The True Story Behind 'House of Gucci'

·5-min read
Photo credit: House of Gucci
Photo credit: House of Gucci

From the moment that Twitter saw the first image of Adam Driver wearing a cream knitted roll-neck and white ski suit, standing alongside a gold-encrusted Lady Gaga in a snowy Italian valley, House of Gucci has felt like A Very Large Thing.

Ridley Scott’s film will follow three decadent decades in the lives and deaths of the Gucci family, taking its story from The 'House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed' by Sara G Forden.

It’d be entirely understandable if you were to assume that, based on just the title of the source material, House of Gucci would be a little creative with the reality of what happened. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski has said it’s less an utterly faithful docu-drama than a “kitschy, funny, tragic tragedy, like a high-end soap opera”. So what really went on between the Guccis?

Photo credit: MIGUEL MEDINA - Getty Images
Photo credit: MIGUEL MEDINA - Getty Images

Who’s who in the House of Gucci?

There are a lot of big, big characters and big, big accents to get to know in the Gucci-verse. But right at the centre are Maurizio Gucci and his wife Patrizia Reggiani. Adam Driver is playing Maurizio, the Florence-born grandson of the fashion house’s founder Guccio Gucci.

Maurizio moved from Italy to New York in 1972, aged 24, to work with his uncle Aldo Gucci, then the chairman of Gucci. He returned to Milan in 1982, and after his dad died in 1983 he took on Aldo in a battle for control of Gucci.

Aldo, who was keen to keep the Gucci family in control of the brand, didn’t take too kindly to that – he’s being played by Al Pacino in the film, so just imagine your standard Al Pacino freak-out here – and accused Maurizio of faking his father’s signature to dodge inheritance taxes. As a result, Maurizio’s controlling 50 percent stake in the family firm was frozen. Slightly spooked, Maurizio fled to Switzerland. (He was originally found guilty, but later acquitted.)

Photo credit: MIGUEL MEDINA
Photo credit: MIGUEL MEDINA

It was Maurizio who started to pull the Gucci family out of Gucci the brand. He sold 47.8 percent of the company to the Bahrain-based investment fund in 1988, and sold the rest of his stake in 1993.

That was the final straw for Patrizia, whom he’d met at a party in 1970. Patrizia had grown up poor in Vignola in northern Italy, before her mother wed a wealthy entrepreneur when Patrizia was 12. She married Maurizio in 1972 and had two daughters, Allegra and Allessandra.

They were happy for a while, and Patrizia became a fixture on the New York social scene, even getting friendly with Jackie Kennedy Onassis. But Maurizio's dad Rodolfo (played by Jeremy Irons in the film) was never a fan of her; he called her “a social climber who has nothing in mind but money”.

They divorced in 1994 but their marriage broke down in the mid-Eighties; he reputedly told her he was going on a business trip, walked out, and never came back. He got his mate to tell Patrizia the truth the next day. Nice guy.

Patrizia was naturally none too happy about Maurizio’s new relationship, and was banned from calling herself Gucci after the divorce. She carried on anyway. “I still feel like a Gucci,” she said at the time, “in fact, the most Gucci of them all.”

What happened to Maurizio Gucci?

Relations between Maurizio and Patrizia got, if possible, even worse when he started seeing interior designer and artist Paola Franchi in 1993. Paola accused Patrizia of stalking them and making threats.

“I begged him to hire a bodyguard, but he refused,” she told The Guardian in 2016. “He didn’t believe Patrizia would go through with her threat because of their girls.”

On 27 March 1995, Maurizio was walking to work in Milan and had got as far as the steps to his office when a gunman shot him four times. He died at the scene aged 46. That day, Patrizia wrote one word in her diary: “paradeisos,” or ‘paradise’.

It’s alleged that only a day later, Patrizia issued Paola with an eviction notice from the apartment she lived in with Maurizio, which was still owned by Gucci.

On 31 January 1997, Patrizia was arrested on charges of murder. Prosecutors accused her of having Maurizio shot because she couldn’t abide the idea of him marrying Paola, a marriage which would also have cut her alimony payments to $860,000 a year – a sum she had dismissed as “a bowl of lentils”.

What happened next?

In 1998, after a very heavily publicised trial, Patrizia was sentenced to 29 years in jail. Benedetto Ceraulo, a pizzeria owner who needed money to pay off debts, was the man who pulled the trigger. He was hired through Patrizia’s friend ‘Pina’ Auriemma, a high-society psychic.

Her time in prison was eventful. After trying to argue in 2000 that a brain tumour she had had removed in 1992 had affected her personality, she attempted suicide but was found by guards. In 2005 things improved when, against all prison regulations, she was allowed to keep a ferret in her cell.

Patrizia was released in 2014. Oddly, she was offered parole on a work-release programme in 2011, but the Italian press reported that she refused, saying: “I’ve never worked in my life and I don’t intend to start now.”.

Not long after her release, she was asked by a reporter why she hired a hitman to kill Maurizio.

“My eyesight is not so good,” she said. “I didn’t want to miss.”

She now lives in Milan, and is often spotted around town with her pet parrot on her shoulder.

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