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Cunanan's Father Plans Documentary on Son's Life

Movies: He wants to 'sleuth around' facts about the man accused of killing fashion designer Gianni Versace.

September 19, 1997|ROBERT W. WELKOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The father of suspected cross-country killer Andrew Cunanan came to Los Angeles this week to begin making a documentary about his son's alleged one-man crime rampage, which authorities believe included the slaying of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace and triggered one of the biggest manhunts in U.S. history.

Accompanied by a filmmaker from the Philippines, Modesto "Pete" Cunanan said the film will allow him to "sleuth around" into the facts of the bizarre case by interviewing some of his son's close friends and acquaintances.

At the same time, the father said he plans to go to court in Los Angeles in the next few days seeking to be named executor of his son's estate. Any money he makes from the film, Cunanan added, will go toward building "a church, a chapel or a temple" in memory of the boy he knew as a witty and intelligent human being.

A follower of Elizabeth Clare Prophet, who heads the Montana-based Church Universal and Triumphant, the elder Cunanan said he wants to be named executor of his son's estate because "if any money comes out of it, it's sacred money."

Modesto Cunanan said he has turned down lucrative offers from two Filipino film studios for the rights to his story.

"I knew what those guys would do," he said. "The FBI would be the heroes and Andrew would be on the run like Dillinger."

Instead, he turned to an independent filmmaker, Amable "Tikoy" Aguiluz VI, to put the story of his son's life and death on the screen.

Aguiluz, a veteran filmmaker in the Philippines, said he has begun making the documentary while he also develops a screenplay for a feature film based on the case.

"We've written a script and put some money up for over-the-line financing," Aguiluz said. "Basically, I'm telling [the story] from the father's point of view--a father who knew Andrew until he was 19--and his discovery of his son all over again. I want him to meet the people Andrew met and find out what really happened."

Aguiluz recently returned to Los Angeles from the Toronto Film Festival and is attempting to sell distribution rights for a film based on Andrew Cunanan. But the producer conceded that it has been a difficult task because of other Cunanan film projects. Already, filming has started in Florida on the independent film "The Versace Murder," written and directed by Menahem Golan and starring Italian actor Franco Nero as Versace. ABC is also developing a TV movie about Cunanan and Versace.

Modesto Cunanan was living in Bulacan, about 25 miles north of Manila, when he learned that his son was a prime suspect in a string of murders. The one-time U.S. Navy chief petty officer, later a stockbroker, said he faced an onslaught of media in the Philippines after the Versace slaying.

The father said he wants his story out and that that means correcting stories that appeared in the media about his son.

Speaking at a West Hollywood hotel, Modesto Cunanan left no doubt that he believes his 27-year-old son, who authorities say killed himself with a gunshot to the head July 23, was the victim of a dark conspiracy whose motives are yet to be detailed.

"This was a deep cover-up," the father said. "Hopefully, we'll come up with some plausible explanations when we run the movie."

He contends that the media, fueled by leaks from "renegade" FBI agents, poisoned Americans' minds about his son, portraying Andrew Cunanan as "a maniac, a spree killer" when the facts of the case do not always add up.

Despite media accounts from acquaintances, the father denied that his son was gay or that he had a flaring temper.

"Andrew was gay by association," he said. "When he left his mom, he had no place to go. His old friends turned him down. But he knew some of the guys out there. How he exactly knew them, I don't know. Probably from the store. He was working part time at a drug store. . . . They welcomed him with no questions asked."

Andrew Cunanan was a prime suspect in five murders. In one of those cases, his fingerprint was discovered at the scene of a real estate developer's slaying, and a truck belonging to another murder victim was discovered near the Miami Beach site where Versace was killed.

"The American people are being misled," Cunanan said. "They swallowed everything hook, line and sinker because it came from the FBI."

Cunanan does not deny that his son shot Versace, and he would only hint at who might want Versace and his son dead. Pointing at Aguiluz, he said: "If I tell you much more, he will not have a film."

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