The high-fashion messiness depicted in Ridley Scott’s epic House of Gucci is just the beginning when it comes to the legacy brand’s juicy history. Even with Lady Gaga’s bombastic performance as Patrizia Reggiani — the “queen of Gucci” who influenced her husband Maurizio (Adam Driver) to take control of his fraught family business — and larger-than-life personalities including Jared Leto’s cartoonish cousin Paolo, Al Pacino’s amiable uncle Aldo, and Jeremy Irons’s disapproving father Rodolfo, there’s still more real-life melodrama to sift through beyond what made it into the film.
We may never know the full Gucci truth about what transpired in the years before Maurizio’s death, and Sara Gay Forden’s adapted book House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed was never authorized by the family. But different tell-alls written throughout the years can help us piece together chapters and perspectives missing from Scott’s film, painting an even richer picture.
Vulture dug into the archives to compile significant moments from different Gucci family members’ written tell-alls: In the Name of Gucci, by Patricia Gucci (daughter of Aldo); Gucci: A Successful Dynasty As Recounted by a Real Gucci, by Patrizia Gucci (not Reggiani — this one is Paolo’s daughter), and Gucci Wars, written by Jenny Gucci, Paolo’s ex-wife. (Patrizia Reggiani herself, meanwhile, wrote a 500-page-long holy grail of a manuscript called Gucci vs. Gucci that never published. We can only dream of what’s inside.)
‘Women Were Second-Class Citizens’
Women in the Gucci bloodline are not often shown in Scott’s film, but the story of Guccio Gucci’s only daughter Grimalda, sister of Aldo and Rodolfo, is revealing. She was excluded from Guccio’s inheritance despite the years she spent working for the family business, including at the cash desk at the Gucci store in Florence. She even helped save the business from bankruptcy in 1924, along with her husband Giovanni Vitali. According to her nephew Roberto (Aldo’s son and Paolo’s brother), as recorded in House of Gucci, “I never saw the statute, but my father told me that no woman was permitted to be a partner in Gucci.” In her memoir In the Name of Gucci, Patricia Gucci lamented that her aunt Grimalda was “born of the wrong gender,” and shared how Grimalda only received some land and about 12 million lire as part of her inheritance. Grimalda got her attorneys involved to change Guccio’s will, the first legal act within the family, only to be “crushed” by her brothers in court. Reflecting on this dynamic in her book, Gucci Wars, Jenny Gucci wrote, “It was a known fact in the world of Gucci that women were second-class citizens and would never be included in its management.”
Maurizio and the Forged Signatures
Maurizio’s mission to obtain his late father’s share certificates in order to avoid paying inheritance taxes, as shown in the movie, is even messier in real life. According to Gay Forden’s book, the task of forging Rodolfo’s signature on five share certificates fell to Rodolfo’s longtime secretary Roberta Cassol, whom Maurizio asked to do the deed. But because she was unable, she had her assistant Liliana Colombo do it. In testimony to police, Cassol detailed how the first signatures did not work and that new certificates had to be printed. “Twenty-four hours after Rodolfo’s funeral, [her assistant Colombo] forged the signatures again on share certificates of Guccio Gucci SpA, Gucci Parfums, and several green certificates she didn’t know the identity of.” The crime was brought to light by a 40-page dossier compiled by Aldo and his sons Roberto and Giorgio.
Rodolfo’s Epic Home Movie
Aside from being an actor, Rodolfo embarked on his own filmmaking journey, creating a feature-length home movie about his family life. Titled Il cinema nella mia vita (Film in My Life), the project was conceived in part for Maurizio to see images of his late actor mother, Sandra Ravel, who died when Maurizio was a young boy. Patrizia Gucci, daughter of Paolo and his wife Yvonne, gave the film a positive review in her just-published memoir Gucci: A Successful Dynasty As Recounted by a Real Gucci, reflecting, “The enchanting scene in which Sandra is running happily and without care next to little Maurizio particularly struck me.”
‘I Am Mrs. Gucci in New York — Not You!’
Many people who orbited Patrizia Reggiani noted her insecurities about status and wealth, both during and after her marriage to Maurizio. Jenny Gucci shared how one incident in which she was given media attention in New York led to a phone call from Patrizia, who declared, “I am Mrs. Gucci in New York — not you!” After her divorce from Maurizio, Patrizia reportedly fixated on her ex’s assets. “She felt she had a right to his assets — not on a legal basis, but on a romantic basis … and she felt Gucci’s success was due in large part to her advice.” Even Pina Auriemma (Salma Hayek’s TV psychic character in the film), who helped arrange Maurizio’s murder, put in her two cents in Forden’s House of Gucci: “For [Patrizia], Gucci represented everything. It was money, it was power, it was an identity for her and the girls.”
Rodolfo’s Deathbed Wish
As Rodolfo lay on his deathbed, Maurizio supervised all visits in a way that his cousin Roberto equated to “guarding a prisoner.” But Aldo was able to have a brief moment with his brother, described by his daughter Patricia in her book: “He beckoned Papà closer and made him promise that he’d keep a watchful eye on Maurizio and never allow his wife, Patrizia, near the company shares.” Later in life, after Patrizia Reggiani became the reigning “queen of Gucci,” Patricia writes that Aldo “felt like he’d let [Rodolfo] down.”
The 1982 Boardroom Scuffle
The Gucci men were known for contentious boardroom meetings, but none gained so much cultural attention as a physical scuffle in 1982, ignited after Paolo revealed he brought a tape recorder into the room. There are various accounts about this meeting, which involved Maurizio trying to hold Paolo back and Aldo trying to wrestle away the tape recorder, and a bloodied Paolo then storming out and calling for the police. Jenny Gucci writes that Paolo reported lacerations on his face, sight problems, and an acute headache after the incident to his doctor. But family lawyer Domenico De Sole (who acted as secretary for the meeting and later became CEO of Gucci) contested that: “It was just a little scratch, but the incident was blown into a fiasco.” Along with myriad headlines, the fracas also inspired a hilarious one-word cable from Jackie Onassis to Aldo: “Why?”
Aldo’s Prison Experience
Aldo Gucci spent a year and a day in prison for tax evasion, a story that is noted as a penalty-box moment for Al Pacino’s character in the film. But the real-life severity of the experience depends on whom you ask: Patricia Gucci writes extensively about the episode in In the Name of Gucci, describing how “traumatic and life-changing” the experience was for her father Aldo and how it left him “a ghost of his former self.” Her passages differ from the accounts collected in Gay Forden’s book, on which the film script was based. A Gucci production manager in Scandicci named Claudio Degl’Innocenti says that Aldo used to call all the time during his sentence — given telephone privileges in his cell until it was taken away — because he “had a crush on a girl who used to work with me, and he would always call to to talk to her.” And in Aldo’s own words in a prison letter written to a former employee named Enrica Pirri, “I am glad to be here because I am finding it incredibly restful, both mentally and physically.”
Jared Leto’s performance paints a much broader idea of the artistically bold Paolo Gucci, son of Aldo. He wasn’t as cartoonish in real life, but he was eccentric. He loved his pigeons — he had 200 birds in Florence, according to Jenny, who writes, “I resented the proportion of his scant free time that he spent as chairman of the Tuscan branch of the Italian Federation of Pigeon Financiers.” Paolo loved racehorses as well, with Aldo referring to his son as his “thoroughbred son … who unfortunately no one had ever learned to ride.” He was fixated on starting a production line in Haiti and obtaining Haitian citizenship. And, best of all, his mustache had a purpose: According to Jenny Gucci, it was “a sign of Paolo’s rebellion against his family,” since his grandfather Guccio had banned anyone with facial hair from working at his shops.
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