Gina Gershon smoked too much while playing Donatella Versace

Gina Gershon portrays fashion diva Donatella Versace in "House of Versace." Credit: Getty Images
Gina Gershon portrays fashion diva Donatella Versace in “House of Versace.”
Credit: Getty Images

No one will ever call Gina Gershon not fearless. In the ‘90s, she threw herself at “Showgirls,” then followed that up with the lesbian neo-noir “Bound.” Last year she performed an unprintable NC-17 act on a chicken wing in “Killer Joe.”

Playing Donatella Versace in the Lifetime movie “House of Versace” — which premieres this weekend — isn’t on par with any of those. But she dives into the part with appropriate relish, nailing the fashion icon’s walk and outsized charisma.

Some people say you were doing a Donatella Versace impersonation when you were Fabia, the porn star, on “Ugly Betty.”
Everyone assumes she was Donatella, but if you look closely you realize she has nothing to do with her. This is the first time I’ve ever played her.

What was it like playing her seriously, then?
She’s a remarkable woman. I think we all are familiar with her larger-than-life personality and her extravagance and her parties. But when I read the book and learned about her redemption story, I thought she was pretty fascinating. I would have wanted to play this character whether it was Donatella or not.

You’ve never met her. How did you prepare?
Luckily there’s a lot of video on her, and documentaries where she’s getting ready to do a show. There’s this one French documentary that I watched obsessively. Any interviews I could read or anything online — anything where I could watch and see her talk and walk. It’s all about finding her walk and the way she wears clothes — super high heels, tight skirts, long hair and cigarettes. She has a lot of physicality going on. Her physicality is quite different from mine.

How was doing her accent?
She has a very specific accent. It’s very deep and it’s very slurry. She has that lazy southern Italian accent. I had to clean it up a little bit for television. Weirdly enough, they want you to be understood on television. But if you’re really doing the accent, it should be in subtitles, because half the time you can’t understand what she’s saying.

What’s different about doing a TV movie versus a theatrical film?
Time and money. If you’re making a real movie, you have a lot more time and you usually have a lot more money. Although these days, who knows? A TV movie, especially Lifetime, makes them quickly. I found out about it and the next thing I knew we were shooting and next thing I knew it was coming out. To do Donatella’s life properly, you need a miniseires. There’s too much material there. You wind up doing one intense scene after another. In a movie you do two or three scenes, if you’re lucky, in a day. On a TV set you’re doing seven of those scenes a day. It was intense.

How were the dresses?
Tight! [Laughs] It was right before summer. I had to do my little Donatella diet. I needed to lose a couple pounds anyway. I had to lose 10 or 11 pounds. It was perfect — right in time for bikini season, so I thank her for that. I was a little mad she smokes as much as she does, because that kind of killed me after awhile.

You weren’t smoking real cigarettes, were you?
I was. The fake ones hurt my chest more than the real ones do. There’s something in them that my system doesn’t agree with. So I just smoked. It’s not like I can’t smoke. I’m one of those annoying smokers who smokes if I’m drinking. But if you’re playing someone who’s smoking, you end up smoking a couple packs a day. That wasn’t the most pleasant thing. I respect her and like her, but I hope she stops smoking as much as she does.

Raquel Welch is in this, too. When she was younger she was notorious for being difficult on sets.
I love Raquel. She was the best. And you know what, she knows her lighting. She knows all that stuff. She comes to set and she’s ready to go. She’s a real professional. I dig her. I couldn’t have been happier that she was there.

We have to ask a “Showgirls” question. What do you think of it now?
There are people who think it’s the best movie ever made. Great. I’m glad they like it. [Laughs] I can’t tell how many people go up to me and say, “Oh my god, I love this movie so much!” [Paul] Verhoeven’s a really good filmmaker. That movie, I think, was overshadowed by the NC-17. That movie should have been an R. Then it wouldn’t have gotten as much crazy press. Whatever. I didn’t direct it. I was in it.

It’s strange, the cult that’s grown around it. Some people, like legendary French filmmaker Jacques Rivette, think it’s a genuine masterpiece. But then there’s this camp side, with box sets that have tassels and shot glasses.
Listen, the only thing that pisses me off about that movie is they never sent me a game. [Laughs] I don’t know where my loyalties are. That’s where I get annoyed. How come never sent me the Cristal Connors game? My only bitterness about that is I never got a doll.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Movies

Review: Sadly, Matthew Weiner's 'Are You Here' is…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner tries his hand at movies with "Are You Here," a misjudged Owen Wilson-Zach Galifianakis comedy that turns into a drama.

Movies

Review: 'Love is Strange' is not only a…

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina tie the knot in "Love is Strange," but the film winds up being more about living with people than an activist picture.

Movies

Frank Miller on writing 'Sin City'

Frank Miller's comics career is a long and storied one, with "Sin City" being one of his most individual creations. Here, in his own words,…

Movies

Interview: Jessica Alba is a stripper again in…

Jessica Alba has gotten used to vague phone calls from director Robert Rodriguez, the Austin-based auteur who has made a habit of putting Alba into…

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

Wellbeing

What eye symptoms need emergency attention?

Many people experience temporary eye-related problems such as pink eye (conjunctivitis) from a cold virus or a scratched cornea resulting from an object coming into…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to longterm happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. A new…

Parenting

Fun family activity: Off-Broadway show for pre-teens

"The Love Note" is an off-Broadway musical your pre-teen won't roll his or her eyes at.

Parenting

Barnes & Noble partners with Samsung to release…

Barnes & Noble releases the first full android tablet optimized for reading.