Murder, fashion and melodrama: The real story behind House of Gucci

Highly anticipated Ridley Scott film arrives in cinemas on Friday

Olivia Petter
Friday 26 November 2021 14:43 GMT
House Of Gucci (Clean Trailer)
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After months of excitement, House of Gucci is finally here. The long-awaited Ridley Scott film, starring Adam Driver and Lady Gaga, tells the explosive story behind the marriage of Patrizia Reggiani (Gaga) and Maurizio Gucci (Driver), which famously culminated in the murder of Gucci.

The film was adapted from Sara Gay Forden’s 2001 non-fiction book of the same name and chronicles the rise of the Gucci family dynasty, documenting every last rivalry, lawsuit, and incarceration.

From the advent of the Gucci brand to the disastrous ending to Reggiani and Gucci’s marriage, here’s everything you need to know about the real story behind House of Gucci before going to see the film.

Who was the founder of Gucci?

Guccio Gucci (Massimo Sestini/Shutterstock)

The now iconic fashion brand was founded by an Italian businessman named Guccio Gucci. Born in 1881 in Florence, Guccio first got a taste of the luxury market when he ventured to England and worked at the Savoy Hotel in London.

In 1906, he returned to Italy to found Gucci, which began as a saddlery that sold travel items and soon ventured into artisanal leather goods.

Guccio had five children with his wife, Aida: Grimalda, Vasco, Aldo, Rodolpho and Enzo, who died at the age of nine. The couple also cared for Aida’s son, Ugo, whom she shared with a previous partner. Ugo was later adopted by Guccio.

Guccio was said to have pit his boys against one another in his will while he gave very little to his daughter. Instead, his inheritance was distributed to his sons, Vasco, Aldo (Al Pacino in the film) and Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons).

By 1921, the second generation of Guccis had joined the family business, and by 1953, when Guccio passed away, the company started to become known as the luxury brand it is today.

The drama for the film picks up in the 1970s, when the third generation of Guccis entered into the company.

Who was Maurizio Gucci?

Maurizio Gucci (Ipa/Shutterstock)

Maurizio Gucci was the son of Rodolfo Gucci. He started working for the company in the 1970s under his uncle, Aldo, and worked his way up all the way until his father’s death in 1983.

Rodolfo’s death left Maurizio with the bulk of his shares, leaving him as the biggest stakeholder in the company. However, this did not sit well with Aldo and his two sons, who sued Maurizio and accused him of forging his signature in his father’s will to avoid paying inheritance tax. This led Maurizio to flee to Switzerland - he was originally found guilty of forging the signature but was later acquitted.

Conflict between the family members also derived from the fact that Maurizio disliked Aldo’s approach to the company, and felt like mass production of Gucci products undermined its identity as an exclusive brand.

After Aldo was imprisoned for tax evasion, Maurizio succeeded in taking control of the company. But by 1993, Maurizio had racked up serious debts from overspending and was forced to sell his 50 per cent stake in the company to investors, which put an end to the Gucci family’s ownership of the company.

Who was Patrizia Reggiani and how did she meet Maurizio?

Patrizia Reggiani in the 1980s (Ipa/Shutterstock)

Reggiani was born Patrizia Martinelli. Based in Milan, she grew up impoverished and did not know her biological father. However, at the age of 12, her mother married a wealthy entrepreneur named Ferdinando Reggiani, who raised Patrizia as his own.

By the time Patrizia was an adult, she was known as a wealthy socialite in Milan. She met Maurizio at a party in 1970, where he famously compared her to Elizabeth Taylor.

“I met Maurizio at a party and he fell madly in love with me,” Reggiani told The Guardian of their first encounter in a 2016 interview. “I was exciting and different.”

The couple got married after two years of dating in 1972. However, Rodolfo did not approve of the relationship, citing Reggiani’s background as an issue. He believed her to be a social climber and as a result of his disapproval, did not attend the couple’s wedding.

Maurizio Gucci and Patrizia Reggiani after they got married. (Sipa/Shutterstock)

However, the trio ultimately reconciled after the birth of Maurizio and Patrizia’s first daughter, Alessandra.

Their marital problems are believed to have arisen in 1983, after Maurizio aquired his majority stake in Gucci. Patrizia, who had been heavily involved in the company throughout their relationship, told the Guardian of that time: “Maurizio got crazy. Until then I was his chief adviser about all Gucci matters. But he wanted to be the best, and he stopped listening to me.”

The couple split up in 1985 when Maurizio went on a business trip to Florence and sent a friend to alert Patrizia that he wouldn’t be returning home and that he wanted a divorce.

The couple didn’t officially divorce until 1994, however, when Patrizia received a €2.5 million settlement and a yearly alimony payment of €650,000, which she famously described as “a mere bowl of lentils.”

Patrizia lost the right to use the Gucci name after the divorce but continued to do so, telling La Republica: “I still feel like a Gucci—in fact, the most Gucci of them all.”

How did Maurizio die?

On 27 March 1995, Maurizio was shot several times while outside his office in Milan.

The only witness to the murder was Giuseppe Onorato, the doorman to Maurizio’s office building, who was also shot himself.

Two years later, an anonymous tip led to Patrizia being arrested for facilitating her ex-husband’s death.

The trial was highly publicised thanks to the Gucci family’s public profile, with Patrizia dubbed the “Black Widow” in the tabloids.

Patrizia claimed she was innocent. However, three people involved in Maurizio’s death confessed to their involvement and Patrizia’s role in orchestrating it, leading to her conviction in 1998.

Patrizia was charged with premeditated murder and was sentenced to 29 years in prison, though she ended up serving just 18 of them.

Released in 2016, Patrizia, now 72, works as a consultant for a jewellery company in Milan and has publicly acknowledged her role in her husband’s death. In an Italian reality TV show, she was asked why she didn’t shoot Maurizio herself, to which she responded: “My eyesight is not so good. I didn’t want to miss.”

Patrizia Reggiani pictured shopping in Milan in 2018. (Mimmo Carriero/Ipa/Shutterstock)

Despite being played by her in the film, Patrizia has not met Lady Gaga. Speaking to ANSA, an Italian wire service, about this, she said: “I am rather annoyed at the fact that Lady Gaga is playing me in the new Ridley Scott film without having had the consideration and sensibility to come and meet me.”

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