if you’ve never seen it.) But this series will be Cruz’s first television role. So you have to wonder whether her interest in the role has more to do with the (admittedly pretty sensational) material, or the fact that American Crime Story has already proven itself as an awards vehicle for people with far less starry resumes than her own. However, the small screen is really where it’s at right now, especially for actresses looking to score meaty parts. (See also: Big Little Lies, Feud.) So either way, her decision is an understandable one.

It’s especially interesting to consider that Lady Gaga was initially considered a lock for the Donatella role. (Or, at least, so said the media last fall.)  But, perhaps after the awards season success of People vs O.J., the powers that be decided this series doesn’t need pop culture stunt casting to boost its appeal.

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American Crime Story will return in 2018 – at some point – on FX.