If there’s one thing Lady Gaga’s going to do, it’s promote the hell out of her latest project. Pop-culture buffs may recall the publicity surrounding the 2018 release of A Star Is Born, in which the singer-turned-actor repeated the same anecdote about Bradley Cooper taking a chance on her so many times that it spawned YouTube compilations of the quote. Acting chops aside, her ability to stay in the press for weeks on end is reason enough to cast her in a film, as she is once again proving with her delightfully absurd House of Gucci PR tour. This time, Gaga is making headlines with outrageous, over-the-top claims about how she prepared to step into Patrizia Reggiani’s Gucci heels.
Also starring Adam Driver as Reggiani’s cold-hearted husband and heir to the fashion empire, Maurizio Gucci, House of Gucci was released over Thanksgiving weekend to mixed reviews. It is adapted from Sara Gay Forden’s 2001 book detailing the true story of Gucci’s assassination, plotted by Reggiani, his jealous ex-wife.
The most generous reading of House of Gucci is as high camp, with accents borrowed from Mario Bros., a wedding montage set to George Michael’s “Faith,” one of the most awkward and over-the-top sex scenes ever committed to film, and Jared Leto in pounds of prosthetics repeatedly shrieking the punchline, “Boof!” The fashion is, of course, divine and very ’80s. Less favorable reviews, however, condemned it as lagging, overwrought, and tonally inconsistent. (For the record, this writer loved it and topped her Christmas tree with a photo of Lady Gaga as Patrizia.) But all of this serves to make the wild lengths Gaga went to for the role all the more amusing.
A committed actor, Gaga allegedly stayed in character as the vengeful Patrizia for a year and a half, speaking in that infamous “Italian” accent for nine months. She claims that she was unable to do the accent with her signature platinum blonde hair, so she dyed her tresses black as part of the transformation, even though her costume for the film consisted of 10 different custom wigs.
This extreme level of dedication is not necessarily headline-worthy in and of itself—Gaga’s House of Gucci co-stars Al Pacino and Jared Leto are also famous for staying in character once the cameras stop rolling. But seemingly every week of the press cycle for the film (which has felt as unending as the movie itself) has brought a new claim about Gaga’s intense devotion to her craft, ranging from funny to downright alarming.
On the sillier end of the spectrum, for example, Gaga told The Hollywood Reporter that she carbo-loaded with pasta and bread to embody Patrizia. She also watched videos of panthers hunting their prey, for reasons that are not entirely clear but have something to do with channeling seduction in the revenge plot of the film. She even claims to have written an 80-page biography of her real-life counterpart to study while filming—yet never met or interviewed the actual Patrizia Reggiani, who is very much alive and was released from prison in 2016.
Other aspects of Gaga’s process were far more concerning than indulging in an extra helping of spaghetti carbonara. According to her interview with THR, Gaga’s immersion in the darkness of Patrizia’s psyche took a physical toll, often causing her to vomit from “anxiety, fatigue, trauma, exhaustion, commitment, and love.” During the filming of a scene with Salma Hayek, Gaga said she used a memory-based acting technique to connect her character’s trauma with her own personal trauma, to such convincing effect that she scared director Ridley Scott and her co-star by throwing a lit candle across the room.
More recently, the singer caused a stir when she told Variety that she had a psychiatric nurse on set with her toward the end of filming out of concern for her own safety and mental health. She was emphatic that she did not wish to glamorize her extreme techniques, saying, “I don’t think any actor should push themselves to that limit.” Her immersion into the character even made her lose touch with reality, as Gaga explained to British Vogue: “I had some psychological difficulty at one point towards the end of filming. I was either in my hotel room, living and speaking as Reggiani, or I was on set, living and speaking as her. I remember I went out into Italy one day with a hat on to take a walk. I hadn’t taken a walk in about two months and I panicked. I thought I was on a movie set.”
All of this is consistent with the Grammy Award-winning pop star’s flair for melodrama. After all, we are talking about the woman who showed up to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in a dress made entirely from raw beef, kicked off her 2017 Super Bowl Halftime show by diving from the roof of the stadium, and had four different costume changes on the red carpet of the 2019 Met Gala. The list goes on. And hey, no one can say it doesn’t work for her. Gaga is all but a lock for her second Best Actress nomination at this year’s Academy Awards.