Sir Ridley Scott’s new film House of Gucci tells the real life story of a turbulent marriage and shocking act of revenge: the murder of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) ordered by his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga).
It’s a piece of history that might not be familiar to film fans, but screenwriter Roberto Bentivegna – who is making his feature-writing debut – had clear memories of the incident even before he was approached to draft the script, having been a child in Milan when the incident occurred.
“I was very aware of it,” he tells RadioTimes.com in an exclusive interview to mark the film’s release. “Because I grew up in Milan, and my mother’s a fashion designer. And it was a story that was very well known in Italy – I actually remember seeing the news report when Maurizio was murdered, I think I was about 11 or 12 years old.
“The shot of Patrizia in black at the church, at her husband’s funeral, was very iconic in Italian media, and so I knew the story quite well.”
The film is not just concerned with the act of murder itself, but rather tells a sprawling story based on the two decades leading up to the act of revenge, beginning with the first meeting between Patrizia and Maurizio and focusing on the various rifts in the Gucci family that came to define their marriage.
As shown in the film, Patrizia – the daughter of a waitress and a truck driver – first met Maurizio at a party in the early ’70s, and they were eventually hitched in 1972, despite some strong opposition from Maurizio’s father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) – who was insistent that Patrizia was only in it to get her hands on the family’s fortune.
Following their marriage, the couple became something of a media sensation and were regularly seen at high-profile parties and events in Milan, before Maurizio was roped into leaving the city for New York, where he worked alongside his uncle Aldo (played in the film by Al Pacino).
Things began to take a turn for the disastrous following Rodolfo’s death in 1983, and Maurizio set about wrestling control of the company away from his uncle – eventually enlisting his cousin Paolo (Jared Leto) in a scheme to get Aldo arrested for tax evasion.
That was just the beginning of the family’s woes: unhappy with his marriage, Maurizio began an affair with interior designer Paola Franchi, while he was also forced to sell his Gucci shares after years of reckless spending. Naturally, Patrizia was unhappy about both of these misdemeanours, and her anger only increased when the couple officially divorced in 1994.
Maurizio was shot on the morning of 27th March 1995 – and the subsequent investigation initially only led to dead ends until details from an informant led the police to Patrizia two years after the case had gone cold.
Although Patrizia protested her innocence during the trial, the prosecution presented evidence that showed she had organised the killing along with four accomplices — Pina Auriemma, Benedetto Ceraulo, Orazio Cicala and Ivano Savioni — and she was eventually sentenced to 29 years in prison, although she served just 18 years and was released in 2016.
Patrizia is still alive today, and told The Guardian in 2016: “If I could see Maurizio again I would tell him that I love him, because he is the person who has mattered most to me in my life.” She added: “I think he’d say the feeling wasn’t mutual.”
Bentivegna’s script uses Sara Gay Forden’s non-fiction book
“My guiding principle was to tell it from Patrizia’s point of view as much as possible,” he explains. “And, you know, I was really interested in creating a great female antihero. Some of my favourite movies are Scarface, Sunset Boulevard and The Godfather, so I was like: is there a way to sort of combine the sensibilities from those three films?
“And with Sunset Boulevard, it was really kind of the idea of telling the story from Norma Desmond’s perspective rather than William Holden’s character. That movie is very interesting because narratively it’s so confusing in a sense. Like, it’s Norma Desmond’s movie, but it’s told through William Holden’s eyes, and so I kind of saw this as a chance to take a cue from that and then turn the point of view upside down, tell the story from the stalker rather than the stalked.”
Naturally, not everything that happened in real life – or indeed everything that Bentivegna wrote – made it into the finished film. He explains that he had initially written a prologue that gave the backstory of the Gucci empire in the years before the film opens, but despite positive feedback, this section had to be scrapped.
“It was almost like the Pixar film Up, where in five minutes you kind of go through 50 years,” he says. “And I wrote it, and I loved it and Ridley loved it. But logistically it was very difficult to pull off – even on a budget like this, you have to cut corners.
“And then, there was a couple of scenes here and there, like I had a yacht in the movie, I had this massive yacht which Maurizio and Patrizia had bought and refurbished – and I just got rid of it. I mean, it was just too complicated, so there’s a lot of little details that were changed.”
While some changes were made, however, Bentivegni insists that the film is largely true to the real story – with the process having been made considerably easier by the vast quantity of documents and sources already in the public eye.
“I think you capture the essence of the people and the events,” he explains. “Obviously if you stray too far away then you might as well rename the characters and call it something else.
“But also, it’s such a fine line. Because we’re not doing a documentary, we’re doing a creative representation of something that happened. And this is something that’s been done since the beginning of time – you know, theatre is almost always in some way inspired by real people and real events. And so it’s just a question of feeling like you’re doing the real people justice.
“And in this case, we were lucky, because a lot of the family secrets were exposed in newspaper articles, and obviously the book by Sara Gay Forden, and court transcripts. And so it didn’t feel like I was fishing for dirt. It was all very clear what they did to each other, it was all in the open.”