Pick a famous Italian brand—Ferrari, Fiat, Versace—and there's an unbelievable story behind it. But few are as wild as what has transpired within the Gucci family, even before an heir to the luxury fashion house's fortune was gunned down in 1995, a murder borne of spite, jealousy and greed.
All vices that never seem to go out of style.
Out in time for Thanksgiving (and you thought your relatives had issues) after spending years in development, and coinciding with the legendary brand's centennial, Ridley Scott has directed an all-star cast that includes Lady Gaga, Adam Driver and Jared Leto in House of Gucci, which focuses on what caused Patrizia Reggiani to want her ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci, dead.
"The Gucci story in many ways seemed much more outrageous than anything I could make up," Sara Gay Forden, whose 2000 book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed provided the basis for Roberto Bentivegna's screenplay, told the New York Post when her work came out. "Fact here is more incredible than fiction. I think the Gucci family is just content to lay low for a while."
The name Gucci, however, has never been far from the public consciousness.
As early as 2000, Martin Scorsese was planning to make a film inspired by the 1987 book Gucci: A House Divided by British journalist Gerald McKnight, a story still dripping with drama due to the company's fascinating origin story, the glamorous backdrop of the high-fashion world and the seemingly nonstop parade of power grabs and corporate intrigue that punctuated the decades following the death of family patriarch Guccio Gucci.
Then Forden's book came out, the plot thickened and, while Scorsese's movie didn't come to pass, Scott announced his own project in 2007, then with Angelina Jolie in talks to play Reggiani, who spent 17 years in prison for commissioning Maurizio's murder.
The family wasn't happy about the idea of a movie being made about this twisted, tragic episode in their storied history. "Enough mud. We have been through horrible things and paid plenty in person," Maurizio's cousin Patrizia Gucci told Corriere della Sera in 2007, calling her family "surprised and disconcerted." She promised they would try to block the movie's release if they found it "offensive."
Patrizia said that she felt betrayed by Scott's partner (now wife) Giannina Facio, who had visited the family in Florence and supposedly presented them with a very different-sounding project.
Giannina "was our guest, and for three days stayed in our home," Patrizia told the Italian publication. "She proposed the project, briefly sketched the screenplay, and even raised the possibility that the character of my father Paolo, who died in the same year as Maurizio, could be played by a great actor, probably Nicolas Cage. I was happy. I thought, finally justice will be done to an important family which has contributed so much to the image of Italy abroad. We parted with great affection."
Patrizia Gucci's opinion of the matter hasn't changed with the seasons, the relative telling the Associated Press, "They are stealing the identity of a family to make a profit, to increase the income of the Hollywood system...Our family has an identity, privacy. We can talk about everything, but there is a borderline that cannot be crossed."
Also expressing more recent dissatisfaction about the Scott film was Patrizia Reggiani, whom Italian media dubbed "the Black Widow" in the aftermath of Maurizio's murder.
"I have two daughters, and I don't like that they relive their father's situation," she said in November 2020 on the TV show Serie Italiane.
In March she told the wire service ANSA, "I am rather annoyed at the fact that Lady Gaga is playing me in the new Ridley Scott film without having had the consideration and sensibility to come and meet me."
"It is not an economic question," she explained, adding, "I won't get a cent from the film." Rather, "it is a question of good sense and respect."
At least Reggiani can rest assured that Gaga, who was nominated for an Oscar for her seriously great performance in A Star Is Born, gave it everything she's got, immersing herself so completely she ultimately suffered "some psychological difficulty" toward the end of the shoot.
"I only felt that I could truly do this story justice if I approached it with the eye of a curious woman who was interested in possessing a journalistic spirit so that I could read between the lines of what was happening in the film's scenes," the singer-actress told British Vogue, explaining why she didn't reach out to the woman she was playing. "Meaning that nobody was going to tell me who Patrizia Gucci was. Not even Patrizia Gucci."
As for the Gucci family, Gaga said, "I extend to them love and compassion that I'm sure this movie coming out is tremendously difficult or painful for them, potentially. And I wish nothing but peace for their hearts. I did my very best to play the truth."
And she's joined by a hell of a cast that, in turn, was tasked with bringing a hell of a story to life. Here's a guide to the actors and the real people—all characters in their own right—they're playing in House of Gucci:
It almost feels as if the story of the Gucci family was writing itself, just waiting to be brought to the big screen. Even without a murder, the backstabbing alone told quite the tale.
House of Gucci is in theaters Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021.
(Originally published April 11, 2021 at 6 a.m. PT)