A feuding fashion dynasty, a shocking murder and… Lady Gaga and Adam Driver in some incredible Eighties knitwear. House of Gucci, the upcoming film from director Ridley Scott, is already one of the most talked-about movies of the year. Based on a book by journalist Sara Gay Forden, it tells the shocking true story of Patrizia Reggiani, the glamorous socialite who was charged with arranging the murder of her husband Maurizio Gucci in 1997.
The hype is in no small part thanks to a series of internet-breaking images showing Gaga as Reggiani and Driver as Gucci in costume. The looks wouldn’t be out of place in one of current Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele’s catwalk shows. Indeed, the brand’s chief executive Marco Bizzarri is on board, opening up Gucci’s archives.
Gaga has embarked on an Italian tour, filming in Milan and Rome. Following her Oscar-nominated turn in A Star Is Born, Gaga (AKA Stefani ‘I’m just an Italian girl from New York’ Germanotta) feels like an obvious choice for the lead role. The real Reggiani, however, is less than thrilled with the casting because the star hasn’t reached out to her. “It is not an economic question,” she said. “I won’t get a cent from the film. It is a question of good sense and respect.”
The rest of the cast is no less impressive. Al Pacino will play Maurizio’s uncle Aldo Gucci while IRL Gucci muse Jared Leto has been cast as his son Paolo. He has donned ageing prosthetics and a bald cap for the role (he previously put on 60 pounds to play John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman, and gave himself gout in the process, so a dodgy wig is all in a day’s work).
But what is the story they are telling? Forden’s House of Gucci book is subtitled ‘a sensational story of murder, madness, glamour and greed’, and if anything, that’s a pretty understated overview of a case that captivated the world’s media in the mid-Nineties. Reggiani, the daughter of a waitress and a truck driver, met Maurizio, the grandson of fashion house founder Guccio Gucci, at a party in the early Seventies. He was captivated by her resemblance to Elizabeth Taylor and the couple went on to marry in 1972, to the chagrin of Maurizio’s father Rodolfo. He tried to rope the Cardinal of Milan into calling off the wedding, believing his new daughter-in-law was after money.
The couple, who emblazoned their portmanteau name ‘Mauizia’ onto their number plates and had two daughters, became mainstays of the Milanese social scene. The Italian press christened Reggiani, now chief advisor for the brand, as ‘Lady Gucci’ in a nod to her extravagant lifestyle, jet-setting between properties in St Moritz, Manhattan and Acapulco, and reportedly dropping around £8,000 per month on orchids. “I’d rather cry in a Rolls Royce than be happy on a bicycle,” she said.
When Rodolfo died in 1983, Maurizio inherited a 50 per cent stake in the fashion house and attempted to oust his uncle Aldo (played by Al Pacino). The family ended up embroiled in a bitter legal row that took them to the New York Supreme Court (Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer and the inadvertent star of Borat 2, was prosecutor).
Maurizio eventually gained control of the empire — but things soon went south. In 1985, he told his wife he was heading to Florence for business but he never returned to the family home, starting a new life with interior designer Paola Franchi (played by Camille Cottin). After years of reckless spending, he was forced to sell his Gucci shares to Bahrain-based investment company Investcorp in 1993. Strangely, his lack of business nous seemed to offend his estranged wife more than his infidelity.
Then, on the morning of March 27, 1995, Maurizio was shot dead outside his Milan office by a gunman who immediately fled the scene. Various lines of investigation failed and the case went cold for two years — until an informant told Italian police he’d overheard a night porter boast about recruiting the killer. This led the police back to Reggiani, who was arrested and charged with arranging her husband’s murder.
The trial made headlines around the world. Reggiani, dubbed the Black Widow, turned up to court each day wearing head-to-toe Gucci and protested her innocence. The prosecution claimed, however, that she had worked with four accomplices — her confidante and personal astrologer Pina Auriemma, gunman Benedetto Ceraulo, getaway driver Orazio Cicala and porter Ivano Savioni — to organise the killing, fearful that her daughters would lose their inheritance if Maurizio married again.
One piece of evidence was Lady Gucci’s Cartier diary, in which she’d written ‘Paradeisos’, the Greek word for paradise, on the date of her former husband’s murder. Reggiani was sentenced to 29 years in prison (she served just 18 years in Milan’s San Vittore prison, referring to her stint as her “stay at Vittore Residence”). In 2017, one year after her release, she was awarded a £900,000 annuity from Maurizio’s estate.
Reggiani’s saga looks set to run on ahead of the film’s release in November, with the now 72-year-old continuing to dish out quotes. “I didn’t hate Maurizio,” she said this week. “He irritated me.” The plot twists are as jaw-dropping as the outfits — move over, Bond, this is surely the biggest cinematic event of 2021.
House of Gucci will be released in cinemas on November 26