If there’s one thing to know about Lady Gaga, it is that when she does something, she commits.
Even before she graced the silver screen, the pop star was known for her eccentric, over-the-top persona, wearing a dress made out of dripping meat and turning up to the Grammys in a giant egg, recently divulging she actually spent three whole days inside the futuristic sphere.
And if Gaga’s press run for A Star Is Born—wherein she repeatedly spoke of the power of having one person in her corner and played heavily to the rumors that she and Bradley Cooper were having a clandestine affair with that performance at the Oscars—we should have known what was coming when Gaga was cast as Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci.
This time was no different, and in the name of dedication, Gaga has gone the furthest she has yet. On the press tour in the lead-up to the film’s premiere later this month, Gaga has opened up about her process in nailing an authentic portrayal of Reggiani.
There’s been much talk about Gaga’s accent, as she found it “nearly impossible” to speak in the dialect as a blonde and “instantly” had to dye her hair dark. She also said she worked on her accent for six months before decamping to Rome, and never once broke character.
“I will be fully honest and transparent: I lived as her [Reggiani] for a year and a half,” Gaga, real name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, told British Vogue. “I spoke with an accent for nine months of that. I never broke. I stayed with her.”
“I started with a specific dialect from Vignola, then I started to work in the higher-class way of speaking that would have been more appropriate in places like Milan and Florence,” she added. “In the movie, you’ll hear that my accent is a little different depending on who I’m speaking to.”
But that’s not what people are hearing. In the initial reaction to the film’s trailer, there was chatter that Gaga’s accent sounds slightly more Eastern European than that of a murderous socialite who flitted about Italy.
Italian actress and dialect coach Francesca De Martini agrees. “I feel bad saying this, but her accent is not exactly an Italian accent, it sounds more Russian,” she laughs to The Daily Beast.
De Martini was brought on to House of Gucci as a dialogue coach to help Salma Hayek with her portrayal of Naples-born Giuseppina “Pina” Auriemma. It was an especially fun gig for De Martini, as she’d lived through the media circus of Reggiani standing trial for hiring the hitman who murdered her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci in 1995.
While De Martini had originally auditioned for a few roles in the movie, getting to the final rounds of casting before being turned down, about a week after auditioning she received a random call from the casting director, who asked if she was available to coach Hayek because there was no dialogue coach on set.
“I was surprised—House of Gucci was a really, really big production for [the country],” De Martini explains. “I think I never saw a movie [this big] here, maybe Mission: Impossible and Bond, they had this huge crew. So, I was really surprised to be called for this, and I was surprised there wasn’t a dialogue coach on set.”
De Martini says she suspects there wasn’t a coach on set because Gaga had already worked with a coach back in Los Angeles, and apparently none of the other American actors felt they needed an expert ear.
Yet after shooting her scenes with Gaga for one day, Hayek asked for some help. “What happened was this: Salma shot for one day and then asked for a dialogue coach,” De Martini shares. “I think she heard the accent wasn’t right and she was worried—she wanted to do well.”
When listening in to Hayek’s scenes with Gaga, De Martini says she heard right away the accent was a bit off: “I was noticing when I was on set, because I had earphones working with Salma and hearing what she was saying so I could help her to get it right, so I could hear Lady Gaga as well.”
“When you see the trailer, there are so many different accents,” she adds, noting Al Pacino sounds more New York-Italian and Adam Driver’s accent is nearly non-existent.
But overall, De Martini reveals that she enjoyed her time on set and working with Hayek, who did exceptionally well with the Southern Italian accent.
“We really had a lot of fun,” De Martini says. “I was running the lines with her, and we tried to improvise a bit because most of the time they have a little part of improvisation during the shooting, so we were trying to see other options. So, if they came out, she could nail the Italian accent as well during the improvisation, so we played with the lines.”
“She’s a really nice person and really easy to work with,” she continues. “We had fun. We danced in the trailer.”
As for Gaga, she wants to move on from discussion about her accent and how long she spent working on it, telling The New York Times that it’s all becoming a bit too “sensationalized,” as she stands by her mysterious Italian accent, offering, “I think it would have done more of a number on me had I not practiced it so much.”