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You Can Thank Giannina Facio for House of Gucci’s Existence

Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage

It’s fair to say House of Gucci would never have been built without the moviemaking foundation laid by Giannina Facio. The Costa Rican-born, European-famous actress-turned-producer — best known Stateside for a 1997 swing on the soap opera Days of Our Lives  but also for a handful of roles in Italian TV series and movies — spent nearly a quarter century developing the material, eventually adapting Sara Gay Forden’s book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed into a $75 million star vehicle for Method actress Lady Gaga. Director Ridley Scott — Facio’s producing partner, husband since 2015, and partner in life for the last 29 years — was attached to the biographical drama and dropped out three different times, before ultimately being persuaded to commit by co-screenwriter Roberto Bentivegna’s iteration of the script. Now, House of Gucci finally is finally in theaters, and has grossed $68.6 million worldwide.

Facio, 66, has made cameo acting appearances in all but four of Scott’s films, dating back to his 1996 disaster drama White Squall (she is not in House of Gucci, alas). But she had only previously produced one title in the multibillion-dollar-grossing British director’s filmic oeuvre: the 2003 Nicolas Cage con-artist dramedy Matchstick Men. Over Zoom, she discussed what she describes as the refreshing lack of awkwardness she faced in having her husband bail from her passion project so many times, how she and “Rid” (as she calls the take-no-shit 83-year-old) still watch at least one film a day together, and why there was never any other choice than to plot Gucci — which also features a top-notch ensemble cast including Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek, and Al Pacino — around Gaga’s character Patrizia Reggiani, the Italian socialite convicted of hiring thugs to kill her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci in 1995.

I understand that you first encountered this story in the early 2000s and brought it to Ridley. 
It’s actually more like 24 years that I’ve had this project. Which is crazy! But it’s a project that I could never let go of. Because there was something inside me, telling me that one day I would make this movie in the right way, in the way I saw it. And thank God I had my husband; we have the similar vision. Because he was attached three times to this project.

Oh my God!
Only it never came together. Because maybe we didn’t have the right cast. We never had the right script until we got Roberto. And when we had that wonderful script, we knew we were set to go. And Rid then said, “Let’s start casting.”

Was the film always plotted around Patrizia?
For me, it was always Patrizia. Because, being a woman, I understood where she was coming from. I don’t understand anybody killing their husband, of course. But I understood the pain. I never saw her as a bad guy. I saw her as a victim of her circumstances. So that’s why I felt it should be told from her point of view because she’s been judged in every way. And she did a terrible thing, but he wasn’t that nice either; what he did to her. And it’s a story of passion. There was such gigantic passion between these two.

They were madly in love. Patrizia was of course more mature than Maurizio. And she taught him the ropes. So she had him under her thumb.

Patrizia undoubtedly deserves a lot of credit for the direction that Gucci as a company eventually took. But I wondered if Ridley required persuasion that this was a good project for him. He’s best known for sweeping, action-filled films. Not many of his films feature women as a main character. What kind of salesmanship on your part was required to get him to commit?
Not much. I’ll tell you why. When I showed him the book at the beginning, he didn’t read it. But there had been many interviews and documentaries done on Patrizia. And I showed those to him and he got it. He said, “This is really interesting.”

The problem was, we went to two or three different writers; we couldn’t get the story right. It just wasn’t flowing. Then he was out. There were two or three other directors involved. And we never got the right script. Then we got Rid back when we had something that felt right for the time.

So at one point it was maybe okay. But then we weren’t convinced by the script we had. We weren’t getting the cast we wanted. So he dropped out again. And we said, “Well, wait.” And then this third time was the perfect time. We met with Roberto Bentivegna and the way he described the story was exactly the way we had been imagining for 20 years. And nobody had been able to grasp it. For Ridley, number one is a script. Then because of this great script, we attracted a wonderful cast starting, of course, with Lady Gaga. When she left that first meeting, she said, “I was born to make this movie. I was born to play this role.”

From there it was just easy. Jared was very excited to join us. There was Al, who Ridley had never worked with. And Salma, my really good friend who, of course, had to be a part of this. I’ve been talking to her about it for 24 years as well. Once we had the script, everything started flowing.

You’re not only Ridley’s producing partner on other films. You’re also his partner in life. If he’s dropping in and out of this project, is there some awkwardness? Like, “Are you dropping out again, Rid?”
No, not at all. Because we’re both going for the same goal, which is to make a great movie. And if it’s not feeling right, we’re not people that stay attached to something. We’ve been together for a long time. So we really understand each other and respect each other’s opinion. So never a problem there.

I read that the two of you got together around the time of filming White Squall. Do I have that right?
No, we met before. By then we were already together. He brought me onto the film and then said, “Why don’t you do a cameo?” And so I did. And then after that, I’ve been doing cameos in his movies. But by then we were already living together. We’ve been together now for 29 years. Before that, I did a bit of acting. Absolutely hated it. I had a TV show in Italy but I never liked being on that side of the camera, to tell you the truth. And I’m a person that adores cinema and adores entertainment. And so I felt like I wanted to tell stories that weren’t being told. And I said, “What’s the best way?” So I was always reading articles and talking to Rid. It was very helpful when I got together with Rid that we would talk about projects. We watch at least one film a day, Rid and I. It just kind of dawned on us that this is what I should do.

Sounds like you enjoy finding and developing material. It’s not like he’s going to say, “Hey, why don’t you produce Prometheus 2?”
Yes, I’m a creative developer and producer.

Did you meet with members of the Gucci family about this project?
I did meet some of the Gucci people. It could have been 20 years ago that we had a cup of tea. I just asked them about their family and realized that each family member wanted only to tell their story and didn’t want anybody else to have a say. I realized immediately I don’t want to get involved.

So at that point, you decided to base the script on Sara Gay Forden’s book. 
No. Sara’s book was the first thing. But there’ve been numerous books written in Italian, lots of interviews and documentaries — I think ten — where they interview police, detectives, lawyers, the family members. So there’s a lot out there to pick from. This story is not just Sara’s book. That was our inspiration. But this story is a work of investigation for 20 years.

Angelina Jolie, Penélope Cruz, and Margot Robbie were all attached to play Patrizia at different points. That’s a testament to what a richly drawn character she is. But what was it about Lady Gaga that made her right for the role?
Well, first and foremost, she is Italian. She has that feeling of family in her life. That was one thing that really felt right for us: Her energy was right for the part. When we sat and talked to her, we realized how incredibly intelligent she is and well prepared. We were blown away after one meeting.

The Gucci family is less than thrilled you’ve made House of Gucci. I wondered if you have any thoughts about ruffling those feathers. What do you make of the Guccis’ dismay?
I don’t think they’re that dismayed. There’s just one or two that keep coming up because they wanted to be part of our movie as consultants. But let’s remember: This is entertainment. We’re telling a story with creative liberty from our end of how it happened. We’re not a docudrama. I’m very curious as to what they’re going to think once they see the movie. Because we make them all human! And it’s humorous. We’re telling a story from a humorous point of view as well. But I don’t think in any way we’re offending anybody or going too far away from the truth.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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House of Gucci Would Not Exist Without Giannina Facio