ROME—When Patrizia Reggiani Gucci was asked why she hired a hitman to kill her ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci, on a spring day in 1995 instead of shooting him herself, she replied quite simply, “My eyesight is not so good… I didn’t want to miss.”
Now the infamous killer is taking aim at Lady Gaga, who plays her in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, which premiered Tuesday in London. Reggiani, whose lawyers declined a request for an interview with her for The Daily Beast based on her “mental health,” is not happy with the star’s portrayal. “I am rather annoyed at the fact that Lady Gaga is playing me without having had the consideration and sensibility to come and meet me,” she told Italian newswire ANSA when the film was shooting in Rome. “It is not an economic question—I won’t get a cent from the film—it is a question of good sense and respect.”
Reggiani, whose nicknames run the gamut from Lady Gucci to the Black Widow, and who once famously said she would “rather weep in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle,” spent nearly 18 years of her 26-year sentence in prison for the murder of her ex-husband Maurizio (played by Adam Driver). Also convicted were her sorceress, Pina Auriemma (Salma Hayek); Sicilian hitman Benedetto Ceraulo; her ex-husband’s doorman Ivano Savioni; and the getaway driver, Orazio Cicala. At the sentencing hearing—when Gucci’s flagship shop in Florence displayed a set of silver handcuffs on which the logo “Gucci” was emblazoned, as the company’s only formal comment—the judge simply said, “Maurizio is dead because of Patrizia’s hatred, Auriemma’s desire to remain a parasite, Savioni’s lust for money, Cicala’s gambling addiction, and Ceraulo’s dream to take his daughter out shopping.”
The motley crew are backed up in the film by Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci, Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci, Jeremy Irons as Rodolfo Gucci, Madalina Ghenea as Sophia Loren, and Reeve Carney as Tom Ford—who was the actual designer of the $65,000 silver handcuffs displayed during the trial when he was creative director of the company.
The film is based on the bestselling book House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by journalist Sara Gay Forden, who first interviewed Reggiani before Gucci was even murdered.
“I was drawn to write the book because of Maurizio,” Forden told The Daily Beast after the film premiere in London on Tuesday evening. “But then as I was writing the book, the character that really kind of drew me in was Patrizia... She was funny and she was witty with a sharp tongue and amazing clip.”
She says Gaga nailed the character. “It’s extraordinary, it really captures the arc of this story and it takes an already powerful narrative to a whole other level,” she said. “I thought it was amazing. I thought she would be amazing in the role and she really is. She really dug deep into herself and into the character.”
The critics have been decisively mixed. Scott Menzel called it a “bloated & uneven mess that feels like two different movies rolled in one. Every single cast member acts as though they are in a different movie except for Al Pacino, who seems to have understood the assignment and serves as the film’s MVP.”
Joey Nolfi of Entertainment Weekly called it “juicy caviar camp, an absurdly enjoyable Italian soap opera where Bald Jared Leto pisses on a Gucci scarf. It ultimately eases on its gas to a fault, but Lady Gaga’s earnest, ferocious performance completes her evolution from movie star to mighty dramatic actress.”
In an interview with The Guardian when she was released from prison, Reggiani bragged about her resiliency—which Gaga says she could only portray by not being influenced by “others,” including the source of her character. “I think I am a very strong person because I survived all these years in captivity,” she said. “I slept a lot. I took care of my plants. I looked after Bambi, my pet ferret.” The ferret, which was killed when an inmate sat on him, has been replaced by a large macaw she keeps perched on her shoulder when she goes out in Milan.
Reggiani, who wrote “Paradeisos,” the Greek word for paradise, in her Cartier diary the day her ex-husband was murdered, likely has no real case against Gaga or the film. Forden says she never received any backlash at all when her book came out in 2001. But she isn’t sure Reggiani or her lawyers will keep quiet this time around. “I think we’ll hear from Patrizia soon enough about what she thinks,” Forden says, though she says she received no pushback at all from her book from any of the Gucci family or company. In fact, Forden said she believes that the book and now the film have given the Gucci brand a way to come to terms with this rather unseemly moment of their history without having to say a word.
“I think we have to be compassionate about the family reaction, because this is their personal tragedy and it is a big one,” Forden told The Daily Beast. “But in the end a brand without a story is just a product.”