In House of Gucci, Lady Gaga channels a character so big it doesn’t seem possible that she’s based on a real woman, even if all of the movie’s promotional material, plus Gaga herself, says so. What mortal skis in full jewelry, makeup and fur making Bond villainous threats as they stir espresso in St. Moritz and Godfather–like orders (“It’s time to take out the trash”) while sitting by a fire in gold lamé? What kind of woman befriends her clairvoyant… and then enlists that clairvoyant to project a hit on her husband?
But Patrizia Reggianic is very much a real woman, so very colorful – beyond what is depicted in the movie House of Gucci-that she became a perverted pop culture figure in Italy after ordering the murder of her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci in 1995. (Reggiani is now free na Serve 16 years of a 29-year prison term reduced to 26 on appeal.) The 1998 process was tabloid fodder for a nation seduced by the intersection of wealth, fashion and crime, and the real Reggiani donned the part and reportedly appeared in court in fur coats and stilettos, with a fresh manicure, even though she was in prison during the trial. Nicknamed “the black widow” by the Italian press, Reggiani didn’t help himself in the court of public opinion by throwing Marie Antoinette-esque quotes at the press…proverb, on one infamous occasion, that she would rather “cry in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle.”
Reggiani is such a repulsive figure that when it came time to adapt Sara Gay Fordenbook from 2001 The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamor and Greed in front of Ridley Scott‘s movie, screenwriter Roberto Bentivegna said he felt he should “soften up” the character in the hopes that audiences would (at least initially) find this lead character sympathetic. He gave the film Patrizia a heartbreaking backstory about a domineering mother and portrayed a character with her own weaknesses.
“If I started out with her as a money-grabbing prospector, where are you going?” says Bentivegna. “We had to have the evolution of a character and a relationship [with Maurizio] that deteriorated… Letting her push around by her mother and create the feeling that she is almost being manipulated herself makes much more sense and it gives her the chance to move away from someone who is uncomfortable in that world [of wealth] and in that skin to really become a different character by the end.”
Given the time frame of the film – it ends shortly after the murder of Maurizio – Bentivegna and his comrade House of Gucci screenwriter Becky Johnston didn’t have to deal with the real Reggiani’s life during and after prison, leaning on her fame. A few short examples, namely:
- In 2011, when Reggiani was first offered parole on the condition that she find a job, Reggiani turned down the offer. The Watcher. “I’ve never worked in my life and I don’t plan to start now,” she reportedly said told her lawyer.
- Years after she was released from prison, she wasn’t necessarily full of regrets. “She said she really enjoyed being in prison, keeping a ferret as a pet, helping inmates get their hair and nails done and tending the yard,” she wrote. the guard after an interview with Reggiani earlier this year.
- Two years after she was finally released from prison on parole, the same publication wrote: “One of her first acts of freedom was to go shopping on Via Monte Napoleone – Milan’s Bond Street – decked out in ostentatious jewels and movie star sunglasses, with a large pet macaw sat on her shoulder.”
- A camera crew is said to have caught Reggiani not long after her release, asking her why she hired a hit man to kill her late husband, rather than doing it herself. “My eyesight is not that good,” she replied, according to The Watcher. “I didn’t want to miss.”