Lady Gaga is already generating Oscar buzz for her role as Patrizia Reggiani in “House of Gucci,” and the movie isn’t even out yet.
The film is based on the true story of the downfall of the Gucci (yes, that Gucci) family and the murder of Maurizio Gucci. The fashion world was shocked when his ex-wife, Patrizia, was found guilty of hiring a hitman to kill him, and the story behind the murder is a real-life soap opera.
Though everyone is talking about Lady Gaga’s portrayal of Reggiani, very few know the actual story. Here’s a breakdown of some things you should know about the real-life Patrizia before seeing House of Gucci.
Patrizia Reggiani’s Rise to Money and Status
Patrizia Martinelli was born in Vignola, Italy (which is just outside Milan) in 1948, and grew up in poverty before she was adopted by her stepfather, Ferdinando Reggiani, as a teenager. It appears that Reggiani was determined to rise above her impoverished early childhood and climb the social ladder in Milan, and she hit the jackpot in 1970, when she met Maurizio Gucci (played by Adam Driver), grandson of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci.
When asked about her first impression of Maurizio, Reggiani told The Guardian, “I met Maurizio at a party and he fell madly in love with me. I was exciting and different. I didn’t think much of him at first. He was just the quiet boy whose teeth crossed over at the front.”
“I met Maurizio at a party and he fell madly in love with me. I was exciting and different.”
Despite Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo (played by Jeremy Irons), urging him to stay away from Reggiani because he believed she was a social climber, the two wed in 1973 and moved to New York City. Maurizio worked for his uncle, Aldo (played by Al Pacino), who was chairman of the Gucci brand. Reggiani later gave birth to two daughters, Alessandra and Allegra.
It didn’t take long for the Guccis to get accepted into Manhattan’s high society, as they were fabulously wealthy and befriended the Kennedys. It also didn’t take long for Reggiani to develop a lavish lifestyle – she was known as both “Lady Gucci” and the “Liz Taylor of luxury labels.” She owned several properties with Maurizio, including a Manhattan penthouse, a farm in Connecticut, and a ski chalet in Switzerland. She wasn’t ashamed of her wealth and couldn’t imagine her life without it, as she once infamously said, “I would rather weep in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle.''
Divorce, Decline, and Death
Reggiani’s life as a socialite ended when her father-in-law died in 1983, leaving his only child, Maurizio, with half of the stakes of the Gucci fortune. Though this looked like a dream come true for Reggiani, she became miserable after her husband gave her the cold shoulder. “Maurizio got crazy,” she told The Guardian in 2016. “Until then, I was his chief adviser about all Gucci matters. But he wanted to be the best, and he stopped listening to me.”
“Maurizio got crazy...he wanted to be the best, and he stopped listening to me.”
Their marriage quickly fell apart, and Maurizio left Reggiani for Italian interior designer and model Paola Franchi in 1990. When his marriage fell apart, so did his business – he famously feuded with his family over the rights of the Gucci brand (which we’re sure to see in House of Gucci) before selling his share of Gucci in 1993. He and Reggiani were officially divorced in 1994, ending both her love affair with her husband and the Gucci name.
Maurizio was murdered by a hitman on his way to work in Milan on March 27, 1995. I won’t get into too many details about the plot to murder Gucci (we'll see how it unfolds in House of Gucci), but it wasn’t long before rumors began to swirl that Reggiani had been involved. The case remained cold until the winter of 1997 when Reggiani was arrested for arranging her ex-husband's murder. Dubbed the "Black Widow" by the Italian press, Reggiani was sentenced to 29 years of prison in 1998 but only served 18 years. She was released in 2016 due to good behavior.
Where Is Patrizia Reggiani Now?
72-year-old Reggiani now works as a consultant at Bozart, a jewelry company based in Milan. This is the first time in her life that she has held a job, for she famously turned down an opportunity to join a work-release program in 2011 after telling her lawyer, "I've never worked in my life and I don't intend to start now.” She had a change of heart when she got the opportunity for early release in 2016 and has been working at Bozart ever since. She’s known in Milan for walking around the city with her pet parrot on her shoulder.
Though it seems easy to paint Reggiani as a cold-blooded killer, most see her as a multi-faceted figure. Sara Gay Forden, journalist and author of the 2001 book House of Gucci: The Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, writes, “There are people who described her as evil, but others described her as human. She was very clever and quick, with a sharp mind. At times in the courtroom during the trial when she was testifying, the prosecutor would seem a little bit confused about the details and she would set him straight. Although she did a hateful, horrible thing, she had a human side too."
"I've never worked in my life and I don't intend to start now.”
Lady Gaga seems to agree with Forden, as she told Good Morning America, "There was a lot that was in the media that was sensationalized about how she was this gold digger and about how she killed for greed and money. I believe it was love, and I believe it was survival."
Despite her sympathetic view of Reggiani, Gaga refused to meet with her because she “could tell very quickly that this woman wanted to be glorified for this murder, and she wanted to be remembered as this criminal."
Though Reggiani believes that Gaga was a great casting choice, she’s "annoyed" that Gaga refused to meet with her before filming. She told the Italian press, “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. It is not an economic question. I won’t get a cent from the film. It is a question of good sense and respect.”
Patrizia Reggiani’s life story mimics one seen in a classic Italian opera. An ambitious woman achieves all of her dreams and ambitions, only to lose it all through greed and murder. Lady Gaga brings her story to life in House of Gucci, in theaters November 24.
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