Movies

What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in House of Gucci

Lady Gaga’s new movie tells the story behind Patrizia Reggiani’s murder of Maurizio Gucci. Is it accurate?

Patrizia Reggiani, and Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani in House of Gucci with the Fact Versus Fiction tearaway
Patrizia Reggiani, and Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani in House of Gucci. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Yahoo News/Wikipedia and MGM.

Having explored the fabulously wealthy dysfunctional Gettys in All the Money in the World, Ridley Scott has now turned his attention to another fabulously wealthy dysfunctional family, the Guccis. The center of the story is Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), a sort of Italian Becky Sharp determined to let nothing stop her social ascent. Her dreams appear to be realized when she marries Maurizio (Adam Driver), the shy heir to the Gucci fortune, and urges him to oust his relatives and take control of the company. Maurizio becomes the ruthless operator she dreamed he could be, as the drama becomes “Macbeth, but make it fashion,” but she soon finds herself on the wrong end of his newfound steel, and she orders a hit on him.

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Is this all how it really happened? The real story is more convoluted, if just as outlandish. Below, we’ve consulted several contemporary news articles, the docuseries Lady Gucci, and Sara Gay Forden’s book, The House of Gucci, to find out what’s true and what’s artistic license in the true crime saga.

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[Read: Is House of Gucci a Godfather-esque Epic or the Best Comedy of 2021?]

Patrizia’s Background

Rodolfo Gucci, and Jeremy Irons as Rodolfo Gucci
Rodolfo Gucci, and Jeremy Irons as Rodolfo Gucci. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Indeciso42 at the Italian Wikipedia project and MGM.
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When the foxy, flashy Patrizia meets Maurizio, she is working as an office administrator for her father’s trucking company. Maurizio’s elegant father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), is horrified by the idea that this might be a serious alliance, dismissing Patrizia’s family business as small and probably Mafia-connected.

In fact, Patrizia’s original name was not Reggiani but Martinelli, and she spent her first 12 years in a poor suburb of Milan being raised by her single mother, a dishwasher, until her mother married wealthy entrepreneur Ferdinando Reggiani (he later adopted Patrizia and changed her name). Reggiani may not have been as rich as the Guccis, but he was better off than the film suggests. He owned a haulage business, but there is no suggestion he had anything to do with the Mafia (beyond what anyone in that business in ’60s Italy would encounter). Micaela Goren Monti, a childhood friend, suggested in the documentary Lady Gucci that this early experience of poverty made Patrizia determined never to slip back. “Her difficult childhood left an everlasting impression on her that she can be poor again. Her life was different from mine and our school friends. We’re part of Milan’s upper class. We were young girls and we thought that we could live on love alone. We’re the ’60s generation. For Patrizia, it was important to find the right person. And the right person would need to be a big name, and come with a very fat wallet.”

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As for whether Patrizia was working in her father’s office when she met Maurizio, that’s not quite true, at least according to Patrizia. After being sentenced in 1997 for masterminding the hit on her ex-husband, Reggiani was offered early release in 2011, but she turned it down because, according to the Italian press, a condition of her parole was that she had to to find a job. “I’ve never worked in my life,” she told her lawyer. “And I don’t intend to start now.”

Interestingly, Italian newspapers reported that Ferdinando’s son Vincenzo Reggiani told police that he believed Patrizia and her mother had conspired to kill his father as Ferdinando lay seriously ill in 1973 because they thought Patrizia was about to be disinherited, saying, “I believe this was not the first time Patrizia has committed murder.” An inquiry into Ferdinando’s death was opened but did not result in any charges.

Was Maurizio’s Wedding Boycotted by the Family?

Maurizio Gucci, and Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci
Maurizio Gucci, and Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by ArtsLife/Wikipedia and MGM.
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The film version of Patrizia and Maurizio’s 1972 wedding shows one side of the aisle packed with well-wishers and the other empty except for one couple.

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There may have been more than two guests on Maurizio’s side, but no one from his family attended. Indeed, Rodolfo tried to get the archbishop of Milan to stop it from going ahead. He eventually came around to reconciling with his son after the birth of his granddaughter Alessandra in 1976, even giving the couple an elegant Olympic Tower penthouse when Maurizio went to New York to join Aldo in the family business.

[Read: Who Has the Best—and Worst—Italian Accent in House of Gucci? A Dialect Coach on Lady Gaga, Jared Leto, and More.]

The Guccis the Movie Leaves Out

Aldo Gucci, and Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci
Aldo Gucci, and Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Ron Galella Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images and MGM.
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The film suggests Guccio Gucci, the founder of the family fortunes, had two sons, Aldo (Al Pacino) and Rodolfo (Irons); that Aldo had one son called Paolo (Jared Leto); and that Rodolfo also had only one son, Maurizio (Driver), with the two brothers each inheriting half of Gucci’s shares.

In fact, in the interests of streamlining the story (or possibly having failed to get consent to depict some family members), several people in the family have been eliminated in the movie. Guccio had a third son, Vasco, so initially the business was divided into thirds. When Vasco died childless in 1974, Aldo and Rodolfo bought out his widow, split Vasco’s shares, and became joint owners. Aldo ran the business after Guccio’s death, with Rodolfo and Vasco essentially working for him in design and production. Far from being Aldo’s only son, Paolo had two brothers who do not appear, Roberto and Giorgio.

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The film shows Aldo being maneuvered out of his leadership position at Gucci in 1989 by Paolo and Maurizio, but this had in fact happened once before. In 1983, when Rodolfo died and his 50 percent of Gucci shares passed to his son, Aldo controlled 40 percent of the shares, with his three sons holding 3.3 percent each.

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In 1984, Maurizio and Paolo came to an agreement: Paolo would sell his 3.3 percent stake to Maurizio for $22 million in order to bankroll his own designer line. Maurizio duly got majority control and in 1985 the company sued Aldo, charging he had siphoned off millions of dollars. (Ironically, Maurizio would eventually be ousted as chairman for the same reason.)

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Finally, Maurizio and Patrizia had not just the one daughter shown in the film—Alessandra—but a second, Allegra, who doesn’t appear.

Was the Signature on the Share Certificate Forged?

Domenico De Sole, and Jack Huston as Domenico De Sole
Domenico De Sole, and Jack Huston as Domenico De Sole. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images and MGM.
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In the film, Rodolfo’s lawyer Domenico De Sole (Jack Huston) tells Maurizio there’s a problem with Rodolfo’s will—Rodolfo forgot to sign the share certificate giving his son 50 percent of the company. This, says De Sole, will lead to a punitively high level of inheritance tax. When Italy’s financial police raid the house to investigate charges of forgery, Maurizio escapes out the back door and heads for his chalet in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on his motorcycle. Left to answer police questions, Patrizia accuses first Paolo and then De Sole of forging the signature.

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In reality, when Aldo was ousted as chairman in 1985, he, Roberto, and Giorgio did indeed accuse Maurizio—who at this point had taken over Rodolfo’s position as chairman—of forging his father’s signature on the share certificate. (Maurizio was eventually cleared of these fraud charges in 1989.) According to the Los Angeles Times, a longtime assistant to Rodolfo testified that it that it was Patrizia who committed the actual forgery, something the movie only implies.

Was Paolo Really So Hopeless?

Paolo Gucci, and Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci
Paolo Gucci, and Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by BuzzFeed/Wikipedia and MGM.
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The movie version of Paolo is of a clownish schlub dressed in garish sportswear desperate to prove himself as a designer despite a conspicuous lack of talent. (Leto wears a fat suit.) He tries to get Rodolfo to agree to hire him to design a more youth-oriented line for Gucci, but Rodolfo scorns his design sketches. It is Patrizia who urges Paolo to start his own line independently of the family company, as part of a scheme to get control of his shares. Paolo agrees to sell his shares to Maurizio in return for Gucci distributing his line. As a sweetener, Paolo gives Maurizio a file containing “a black hole of undeclared income” that will implicate his father, Aldo, leading to Aldo’s imprisonment in the United States for a year on tax evasion. However, the fashion show for Paolo’s new line is disrupted by a police raid, the result of Maurizio bringing suit for copyright infringement.

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Paolo was a far less cartoonish figure than the movie suggests. For one thing, several photos depict him as svelte and stylish, wearing the same elegant suits as his father and uncle. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, he was Gucci’s chief designer and played a major role in developing the interlocking double-G trademark logo.

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Paolo did want to start a more youthful line for Gucci, and both Aldo and Rodolfo said no. The first time he launched his own collection was in 1980, and far from being a fiasco, the line was successful. However, he did this without telling either his father or his uncle, who then fired him and sued to prevent him from trading under the Gucci name.

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Paolo responded by suing Gucci for breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress, and assault and battery (according to the book on which the film is based, there were lively board meetings—sadly omitted from the film—that degenerated into fistfights and Gucci handbags being hurled), as well as the right to use his own name and to set up a rival leather goods company. After spending about $5 million in legal fees, Paolo won the right to use his name, but the brand didn’t happen. It was actually as part of this lawsuit that documents emerged that prompted the IRS to look into Aldo’s tax affairs (he was found to have avoided paying $7.4 million in taxes), as opposed to Paolo passing incriminating documents to Maurizio.

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In 1986, Paolo did launch a new line of handbags and other items under the “PG” brand, and the judicial police did burst in to the launch because of Maurizio’s copyright infringement lawsuit. This may have been payback for Paolo’s reporting of Maurizio to the Italian authorities, after their deal fell apart in September 1984, for cheating on inheritance taxes by forging Rodolfo’s signature on the share certificate, prompting Maurizio’s flight to St. Moritz. The next year, Paolo folded the PG line in exchange for a reported $45 million stake in Gucci.

Pina Auriemma, the TV Psychic

Salma Hayek as Giuseppina Auriemma
Salma Hayek as Giuseppina (Pina) Auriemma. MGM
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Increasingly concerned by Maurizio’s drifting away from her, Patrizia is watching television when she sees an ad for a psychic hotline. The psychic on screen (Salma Hayek) calls herself Pina and tells Patrizia she will get everything she wants. Pina becomes Patrizia’s spiritual adviser and personal astrologer, and after Maurizio divorces Patrizia and makes plans to marry another woman, it is to Pina whom Patrizia turns for help on setting up the hit on her ex-husband, and both women meet with the hit men to hand over suitcases full of money and guns.

According to Forden, Patrizia actually met Giuseppina (Pina) Auriemma at a spa on the Italian island of Ischia in 1976, and the two immediately bonded. When the two women both stood trial for their roles in Maurizio’s murder, cracks appeared, with Pina asserting that Patrizia was the mastermind and she merely an intermediary, while Patrizia maintained that while she may have expressed a wish to kill her husband purely to let off some steam, she only learned of a plot to actually do the deed from Pina after Maurizio’s death. She also said that she gave Pina money only because the astrologer blackmailed her, threatening to frame her for the murder.

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Though we don’t see this in the film, Pina wasn’t the only person with whom Patrizia discussed offing her ex. She admitted in court and in several interviews that she had twice asked her cleaner if she knew anybody who could carry out a hit, and had consulted a lawyer about the possible consequences of the crime. “I have to admit that for a time, I truly wanted to get rid of him. I wanted to do it and so I was going around asking for people to do it,” she said in a television interview with Italian program Storie Maledette. “But my intentions ended there,” she added, dismissing her words as “a mere obsession.”

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Pina did act as the initial intermediary, finding the gunman and the getaway driver and promising them $700,000 to carry out the assassination. But when things weren’t moving fast enough, Patrizia, according to driver Orazio Cicala, began dealing with him directly, meeting him in a car and then later at a bar to pressure him to hurry up. During the trial it came out that Patrizia wanted the hit carried out before Maurizio married his new partner, Paola Franchi, as she was worried that if the couple had children, her daughters could be disinherited.

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After Maurizio’s murder, Patrizia and Pina spoke on the phone almost daily and went on a cruise and a trip to Marrakech together.

Did Maurizio Help Launch Tom Ford?

In the film, Maurizio takes up De Sole’s suggestion to bring on Texan designer Tom Ford, a relative unknown, to revive Gucci’s fortunes. Maurizio is there in the front row applauding as Ford’s first collection receives a rapturous reception.

This isn’t right, according to Ford. “Maurizio had been bought out of the company by the time I assumed the position of creative director of Gucci and had my first hit collection,” the celebrated designer wrote for Air Mail last week. “He certainly never toasted me after that show as he does in the film.”

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