The True Story of ‘House of Gucci’ Is Even More Wild Than the Movie—Here’s What You Didn’t See

"House of Gucci," Maurizio Gucci, Patrizia Gucci
Photo: AP Images. Everett Collection.

An undercover cop? A pizzeria hitman? The House of Gucci true story is even more wild than the movie, and we have the dramatic details for what happened after the credits rolled.

Production on House of Gucci, which follows the downfall of the Gucci family dynasty, started in June 2006 when Ridley Scott was hired to direct the movie. Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio were rumored to play the lead parts of Patrizia Reggiani and Maurizio Gucci. The film was delayed, and in February 2012, news broke that Penélope Cruz was now in talks to play Patrizia In November 2016, after the project was pushed back again, rumors surfaced again that Margot Robbie was the new actress considered for the role of Patrizia. The final cast was confirmed by December 2020 when Lady Gaga and Adam Driver were cast as Patrizia and Maurizio respectively.

In an interview with Good Morning America in 2021, Gaga explained why she decided not to meet Patrizia before she played her in House of Gucci. “I didn’t want to meet [Patrizia] 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… I didn’t want to collude with something that I don’t believe in. She did have her husband murdered,” Gaga said. Still, though she never met Patrizia, Gaga explained why she still empathized with her. “There was a lot that was in the media that was sensationalized about how she was this gold digger and how she killed for greed and money. I believe it was love. And I believe it was survival,” she said. Gaga also noted that she “did all the research on [Patrizia] was a person” to play her as accurate as she could in House of Gucci.

So what is the House of Gucci true story? Read on for what House of Gucci is about and the real story that the movie didn’t show.

What is House of Gucci about?

What is House of Gucci about? House of Gucci is based on the 2001 book, The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, which tells the true story of the relationship between Maurizio Gucci—the grandson of Gucci’s founder, Guccio Gucci, and an heir to the fashion house—and Patrizia Reggiani, a socialite whom Maurizio marries despite the disapproval of his family. The book also investigates Maurizio’s death in 1995, Patrizia’s arrest in 1997 and what motives she may have had to assassinate her ex-husband.

The House of Gucci by Sara Gay Forden

"House of Gucci" by Sara Gay Forden

Image: Courtesy Custom House.

What is the House of Gucci true story?

What is the true story of House of Gucci? Let’s start with Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). Maurizio—the only child of actors Rodolfo Gucci and Sandra Ravel—was born on September 26, 1948, in Florence. He was the grandson of Gucci’s founder, Guccio Gucci, and an heir to the fashion house. However, Maurizio wasn’t the only heir. In 1983, Maurizio launched a legal war against his uncle, Aldo Gucci, for control over the company after he became the majority stakeholder following his father’s death. Aldo accused Maurizio of forging his father’s signature to avoid paying inheritance taxes, which he was originally found guilty of but was later acquitted. After he was acquitted, Maurizio sold 47.8 percent of Gucci to Investcorp, a Bahrain-based investment fund that also owned Tiffany & Co, in 1988. Maurizio was made chairman of Gucci in 1989, however he sold his remaining stocks for $170 million to Investcorp in 1993 after the company’s finances were in the red from his leadership. The sale ended the Gucci family’s association with Gucci the company.

Patrizia Gucci (Lady Gaga) was born as Patrizia Martinelli in Vignola, a small town outside of Milan, on December 2, 1948. She grew up poor and never knew her biological father. When Patrizia was 12 years old, her mother, a waitress, married Ferdinando Reggiani, a much older man who made his fortune in trucking. After the marriage, Fedinando adopted Patrizia, which is when she changed her last name to Patrizia Reggiani.

Patrizia and Maurizio met in 1970 at a party and married two years later. Maurizio’s father didn’t approve of the marriage and believed that Patrizia was “a social climber who has nothing in mind but money,” according to past reports. In 1975, Patrizia and Maurizio welcomed their first daughter, Alessandra. Their second daughter, Allegra, was born in 1981. After a few years in New York City, where Maurizio worked at Gucci with Aldo, Patrizia and Maurizio moved back to Milan in 1982. They separated three years later after Maurizio told Patrizia that he was taking a business trip to Florence but never returned. The day after he left for Florence, he sent a friend to tell Patrizia that he would not be coming back and that their marriage was over. Five years later, Maurizio started dating Paola Franchi, a childhood friend who attended his wedding to Patrizia. Maurizio and Patrizia finalized their divorce in 1994, and as part of their settlement, Maurizio agreed to pay Patrizia an annual alimony of $1.47. By law, Patrizia was also no longer to use Gucci as her last name. A year after their divorce was finalized, Maurizio was murdered.

How did Maurizio Gucci die?

Maurizio Gucci

Image: AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis.

A year after his divorce, Maurizio was shot and killed by a at 8:30 a.m. on March 27, 1995, as he walked up the steps to the building of his private office at Via Palestro 20 in Milan. Maurizio was shot three times in the back and shoulder as he went up the steps. He was shot a fourth and final time in the head before he collapsed. The shooter then noticed the building’s doorman, Giuseppe Onorato, and shot him twice in the arm. “It was a lovely spring morning, very quiet. Mr Gucci arrived carrying some magazines and said good morning. Then I saw a hand. It was a beautiful, clean hand, and it was pointing a gun,” Onorato told The Guardian in 2016. “I thought it was a joke. Then the shooter saw me. He lifted the gun again and fired two more times. ‘What a shame,’ I thought. ‘This is how I die.'” Onorato, who was the only witness to the murder, made it to the foyer of the building with Maurizio’s body, where he sat in a pool of his blood until the carabinieri, the law enforcement in Italy, arrived. By the time the police came, however, the shooter had disappeared into the Monday morning rush hour of Milan. “I was cradling Mr Gucci’s head. He died in my arms,” Onorato said.

Who killed Maurizio Gucci?

Without any evidence about Maurizio’s murderer, the case went cold. However, two years after his death, the police received an anonymous tip in January 1997 that Patrizia, Maurizio’s ex-wife, was involved in his murder. An investigation into Patrizia led to Benedetto Ceraulo, a debt-ridden pizzeria owner whom she allegedly hired as a hitman, and Giuseppina “Pina” Auriemma (Salma Hayek), a psychic and Patrizia’s close friend who connected her to Benedetto. The three were discovered as the perpetrators of the crime after an undercover police officer recorded a call with them, in which he posed as a hitman threatening Patrizia to pay the rest of the money she owed the group for Maurizio’s murder.

The authorities found that Patrizia colluded with Pena to pay Benedetto 600 million lire ($365,000 in the US) to have Maurizio killed, according to Forbes. The police also discovered that Pena contacted Ivano Savioni, an acquaintance and a hotel night porter, for help finding a hitman. Ivano connected Pina to Orazio Cicala, who found Benedetto for the job. On January 31, 1997, Patrizia, Pena, Benedetto, Ivano and Orazio were all arrested and charged with premeditated murder for Maurizio’s assassination. 

According to prosecutors, Patrizia—who was nicknamed the “Black Widow” in the media—had a motive to kill her husband due to the believed jealousy and resentment she had toward him at the time. The prosecutors argued that Patrizia wanted control over the Gucci estate and to prevent Maurizio from marrying his partner, Paola Franchi, because the marriage would’ve cut Patrizi’s alimony in half to $860,000 a year. During her trial, Patrizia’s lawyers denied that she ordered for Maurizio to be assassinated and instead was framed and blackmailed by Pina. Patrizia later contradicted her account by telling the court that the murder was “worth every lira.” “In Pina’s eyes, Patrizia Reggiani Martinelli was a golden cow, to be milked for money,” Patrizia’s lawyers said. After a five-month trial, Patrizia, Pina and Benedetto were convicted of premeditated murder. Patrizia was sentenced to 29 years in prison. “I think that Patrizia was bothered above all that she couldn’t call herself a Gucci any more,” Paola said in court, according to the Associated Press.

Where is Patrizia Gucci now?

Patrizia Gucci

Patrizia Reggiani Martinelli, 49, is shown at the funeral of her former husband, Maurizio Gucci, in Milan, April 3 1995. On Friday, January 31, 1997, police arrested her and four other people and charged them with the killing of Maurizio Gucci, the last family member to hold shares of the Gucci company, known for shoes, wallets, handbags and other leather goods. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Patrizia Gucci is still alive. She was 72 years old at the time House of Gucci was released. After she was sentenced to 29 years at the San Vittore Prison—also known as the Opera prison—in Milan for Maurizio’s murder in 1997, Patrizia asked that her conviction be overturned because a brain tumor she underwent surgery for in 1992 had impaired her and made her incapable of planning a murder. An appeals court in Milan upheld her conviction in 2000 but reduced her sentence to 26 years. That same year, Patrizia attempted to commit suicide by hanging herself with a bed sheet, but was found by prison guards and taken to the hospital.

“She just said ‘I wanted to go’…Psychologically she is in a terrible state,” her mother, Silvana Barbieri, told CNN at the time. Her lawyer at the time, Mario Giraldi, claimed that the suicide attempt was a result of Patrizia’s serious epilepsy. In 2005, despite her prison’s no-pet rules, her lawyers negotiated with the facility for a special privilege to allow her pet ferret, named Bambi, to live with her. She also kept two evergreen plants. In October 2011, Patrizia became eligible for parole under a work-release program, but refused to stay in prison. “I’ve never worked in my life, I won’t start now,” she told her lawyer at the time. She later took a parole job in 2014 and was released after 16 years in prison. She finished her parole on the credit of good behavior in October 2016 and was a free woman after 18 years of parole and prison time.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2016, Patrizia explained that she stayed busy in prison by sleeping and taking care of her plants and pet ferret, who died when a fellow inmate accidentally sat on him. “I slept a lot. I took care of my plants. I looked after Bambi, my pet ferret,” Patrizia said at the time. “I don’t like to talk about this time at all. It is all a bad dream to me.” The Guardian noted that Patrizia wouldn’t refer to her prison by its name and instead called her incarceration “my stay at Vittore Residence.”

As part of her parole agreement, Patrizia was employed at Bozart, a costume jewelry firm in Milan, as a “design consultant” in April 2014, according to The Guardian. One day, as she arrived for work, Patrizia was interviewed by an Italian news station at her office, who asked her, “Patrizia, why did you hire a hitman to kill Maurizio Gucci? Why didn’t you shoot him yourself?” She responded, “My eyesight is not so good. I didn’t want to miss.” After she was released, one of Patrizia’s first acts of freedom was to go shopping on the Via Monte Napoleone in Milan, where she was photographed by the paparazzi with a red macaw on her shoulder, according to The Guardian.

As for her job, Patrizia told The Guardian in 2016 that most of her work consists of advising Bozart’s design team and reading fashion magazines. “She’s like our Michael Schumacher—she keeps on top of trends and test-drives our creations,” Maurizio Manca, Bozart’s co-owner, told The Guardian. When she first arrived, Patrizia, who generated publicity for the company, helped to design a collection of rainbow colored jewelry and evening bags inspired by her pet macaw, Bo. “She’s like our Michael Schumacher—she keeps on top of trends and test-drives our creations,” co-owner Maurizio Manca told The Guardian. The company held a launch in Milan in September 2014 for the collection. Everybody came and it was a big success,” Manca said. “But it happened to be on the same day that Gucci was having a runway show up the street. The next day there was nothing at all in the newspapers about Patrizia’s collection.” Manca claimed that “someone at Gucci” told the journalists to publish anything about Patrizia’s collection.

While Patrizia liked the job, she Told the Guardian that she wasn’t a fan of computers, which just started to become popular around the time she went to prison. “I don’t like computers. They are quite evil,” she said. (Manca noted that Bozart had to remove Patrizia’s computer from the company’s internal network after she accidentally deleted Bozart’s entire photo archive.)

As for where she lived, Patrizia told The Guardian in 2016 that she resided in a townhouse in Milan with her then-89-year-old mother. Patrizia’s daughters, Alessandra and Allegra, who were 18 and 14 at the time she was arrested, are both married and live in Switzerland with money inherited from the estate of their father, Maurizio Gucci. Patrizia claimed at the time that her daughters hadn’t visited her much since her release and hadn’t introduced her to their children. “We are going through a bad time now,” she said. “They don’t understand me and have cut off my financial support. I have nothing, and I haven’t even met my two grandsons.”

Patrizia, who confirmed that she no longer wants to work at Gucci, also admitted to The Guardian that she still loves her husband, despite what happened to him. “If I could see Maurizio again I would tell him that I love him, because he is the person who has mattered most to me in my life,” she said. “I think he’d say the feeling wasn’t mutual.”

House of Gucci is in theaters now.

The House of Gucci by Sara Gay Forden

"House of Gucci" by Sara Gay Forden

Image: Courtesy Custom House.

For more about House of Gucci, read the book the movie is based on: The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed. In the book, which was first published in 2001, author Sara Gay Forden tells the sensational true story of how Maurizio Gucci was murdered on the morning of March 27, 1995, in Milan, and the events that led to the arrest of his ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani, a.k.a. the “Black Widow.” The book investigates why Patrizia may have had a motive to kill her ex-husband—was it because of his mistress? was his spending out of control?—whether she really was the reason for his death. (Plus, who else could have done it.) The House of Gucci is described as a “page-turning account of high fashion, high finance, and heartrending personal tragedy.”

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