How ‘American Crime Story’ Recreated Miami Beach In The ’90s

Jeff Daly/FX

The Assassination Of Gianni Versace (writer: Maureen Orth) is just as steeped in the specificity of its setting as The People v. O.J. Simpson before it, trading in the drab courtrooms of '90s Los Angeles for the sun-soaked villas of '90s Miami Beach. But was American Crime Story: Versace really filmed in Miami? Or is Los Angeles simply serving as a stand-in as it so often does in television shows? If you're not a local, it can be admittedly difficult to tell the two beachside locales apart. But it should probably come as no surprise that Ryan Murphy remains as devoted as possible to authenticity when it comes to his anthology series.

For a show based on a meticulously researched work like Vanity Fair journalist Maureen Orth's 1999 non-fiction book Vulgar Favors, Murphy has striven to put as much truth as possible onto the screen, in terms of both the show's fashion (employing a mix of vintage Versace and pieces inspired by the designer's work, per Vulture) and its setting. Murphy himself is a former Miami Herald intern and even though his previous series Nip/Tuck subbed in L.A. for the real thing, it makes sense that he would return to his roots to bring the actual Miami to vivid life on the small screen.

Not only did Versace (executive producer: Alexis Martin Woodall) film in Miami, but Murphy was sure to use the actual locations where crucial events took place, wherever possible. In the online newsletter RE:MiamiBeach, in a post detailing road closures around ACS filming, it's confirmed that the production shot scenes at both Casa Casuarina and News Café. The former is the actual mansion owned by Gianni Versace, where he was gunned down on the front steps by Andrew Cunanan; it has since been converted into a high-end hotel. The latter location is the eatery down the street from Casa Casuarina where Versace would often go to fetch his morning newspaper, per The Miami New Times; he was returning from News Café on the morning of July 15, 1997, when he was murdered.

Even shooting in the actual locations required some work, given that they had to be transformed back a couple of decades into their pre-millennial selves. According to RE:MiamiBeach, that process included the removal of anachronistic signs and the relocation of valet services.

"The City is thrilled to have this quality production film here, in keeping with the Commission and Administration's desires to remain film-friendly and competitive towards attracting more production work," Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales said in a press release published by the newsletter. "Despite this portraying a dark episode in the City's history, the primary focus of the series is on the hard-working Miami Beach and Miami-Dade Police Departments, which were able to quickly solve the crime, find and stop the perpetrator before any other crimes were committed, all amid international coverage."

Jeff Daly/FX

However, Murphy did have to use some movie magic in crafting Versace. According to the Miami Herald, the Ocean Surf Hotel had to stand in for the Normandy Plaza, the hotel where Cunanan was traced back to by police after assassinating the famous fashion designer. The art deco building was outfitted with a new pink "Normandy Plaza" sign, and nobody was any the wiser. And, after two weeks of location shooting in Miami Beach, the production did have to return to Los Angeles to complete interior scenes in a studio setting, "due to the lack of state incentives in Florida, which California is providing," City Manager Morales said in his press release.

Still, the fact that ACS Season 2 shot in the actual house where Versace lived — and filmed his death scene on the very steps where he lost his life — should send a chill of authenticity down the spine of any viewer.