House of Gucci is inspired by the shocking true story of the family behind the Italian fashion empire. When Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), an outsider from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel the family legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately… murder.
Adapting a story about outlandish characters with a last name that belongs to a fashion empire and legacy set against the backdrop of Milan in the 70s and 80s, would certainly pique any writers interest. Screenwriter Roberto Bentivegna is no stranger to adaptations; he previously adapted A.M. Home’s May We Be Forgiven and is currently adapting Jo Nesbo’s novella, The Jealousy Man. I had the great pleasure of speaking with Roberto about his approach and writing process for the adaption of House of Gucci and which characters were the most intriguing for him to write. Plus, Roberto shares advice for those interested in adapting a book or true story.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Sadie Dean: Was there a specific character that was the most intriguing for you to tackle as a writer?
Roberto Bentivegna: The obvious answer is Patrizia, because she was always going to be the center of the film and the voice of the film, and she's just such an amazingly complex individual, both as a real person, and also as a character we designed. Because obviously, the two things are different; some people are surprised when movie characters are different from real people. And it's like, well, you make choices. But I think other than her, I would say Paolo and Aldo - the two of them and their relationship; I have a friend and he has a very complex relationship with his very successful dad, and he knows that I know about his relationship with his dad [laughs] it's not a big mystery. But sometimes sons can feel very emasculated by their fathers. And so that relationship to me was always very intriguing. And obviously having Al Pacino and Jared Leto together was very thrilling.
Sadie: With this being adapted from a book, as you begin the adaptation process, is there something that you look for specifically in terms of a specific element, a character or story?
Roberto: Yeah, this one was an interesting, because it went sort of full circle with my biography with where I grew up; I grew up in Milan, and my mother is in fashion. And I remember when Maurizio was murdered in 1995, because I was living there, I was 12. I used to play right next to where he was shot. So, over the years, I really mean this, I was tracking the story, I was tracking the movie. And I kept seeing in the trades like Kar-Wai Wong, Margot Robbie, Leonardo DiCaprio - and I was like, ‘Oh, this would be the perfect movie for me to write.’ It's just that nobody would ever let me write it. [laughs] So I just sort of sat there waiting for the phone call. And then once the process began; it was really three months of research, and three months of writing. The three months of research were mostly just reading the Sara Gay Forden book, looking at articles from the 70s and 80s, looking at fashion shows, just getting into the world of it. And then putting it all away, and just saying, ‘OK, it's not a biography, it's not a documentary. Who are these people now? Who am I writing now?’
Sadie: During that adaptation writing process, did you have direct contact with Sara Gay Forden?
Roberto: Very much so. Sara was amazing. We’re very close now, it’s a really wonderful relationship. Every time I had a question, every time I had a doubt, or even just throwing ideas at her and being like, ‘Would he do this? Would she do that?’ She explained the forged signature thing to me like I'm seven because I am financially seven, [laughs] I'm really bad with anything related to business. She was one of the first people that I showed this script to.
Sadie: What was your writing process, especially for this one?
Roberto: Well, it was funny because I was doing a writing retreat in Florida, at a place called Manasota Key, which is like the least Gucci place possible. [laughs] I was eating fried alligator [laughs] writing a Gucci movie. In a way it was good because I had to escape; mentally I had to really put myself in Milan in the 1970s and 80s. But it was a very fluid process. Some scripts come out easier than others. And my process is fairly predictable, I need to write in a quiet place. I don't like writing in cafes, I can write in a WeWork or co-working space as long as it's quiet. And I write a lot, once I write. The problem is getting to the place where I'm writing, because I try to avoid it as much as humanly possible.
Sadie: As a true writer. [laughs]
Roberto: I find that a deadline and the contracts are great motivators, you know? [laughs]
Sadie: Any general advice for writers who are looking at adapting similar to this that has so much historical context - what is something that you would advise for them to dig into, or maybe totally avoid?
Roberto: Well, I think for me, the most important thing is finding a through line: finding an angle of attack, whether it's a point of view, whether it's a time in the story that you're focusing on, whether it's a location that you're focusing on. If you're doing a story about rich people, what if it all takes place in a mansion? At least you have some sort of boundaries that you're setting yourself. In this case, the story was huge, but it was always Patrizia's story and actually in the script, even more so than in the finished movie. So I think you just have to set yourself some kind of rules from the beginning, or try and find clarity. Otherwise, you will very easily get overwhelmed, or you end up doing a rambling kind of thing that doesn't have any focus.
MGM’s House of Gucci, available to own for the first time on Digital February 1, 2022 and on Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand February 22, 2022 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.