True story of love and murder that inspired Lady Gaga's new movie House of Gucci – The Mirror

Based on the 2001 book by Sara Gay Forden, House of Gucci, starring Adam Driver and Lady Gaga, tells the true tale of one of the biggest crime stories of the 1990s
Maurizio Gucci was strolling into the offices of his fashion house in Milan’s affluent Via Palestro on a spring day in 1995 when three gunshots rang out.
The 46-year-old fell to the floor bleeding. A fourth, fatal shot hit his right temple, leaving Maurizio dead on the steps in a spreading pool of blood.
A mysterious man fled the scene as the police arrived.
Business journalist Sara Gay Forden, who was covering the Milan fashion industry that day, says: "It was a really crazy time in Milan during the 1990s. The fashion scene was exploding and all eyes were on the city.
"When Maurizio was shot it was awful. I knew him through my work and he was so charismatic. I found it especially sad it happened when it did, because he was on the brink of starting a new life which he never got to live.
"It was shocking and nobody knew for two years what happened and there was a real mystery hanging over it. People just didn’t get shot in Milan in cold blood in broad daylight.”
But it would later transpire that Maurizio’s murder had been organised by his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani in a scandal that rocked the Italian fashion industry.
When asked by a reporter why she didn’t shoot him herself, Patrizia replied: "My eyesight is not so good… I didn’t want to miss".
Now, the story of the events leading to the shooting is set to be one of the blockbuster films of the year.
House of Gucci is based on Sara’s book of the same name. Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Adam Driver as Maurizio and Lady Gaga as Patrizia.
It reveals how Patrizia, who was born into a working class family, rose through Milan’s social circles to live a life of unimaginable luxury.
She married fashion house heir Maurizio in 1972, two years after meeting him at a party, and the pair became a celebrity power couple.
But Maurizio’s father Rodolfo Gucci disapproved of the union, describing Patrizia, now 72, as a "social climber who has nothing in mind but money".
And some of Patrizia’s actions seemed to back up Rodolfo’s concerns.
In the early 1990s, Maurizio began to lose control of his business, overspending on extravagant headquarters in Milan and Florence and causing Gucci’s finances to fall into the red. His relationship with his wife quickly fell apart.
Sara recalls Patrizia calling her office around that time with a story about Maurizio.
She says: "Patrizia had been going around criticising Maurizio, saying that he was incapable and stupid, and that he didn’t know what he was doing with the business.
"In 1993, before he ended up losing control of the company, Patrizia had been on a campaign to discredit him, and was doing a lot of interviews where she was highly critical of him.
"She actually called my office, inviting me to come and interview her. I went to see her and it was just pure vitriol she as spewing at Maurizio."
The pair split and Maurizio began dating a childhood friend, Paola Franchi. In 1994, the pair divorced and as part of the settlement Maurizio agreed to pay Patrizia over £1million a year.
By law, Patrizia was no longer allowed to use the Gucci surname, however she carried on doing this, saying: "I still feel like a Gucci, in fact, the most Gucci of them all".
Patrizia also became extremely vocal about wanting to have her estranged husband killed.
"It should have been obvious from the start that Patrizia had been behind the hit," says Sara.
"She’d even been going to dinner parties and asking if anyone could find somebody that could kill her ex-husband.
She was putting that out there, but nobody truly suspected her until much later. When I found out she had arranged Maurizio’s shooting, I wasn’t really that shocked."
On the day Maurizio died, Patrizia wrote a single word in her diary – paradeisos, the Greek word for paradise.
Almost two years later, on 31 January 1997, she was arrested and accused of hiring the hitman who killed her ex-husband.
The trial was a media frenzy, seeing Patrizia gain the nickname 'the Black Widow', and the prosecutors argued that she wanted to have control of the Gucci estate.
They also claimed that she wanted to stop Maurizio from marrying Paola – if he got remarried, Patrizia’s alimony would be cut to around £640,000 a year, something she described as amounting to a "bowl of lentils".
In 1998, Patrizia was convicted and sentenced to 29 years in prison for ordering the murder.
The hitman was a debt-ridden restaurant owner called Benedetto Ceraulo, hired by Patrizia through an intermediary, a high-society psychic named Giuseppina Auriemma.
Sara says that in real life, Patrizia was an "enigma" who put the prosecutor in his place during the trial.
She adds: "There are people who described her as evil, but others described her as human.
"She was very clever and quick, with a sharp mind. At times in the court room during the trial when she was testifying, the prosecutor would seem a little bit confused about the details and she would set him straight.
"Although she did a hateful, horrible thing she had a human side too."
Despite Patrizia’s actions, Sara says she does believe she is a victim on some level.
"She had been really pushed by her mum Silvana Barbieri to break into Milanese high society and be one of the upper classes, and Patrizia achieved that by marrying Maurizio," explains Sara.
"She was a victim in a way, with that background. She came from nothing and then she achieved the pinnacle of what her mum had envisioned for her, and then she lost it.
"There’s definitely a story here of the real social divisions in Italy at the time. Who you associated with was a big deal, but families in this inner circle didn’t appreciate people coming in from the inside.
Patrizia was considered a social climber and an outsider in that world."
Patrizia spent 18 years in prison, allowed out early in 2016 for good behaviour.
She hated her time in jail, refusing to ever refer to herself as a prisoner and referring to her time inside as her "stay at Vittore Residence".
Sara says following the trial, the prosecutors were dismayed that Patrizia was not given a full life sentence.
"They felt she should have been on equal terms with the actual killer," she recalls.
"The judges gave her a lesser sentence because they had filed a very detailed psychological report as part of the case, and they had diagnosed her with having narcissistic personality disorder which made her view everything that didn’t go well in her life as a personal attack.
"The condition caused her to react more aggressively. The judge decided to moderate the sentence due to that."
Patrizia moved back to Milan, where she is regularly spotted walking around the city with her pet parrot on her shoulder – and she still attracts fascination.
"The paparazzi still follow her when she goes out, and they like to pick up the quick lines from her here and there," says Sara.
"But at the end of it all, she is a bit of a lonely figure and seems to be very on her own."
One of the recent quips from Patrizia was that she was "annoyed" with the casting of Lady Gaga due to the fact the singer didn’t come to meet her at any point before filming began.
But Sara says she feels the casting is “incredible”, adding: “it’s perfect. There’s so many similarities between Lady Gaga and Patrizia. They’re both very petite, Lady Gaga is very sexy and stylish like Patrizia.”
Sara, who is now based in Washington DC, spent two years writing House of Gucci, saying it was important for what she describes “the passion project” to tell the true story and balance everyone’s point of view.
She adds: “When I wrote it I could really visualise it as a movie, there were scenes that I set that I could imagine just playing out across the screen.
“I always felt it would read well as a film, but I never imagined in a million years it would be a film of this calibre.”
House of Gucci is out in UK cinemas on 26 November.
House of Gucci: A True Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden, is published by Custom House, £8.99.
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