The hype train is well and truly on the way for Ridley Scott’s new film House of Gucci and for good reason too. Adam Driver and Lady Gaga star as Maurizio Gucci and Patrizia Reggiani respectively and the few set photos the public has seen so far have got plenty of people’s mouths watering.
The film is based on the 2001 book, The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greedby Sara Gray Forden. The book and upcoming film tell the story of Patrizia Reggiani and her involvement in the murder of her ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci. If people are unaware, Reggiani is iconic. A seemingly terrible person with a severe lack of perspective, but iconic nonetheless. Gaga has a great role that she will surely have fun with because Reggiani is such a character in reality. So, who is Patrizia Reggiani, and why did she have her husband murdered?
Reggiani might be known for her glamour and lavish lifestyle but that wasn’t how her life started. She was born quite poor in Milan, 1948. Her mother, Silvana, worked as a dishwasher when she was knocked up with Patrizia. Her biological father left her mother soon after she was born. Things weren’t easy for her until Silvana married a rich entrepreneur, Ferdinando Reggiani. Poverty was now no longer an issue for Patrizia. She had the money but craved the status that goes along with it.
In Milan there was a large difference between families who had recently become rich and the long established rich. New money vs old money. This meant that Patrizia knew two things at an early age; she never wanted to be poor again, and that she would have to marry the right person. The right person it turns out would have to be someone with a tonne of money and a big name to achieve the status she desired.
Inserting herself into the social circles of the elite was therefore paramount to her success. She attended parties with the social elite of Milan and firmly established herself within their circles. It was at one of these parties that she finally met the right man. Sort of.
It was Maurizio who spotted Patrizia at one of these parties. He said to a friend, “Who is that beautiful girl dressed in red who looks like Elizabeth Taylor?” Patrizia took notice of him too. She knew who he was but she didn’t really need Gucci right then. “I had already noticed that he liked me,” Patrizia said, “Then we decided to go to the nightclub. I had come with another man in a Porsche. Because he (Gucci) arrived in a smaller car, I made up my mind about him, ‘This man is a loser.’” If that doesn’t highlight what her priorities were, what will?
Maurizio asked her out on a date and she reluctantly accepted. He was still rich after all. The date must’ve gone well because in a few years they were married on 28th October 1972. They were both 24 years old and the couple were genuinely happy. But not everyone was happy.
Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo, disapproved of Patrizia. He didn’t believe Patrizia was good enough for his son. He didn’t appreciate her background – old money prejudice gave Rodolfo the idea that she was only in it for the money. He wasn’t wrong, kind of, but we can’t know that for sure as Patrizia still claims to this day that she did love Maurizio sincerely. On top of that, Rodolfo didn’t really get along with Patrizia. Again, understandable given her unique and strong personality. She isn’t for everybody.
Patrizia loved Maurizio and she loved how much he loved her. “Besides my looks, Maurizio loved everything about me. He was a good-looking man.” While it wasn’t perfect for her, she put the effort in to make it so. “But he had this broken tooth. So the first thing I had him do was to fix that tooth.” Her perfect world was becoming a reality.
During the 1970s, they became a celebrity power-couple. They clearly enjoyed that reputation, as they leaned into it by doing things like putting ‘Mauizia’ on the number plates of their car. Their lavish lifestyle didn’t go unnoticed either.
They made regular visits to their chalet in St Moritz, or their 9,000 square-foot 5th Avenue penthouse in Manhattan’s Olympic Tower, or their 64-metre yacht, the Creole. If that didn’t suit them maybe they would visit their villa in Acapulco, or their rural farm in Connecticut. If they really wanted to get away, they could always visit one of their various private islands. It was ridiculous. The wealth! The opulence! This is all Patrizia ever wanted. It’s not like she asked for a lot…
The marriage started to fall apart when Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo, died in 1983. Maurizio, as a result, inherited his father’s 50% stake in Gucci. After the inheritance, Patrizia claimed Maurizio began to change. She said he acted as if he no longer had to care for anything or anyone. This wasn’t strictly speaking true as Maurizio was taking a larger interest in the business of Gucci.
The Gucci brand had been slowly losing its prestige due to their over-licensing of the logo and the mass production of its canvas bags. It wasn’t much of a luxury brand anymore becoming just another designer brand. Maurizio wanted to change that. He wanted to bring Gucci back to its former glory by focusing on the exquisite craftsmanship the brand was built on. He faced resistance from his family, however. Something had to be done about that.
Without consulting his wife, Maurizio pulled off a plot to buy out his uncle and cousin’s shares in the company. With the help of the Bahrain-based investment bank, Investcorp, Maurizio bought out his family for a reported $135 million. The marriage took a blow after this.
Once Maurizio took control, he began running the Gucci brand into the ground. Patrizia didn’t want to see Gucci fail and told Maurizio that he was mismanaging the business. Maurizio didn’t listen much to Patrizia’s dismay. She was right, of course as Maurizio simply wasn’t generating enough revenue to power his grand ideas. Patrizia told the Guardian, “Maurizio got crazy. Until then I was his chief advisor about all Gucci matters. But he wanted to be the best, and he stopped listening to me.”
On the 2 May 1985, after 12 years of marriage, Maurizio left for a business trip to Florence and never came back. He didn’t even tell Patrizia, she had to find out from a family doctor. Patrizia said, “He told me: ‘Do you know why our marriage failed? Because you fancied yourself the president, and here there is only one president.’” Her perceived meddling and Maurizio’s personal pride had caused the marriage to implode.
The Gucci personal fortune was suffering as a result of Maurizio’s poor management. Things got so bad that he had to sell Gucci completely to Investcorp for between $150 million to $200 million. This made him a very rich man. But Patrizia wasn’t pleased. “I was angry with Maurizio about many, many things at that time. But above all, this. Losing the family business. It was stupid. It was a failure. I was filled with rage, but there was nothing I could do. He shouldn’t have done that to me.” The seeds of disaster had been planted.
Maurizio had fallen in love with another woman, Paola Franchi. At the time, the tabloids depicted her as a glamourous gold digger which was hardly fair. Her previous husband was actually much richer than Maurizio, so she had no need of his money. They seemed to genuinely love each other. But Patrizia was unimpressed, saying to the court that, “When it came to green-eyed blondes happy to walk three steps behind, he’d had plenty.”
After 5 years of being with Paola, Maurizio and Patrizia were officially divorced in 1991. In the following year, Patrizia was diagnosed with a brain tumour that was removed without any issue. But Maurizio, during her hospital stay, gave her no support, neither financially nor emotionally. Patrizia began to worry about her financial future, for both her and her daughters.
Patrizia began abusing her now ex-husband. According to Franchi, Patrizia was allegedly stalking the new couple. She left abusive messages on Maurizio’s phone. One such message said, “You’ve reached the extreme limit of making yourself despised by your daughters who no longer want to see you to forget the trauma. You are a deformed outgrowth, you are a painful appendix that all of us want to forget. For you, hell is yet to come.” Prophetic words.
Things were only going to get worse. Everyone knew that Patrizia wanted to kill her husband. She had asked her cleaner twice to help her with her husband and even consulted a lawyer to find out what would happen if she had gotten rid of her husband. “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. But my intentions ended there – a mere obsession, a mere desire. What wife has never said, ‘I’d kill that guy?’” she told the Storie Maledette.
“I was furious with Maurizio. I went around asking everyone, even the local grocer, is there someone who has the courage to murder my husband?” Patrizia’s then best-friend and alleged psychic, Pina Auriemma, must have had a premonition and believed she knew what could be done about Maurizio. Auriemma knew a night porter from a one-star hotel in Milan named Ivano Savioni. Savioni knew a guy who could do the deed. A desperate, debt-ridden pizzeria owner, named Benedetto Ceraulo agreed to do the job for £250,000. Money that could change his life.
According to Auriemma, Patrizia wanted the murder to happen very soon, before Maurizio could marry Paola. Apparently, Patrizia couldn’t bear the idea of another woman being Mrs. Maurizio Gucci. She would lose all her power, status, and money that in her mind she had ‘earned.’ Her perfect life was in shambles, everything that she wanted, stripped away. Did she earn it? From a woman who has said that she hasn’t worked a day in her life, it’s hard to accept that Patrizia in any way ‘earned it.’
On the 27th of March 1995, Maurizio Gucci was killed on the steps outside his office during his commute to work. It caused a media frenzy and Patrizia was immediately thought of as a suspect.
Patrizia and her conspirators weren’t arrested until the 31st of January 1997. They were caught during a sting operation after Ivano Savioni bragged about having recruited Gucci’s killer to the wrong person. That person went to the police. Wanting to keep it short, all they said was, “I’m going to say just one name: Gucci.” The conspirator’s phones were tapped and eventually enough evidence was gathered in order to make the arrest.
In court, Patrizia stated that she did in fact pay Auriemma £200,000 but denied it was for her husband’s murder. Instead, she said that Auriemma had blackmailed her. Auriemma arranged the hit and had threatened to frame Patrizia if she didn’t pay up. This would’ve been a fine alibi, but Patrizia’s pride got in the way as she confusingly added at the end of her statement, “But it was worth every lire.” Patrizia’s Cartier diary also found the word ‘paradeisos’ written on the day of Maurizio’s death. The Greek word for paradise sealed her fate. Everybody involved was found guilty and convicted in 1998. Patrizia was sentenced to 29 years in prison.
Patrizia Reggiani had lost her title as Lady Gucci and was now dubbed the Black Widow. Scarlett Johansson eat your heart out.
In 2000, Patrizia attempted to appeal her conviction but the Italian court upheld the verdict. Dismayed, she attempted suicide with a shoelace that same year. Thankfully, she was rescued. Afterwards, she was given a parole offer that required her to get a job. She turned it down stating famously that, “I’ve never worked a day in my life, and don’t intend to start now.”
In October 2016, Patrizia was granted early release thanks to her good behaviour. She was given a job at Bozart, where she works as a stylist. However, when she was released, she was ambushed by reporters who asked her why she hired a hitman? Why didn’t she do it herself? She replied, “My eyesight is not so good – I didn’t want to miss.” Interesting choice of words for a woman who has pleaded her innocence from the beginning.
When referring to her time in prison, she always calls it her “stay at Vittore Residence.” Like she cannot admit that she was in prison or as if she was trying to paint her custody in a glamourous light. Who can say for sure?
Upon her release from Vittore Residence, she lived with her 89-year-old mother under court order and it seems that not much has changed in her perspective. “Sometimes I wish I was back inside Vittore Residence because my mother is very difficult. She berates me every day for no reason.” Once a diva, always a diva it seems.
Today, Patrizia has applied for work back at Gucci without success. “I still feel like a Gucci. In fact, the most Gucci of them all.” She doesn’t understand why they won’t take her back. “I am not guilty, but I am not innocent. All the things that happened were a misunderstanding.” To this day she still professes her innocence and wonders why nobody believes her.
She is very happy about the film being made. She believes Gaga is a good choice as she admits that Gaga does look like her, but has stated that, “I am rather annoyed at the fact that Lady Gaga is playing me in the new Ridley Scott film without having the consideration and seinbility to come and meet me… It’s not an economic question. I won’t get a cent from the film. It is a question of good sense and respect.”
Nobody wants to be associated with her except the people at Bozart. Keeping your distance from a woman named the Black Widow seems like a smart thing to do. Regardless, the film will come out in late 2021 and is sure to be an interesting ride. Reality is often stranger than fiction and Patrizia’s real-life story is one tailor-made for film.