The Haus of Gaga has officially collided with the House of Gucci: Lady Gaga ignited our giddiness for her upcoming crime biopic by posting a photo of herself on set apres-ski with co-star Adam Driver in the snow-covered alps on Instagram last week.
The Oscar-winner will play Italian socialite and former Gucci chief adviser Patrizia Reggiani, who was sentenced to 29 years in prison for plotting the assassination of her former husband, heir to the Gucci fashion empire Mauricio Gucci, in 1995.
Ridley Scott’s film is adapted from Sara G Forden’s widely acclaimed non-fiction book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed (2001), which examines the ascent, collapse and resurrection of the Gucci dynasty following Maurizio Gucci’s murder. It went behind the scenes of the trial to explore Reggiani’s motives for the execution-style murder, and whether she was in fact guilty.
The trial exploded like a real-life soap opera, captivating the country with scandalous tales of infidelity, extraordinary wealth, vengeance, designer footwear and a certified psychic-turned-accomplice. Reggiani was maligned by an arguably misogynistic press who dubbed her ‘Vedova Nera’, the Black Widow, and painted her as a bitter, greedy, scorned woman who acted out of revenge and spite.
It is not yet known how much of Forden’s book will feature in the film but from recent photos taken on set it looks as though it will focus on the couple’s relationship in the lead up to Gucci’s murder. Here’s what we know about Gucci and Patrizia, Gucci’s assassination and the subsequent trial below.
Who was Maurizio Gucci?
Maurizio Gucci was born in Florence in 1948 to Italian actors Sandra Ravel and Rodolfo Gucci, who was the son of legendary fashion designer Guccio Gucci. He married Reggiani in 1973, but things began to unravel a decade later. As an only child, Maurizio inherited his father’s majority ownership of the business when he died in 1983, and launched an ugly legal battle against his uncle Aldo Gucci for full control of the empire. (This was a prosecution led by then-city prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani, now better known as Trump’s controversial personal attorney.)
Gucci spent his own money and the company’s income with such reckless abandon that after repeated losses he was forced to sell his shares to a Bahrain-based investment group, Investcorp, for $120m in 1993.
At the time of his murder, he was living with Paola Franchi, an interior designer he had begun a relationship with while still married, having walked out on his family – including daughters Allegra and Alessandra – 10 years earlier in 1985. He was also attempting to rebuild his reputation as a businessman by investing in a casino in Switzerland.
What happened on the day of Maurizio Gucci’s murder?
On the day of the crime – described as a pleasant spring morning on March 27th, 1995 – Gucci was walking up the steps to his office building of Via Palestro 20 in Milan. The only eye witness, the building’s doorman Giuseppe Onorato, recently recalled to The Guardian: “Mr Gucci arrived carrying some magazines and said good morning. Then I saw a hand. It was a beautiful, clean hand, and it was pointing a gun.”
Gucci was shot three times in the back, and once in the head before he collapsed and died on the steps of his office. Onorato was shot twice in the arm and survived (he’s still owed unpaid compensation from Raggiani).
Raggiani was an immediate suspect as she had publicly broadcast her desire to murder Gucci after their acrimonious split, but without evidence, the case went cold for two years. A tip off led to her arrest in 1997, and the trial began the following year.
Who was Patrizia Reggiani?
Patrizia Reggiani, who was described as the “Liz Taylor of luxury labels” in the 1970s and ’80s, was born in 1948 in a small town outside Milan to a waitress mother and a much older father who made his fortune in trucking.
While the family were not part of Milan high society, they were extremely wealthy. Reggiani met Gucci at a party after networking her way into the upper echelons of Milan’s social circuit, and the couple married in 1973. Reggiani became chief adviser for Gucci, and went on to have two daughters, Alessandra and Allegra.
After 12 years of marriage in 1985, Gucci told Reggiani he was going away on a business trip but he never returned home. He had been living with girlfriend Paola Franchi for five years before he was killed.
When Gucci was forced to sell the business in ’93 after the empire lost millions under his control, Reggiani was furious at him for selling out.
“I was angry with Maurizio about many, many things at that time,” Reggiani told The Guardian in 2016. “But above all, this. Losing the family business. It was stupid. It was a failure. I was filled with rage, but there was nothing I could do. He shouldn’t have done that to me.”
As the sensationalised trial unfolded in 1998, it emerged that Reggiani had hired four accomplices to carry out Gucci’s murder – her former friend and psychic Pina Auriemma, who confessed to arranging the hitman; a friend of Auriemma’s who set up the hitman; the hitman; and the getaway driver.
One striking piece of evidence that was discovered at Reggiani’s home was her Cartier diary, which had a one-word entry for the day of Gucci’s murder: “Paradeisos” – the Greek word for paradise.
Reggiani was convicted of ordering his murder and sentenced to 29 years in prison. Her daughters (Alessandra, then aged 21, and Allegra, 17) had argued that her conviction be overturned, claiming her benign brain tumour had altered her behaviour and personality.
Reggiani maintained her innocence throughout, arguing that Auriemma had acted on her own and then blackmailed her. She said in a cross-examination that she was forced to pay Auriemma $365,000 (about £262,000), before adding the puzzling statement: ”It was worth every penny (via The New York Times).”
The hitman who shot Gucci was given a life sentence. Reggiani’s personal astrologer Auriemma, who first contacted the killers, was given 25 years.
Where is Patrizia Reggiani now?
In 2014, Reggiani began a work release program after serving 16 years in prison, which required her getting a job and carrying out volunteer work. Reggiani was hired as a design consultant by Milanese costume jewellery firm Bozart.
Around the same time, Reggiani was badgered by a TV crew of an Italian reality show who asked: “Patrizia, why did you hire a hitman to kill Maurizio Gucci? Why didn’t you shoot him yourself?”
“My eyesight is not so good,” she deadpanned. “I didn’t want to miss.”
That year she also told La Repubblica newspaper that, now she was available again, she hoped to return to the company fold. “They need me,” she said. “I still feel like a Gucci – in fact, the most Gucci of them all.”
House of Gucci is planned for release on November 25th in the US.
From Harper’s Bazaar UK