The real story behind the House of Gucci

Ridley Scott’s movie tracks rise and assassination of fashion boss

Lady Gaga in House of Gucci
Lady Gaga in House of Gucci
(Image credit:

Lady Gaga is being tipped for an Oscar for her role as a “black widow” wife in Ridley Scott’s new film House of Gucci.

Described by Glamour magazine as a “tale of decadence, betrayal, revenge and ultimately murder”, the movie follows the real-life plot by Italian socialite Patrizia Reggiani to kill her ex Maurizio Gucci, former boss of the famous fashion label.

The film is out in UK cinemas on Friday.

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‘Milanese Elizabeth Taylor’

The new release is based on The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, a book by journalist Sara Gay Forden that was published in 2001 - six years after Reggiani hired a hitman to kill her ex following their divorce.

In the heyday of their relationship, the couple, who had two daughters, had been “famed for their lavish lifestyle”, said Grazia. Reggiani was “dubbed the ‘Milanese Elizabeth Taylor’”, while Gucci, played in the film by Adam Driver, was “considered an entitled rich kid who nearly put the family fashion empire into the ground”.

Reggiani also burned through a massive amount of money, with an orchid habit “said to have set the Gucci dynasty back £9,000 per month”, the magazine added. The couple sailed the Caribbean on a 200ft yacht and had an array of properties across the globe, from St Moritz to New York, where they socialised with members of the Kennedy family and the Trumps.

The ‘black widow’

The luxury-loving pair’s relationship began to fall apart after Gucci’s father, Rodolfo, died in 1983, leaving his son with 50% of the fashion business. The husband and wife disagreed on how to handle the company, and Gucci eventually left Reggiani and fell in love with interior designer Paola Franchi (played by in the film by French actor Camille Cottin).

In March 1995, a year after his divorce was finalised, Gucci was “fatally shot by an unknown gunman as he entered the building where he worked on via Palestro 20 in Milan – a stone’s throw from the city’s fashion district”, said Forbes.

Detectives initially investigated theories that he might have been “embroiled in shady transactions”, or that there had been “a rupture within the family, infamous for its history of internal feuds���, the magazine continued.

But then an informant claimed to have heard a night porter at a one-star hotel in Milan boast about recruiting Gucci’s killer. The allegation “led the authorities down a winding path that eventually unravelled an assassination plot that placed, in the centre of it all – in a plot twist too trite even for soap operas – Gucci’s ex-wife”.

Nicknamed the “black widow” by the Italian media during her trial, Reggiani was sentenced to 29 years in prison in 1997 after being found guilty of planning the killing. Her sentence was later reduced to 26 years, of which she served 18.

Patrizia Reggiani

An image of Patrizia Reggiani after she was arrested in 1997
(Image credit: Milan Police)

In 2016, two years after being released, Reggiani described her life in Milan’s San Vittore prison to The Guardian. “I slept a lot. I took care of my plants. I looked after Bambi, my pet ferret,” she said.

The newspaper reported that being allowed a pet was “a special privilege negotiated by her lawyer”, but that “the creature met a sticky end when a fellow inmate accidentally sat on him”.

Reggiani still lives in Milan, where she is often photographd walking around the city’s “more upscale neighbourhoods” with “a pet macaw perched on her shoulder”, said Vogue.

The former socialite has always maintained her innocence, although a reporter who tracked her down five years ago appeared to catch her “in a reckless mood”, said The Guardian. Asked why she hadn’t shot her husband herself, the ever-quotable Reggiani responded: “My eyesight is not so good – I didn’t want to miss.”

Family responds

Speaking about Scott’s movie, Reggiani told the Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata that she was “annoyed” that Gaga has portrayed her “without having had the consideration and sensibility to come and meet me”.

“It is not an economic question,” Reggiani said. “I won't get a cent from the film. It is a question of good sense and respect.”

The Gucci family told Associated Press they were “truly disappointed” by the movie. The filmmakers had stolen “the identity of a family to make a profit”, said Patrizia Gucci, a second cousin of the murdered fashion boss.

Scott brushed off the criticism during an interview yesterday with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I don’t engage with that,” said the multiaward-winning director. “You have to remember that one Gucci was murdered and another went to jail for tax evasion, so you can’t be talking to me about making a profit.

“As soon as you do that you become part of the public domain.”

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