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It's fitting that Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” has a title card that reads “inspired by the true story.” The Gucci family themselves had long been careful mythmakers and shapers of the company’s image.
It was likely Aldo Gucci who began the story that the family was descended from noble saddlemakers to the medieval courts, when his father and company founder Guccio Gucci actually began his career working at the Savoy Hotel in London before opening a small shop in his native Florence, Italy.
The film focuses on the story of Maurizio Gucci and his wife, Patrizia, as her ambitions to be part of a world of extreme wealth and power lead her to orchestrate his 1995 murder. Played by Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, Patrizia and Maurizio are part of a constellation of characters in the movie, which also includes Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), his uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) and cousin Paolo (Jared Leto), among others.
The screenplay is credited to Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna, from a story by Johnston that adapted Sara Gay Forden’s 2000 book “House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed.” (Have many other films taken a book’s subtitle so strongly as a directive?)
The movie compresses and streamlines the story — Patrizia and Maurizio had two daughters, not just one; Aldo Gucci had three sons, not just Paolo; Maurizio was shot four times, not just three — with the book dedicating much more space to the business machinations and seemingly endless lawsuits the family members would file against one another.
Roberto Gucci, one of Aldo Gucci’s sons not depicted in the movie, went on to run a small leather goods business in Florence after selling his shares of the family company, and once said, "The Guccis were a great family. I ask forgiveness for all their mistakes. Who doesn't make mistakes?"
The film ends with a card that carefully acknowledges the company's current leadership, and also notes that it currently has an estimated value of $60 billion — far beyond the scale of the company during the time depicted in the story. Yet “House of Gucci” can only strive to capture the larger-than-life aspects of the Gucci family and those in their circle.
Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga)
When Patrizia and Maurizio were together, the Italian press dubbed her “the Joan Collins of Monte Napoleone,” referring to an upscale shopping street in Milan. During the trial, she would become “The Black Widow.” (She would also sometimes be referred to in the press as “Lady Gucci,” a prescient irony for the woman who would later be portrayed on screen by Lady Gaga.) Sentenced to 29 years in prison for orchestrating her ex-husband’s murder, she was released in 2016 after serving 18 years. She could have been released even earlier, but she turned down a work-release program, reportedly saying, “I never worked a day in my life, and I don’t intend to start now.”
In the years since her release, Reggiani seemingly can’t help but find her way back into the spotlight. Asked by paparazzi in the street why she hired a gunman to kill Maurizio rather than do it herself, she said, “My eyesight is not so good, I didn’t want to miss.” According to the new afterword in the movie tie-in edition of Forden’s book, in November 2020, Reggiani prevailed in a case before Italy’s Supreme Court in which her two daughters were attempting to block her continuing to receive a substantial annuity from the Gucci estate. In 2014, she said, “I still feel like a Gucci — in fact, the most Gucci of them all.” She also recently expressed dismay to the Italian press over the fact that Lady Gaga had not reached out to speak to her prior to filming.
Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver)
Maurizio Gucci would go from reluctantly joining his family firm to ruthlessly ousting his relatives to enact the vision he was convinced would save the company. His lavish spending and lackluster management left the company in a precipitous position when he finally relinquished control.
In Forden’s book, as Maurizio rises in the company, his own father, Rodolfo, tells Patrizia, “Once he gets money and power, he will change.” Those words would prove prophetic, as Maurizio would ultimately maneuver his own family members from the company. He and Patrizia split in 1985, when he supposedly packed a bag and had a friend tell her the next day that he wasn’t coming back.
In 1993, after Maurizio sold his 50% interest in Gucci to the same investment firm he had brought in to buy up his relatives’ shares, there would no longer be anyone from the Gucci family involved in running Gucci. He was murdered on the steps of his office building in Milan on March 27, 1995.
Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino)
The oldest son of company founder Guccio Gucci, it was Aldo Gucci who oversaw the brand's rise to international heights, becoming a status symbol of wealth and luxury. Aldo wove a complex web of companies, subsidiaries and franchises to license out the Gucci name for other products besides its signature leather goods, creating a vast engine for profits. With the authorities tipped off by his own son Paolo, Aldo was sentenced to one year and one day for tax evasion in an American prison in 1986 at the age of 81. In 1989, he sold his shares in Gucci and died one year later.
Paolo Gucci (Jared Leto)
Long wanting to be a designer himself, Paolo endlessly fought to use his own name on products, attempting to leverage the Gucci branding for his own ends.
His father, Aldo, had given 10% of his 50% stake in the company to his three sons, allocating 3.3% to each of them. When Paolo aligned his interest with Maurizio’s 50%, he tipped the scales to begin the process that ultimately led to the family no longer owning the company. He filed for bankruptcy in 1993 and died in London in 1995.
Speaking on Leto’s depiction of her father, Paolo’s daughter Patrizia Gucci was quoted as saying, “Horrible, horrible. I still feel offended.”
Rodolfo Gucci (Jeremy Irons)
The youngest son of Guccio Gucci, Rodolfo Gucci was initially a film actor before joining the family business after WWII. His wife, actress Alessandra Winkelhausen Gucci, died at age 44 in 1954 when their son Maurizio was only 5 years old. Rodolfo never remarried and doted on Maurizio throughout the rest of his childhood. (Maurizio was named after Rodolfo’s screen name, Maurizio D’Ancora.) Toward the end of his life, as he battled cancer, Rodolfo would premiere “Il Cinema Nella Mia Vita,” or “The Film of My Life,” in part a documentary about his own life and in part a plea to Maurizio to safeguard the family legacy.
Maurizio was acquitted of tax evasion after he was charged with forging his father’s signature on the stock certificates that transferred Rodolfo’s shares of Gucci to him following Rodolfo’s death in 1983. While the movie only implies that Patrizia forged the signatures, a longtime assistant to Rodolfo testified that she in fact committed the act.
Paola Franchi (Camille Cottin)
Tall, thin, blond and comfortable in the world of the wealthy — seemingly the opposite in every way of Patrizia — Paola Franchi was Maurizio’s girlfriend during the last years of his life and was living with him at his vast palazzo on Milan’s luxurious Corso Venezia at the time of his death. (Her son, Charly, who was also living there, is not included in the film.) Maurizio and Paola had known each other briefly as teenagers, meeting on the beaches of Santa Margherita, and began their relationship after reuniting in 1990 at a nightclub in St. Moritz. Patrizia had Paola thrown out the day after Maurizio was murdered, filing papers with the court mere hours after the shooting. A 2016 article in The Guardian reported that Franchi split her time between Milan and Kenya.
Pina Auriemma (Salma Hayek)
In the movie, Patrizia calls psychic Pina Auriemma one night after seeing her on television. According to Forden’s book, the two actually met at a health spa in Ischia when Patrizia was there with Maurizio, and the two women became fast friends. Having been convicted for her role in securing the assassins who would kill Maurizio, Auriemma was sentenced to 25 years in prison. She was released in 2010.
Hayek, who plays Auriemma in “House of Gucci,” is married to François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, the luxury group that currently owns Gucci. According to a recent story in the Hollywood Reporter, it was Pinault who gave the production permission to use the Gucci name and access to the company’s archives.
Tom Ford (Reeve Carney)
Tom Ford first came to Gucci in 1990, when the American-born designer moved to Milan. He was promoted to creative director in 1994. Ford’s designs launched the hyper-luxe, oversexed style that revived the Gucci brand and turned it into an international powerhouse far beyond what it had ever been before. He left the label in 2004 and since then has launched his own Tom Ford line and is currently chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Among his many endeavors since leaving Gucci, Ford directed the Academy Award-nominated feature films “A Single Man” and “Nocturnal Animals.” In a recent interview with GQ, he spoke about the “House of Gucci” movie project.
“I read the screenplay before it was made, and, you know, for somebody who lived it, you have to realize that things are glamorized in film, because when I read some of the descriptions of things that were happening and the characters, and what they were wearing, what they were doing — I mean, I was there, and they weren’t quite so glamorous. I would be doing the same thing if I were making that movie. I would bump up the glamour level a bit.”
Domenico De Sole (Jack Huston)
If the Gucci family era of ownership of the Gucci business might be seen as a “Game of Thrones”/”Succession”-style battle, the Italian-born, Harvard-educated attorney Domenico De Sole could be seen as the winner. Hired by Rodolfo Gucci after De Sole stood up to Aldo Gucci in a meeting, De Sole would rise to be CEO of Gucci America in 1984 and become CEO of Gucci Group from 1994 to 2004.
De Sole is largely credited with being the business mastermind behind the runaway success of the Tom Ford years once Maurizio Gucci had sold his interest in the company. Having since served on the boards of numerous other companies, De Sole currently lives in South Carolina.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.