‘American Crime Story’ Fact Check: Did Andrew Cunanan’s Dad Really Lie About Selling His Movie Rights?

“American Crime Story” shows Modesto Cunanan selling out his son, but did it really go down that way?

Last Updated: March 21, 2018 @ 8:36 PM

(Note: This post contains spoilers for the finale episode of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”)

The last days of Andrew Cunanan on “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” find the killer hiding out in Miami as police hunt him, while he watches news coverage of himself on TV.

Cunanan (Darren Criss) sees a number of people from his life in the news coverage about him in the wake of his murder of Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez). That includes a plea for him to surrender, recorded by his longtime friend, Lizzie Cote (Annaleigh Ashford), that the real-life version of Cote actually recorded.

Another news interview that appears on “American Crime Story” also has a big impact on Cunanan in his final days. After calling his father, Modesto (Jon Jon Briones), Cunanan sees him on TV giving an interview to reporters. In the interview, Modesto tells the reporters that Cunanan put his father in charge of selling the rights to his life story to Hollywood — even though, on the show, Cunanan and Modesto never talked about that.

So did that interview ever happen, and Modesto really sell those rights?

It’s hard to be sure if Modesto appeared on TV in the days after Cunanan killed Versace. He did talk to at least someone at the Associated Press, according to reporter Maureen Orth, who wrote “Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History,” but it doesn’t seem likely that Modesto was selling interviews in the few days after Versace’s death, like he does on “American Crime Story.”

In Episode 8 of “American Crime Story,” Modesto leaves the U.S. after the authorities com after him for committing fraud as a stock broker. He really did flee to Manila, selling his family’s two homes and cars and leaving his family behind. Orth writes that Modesto first found out about Cunanan’s crimes from a Filipino politician. After that, he said he was ambushed by reporters, Orth writes.

Modesto did tell reporters that his son was not a homosexual, as is shown on “American Crime Story.” But the part about the movie rights seems to have come up after Cunanan killed himself as police closed in.

In “Vulgar Favors,” Orth writes that Modesto claimed he was in contact with Cunanan “to the end,” and that he really did say Cunanan wanted the book and movie about his life story to be called “A Name to Remember Me By.” That’s the title Modesto mentions on “American Crime Story.” Orth writes in her 1999 book that Modesto wanted $500,000 for the rights.

Modesto also said he started work on a documentary about his son’s life — although told from the perspective of his father — according to a 1997 report from the Los Angeles Times. But that report was published in September, not in July, when Cunanan died. So if Modesto and Cunanan really didn’t talk about the rights, as “American Crime Story” suggests, then Cunanan might never have known about his father’s plans.

As Orth puts it, Cunanan’s parents largely were not available to reporters in the aftermath of Versace’s death, which is why they started interviewing anyone they could find who was close to Cunanan — including people who apparently barely knew him. So it seems unlikely that, as seen on “American Crime Story,” Cunanan would have had the crushing experience of seeing his father sell him out on TV.