Roberto Bentivegna, co-writer for the Ridley Scott-directed “House of Gucci,” developed most of the script over Zoom when he was stuck in Colombia during the onset of the pandemic. And yet, for a virtual screenwriting experience, it went off without a hitch.
“The process was very smooth,” Bentivegna told TheWrap about writing the script. “I wrote the script in February of 2019, and we spent a couple of months casting the movie,” he said. “After that I left to go to Bogota, Colombia, which is where I am right now, and the pandemic started and I got stuck here. It was really just me Ridley, Giannina [Facio Scott] his wife and the producer — and then every now and again, Adam Driver would show up on Zooms unannounced [with] questions and concerns and comments about about his character.”
Driver plays Maurizio Gucci, grandson of the fashion empire’s founder Guccio Gucci, in the character-rich drama. “House of Gucci” focuses on how Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) came into the picture and married Maurizio, only then to turn around and arrange his murder when their relationship went sour.
“I didn’t know how far along the movie was until I got to Rome,” Bentivegna said. “Obviously I knew they were making it, but until you see it happen — especially with me, because I had so many scripts that I had written that didn’t get made —I was always St. Thomas about it. I was like, ‘If I don’t see it, it’s not happening.’”
Bentivegna spent a year in Colombia developing the script, on which he received a screenwriter credit along with Becky Johnston, who also has a “story by” credit on the film. Originally the script was 150 pages, but he and Scott trimmed it down to 135.
“I think [one of] the main things that changed [was] the voiceover. There was a voiceover that ran through the entire script from Patrizia’s point of view,” he continued. “On a practical level, it was to give us more of her point of view and how she sort of characters in the world and also to kind of condense time because you know, with voiceover, you can kind of cheat, you can jump around a lot.”
Bentivegna also described a seven-page opening prologue detailing the history of the Gucci family all the way from Guccio’s booming leather business to Patrizia’s arrival on the scene that was shortened. Bentivegna used Sara Gay Forden’s 348-page book as the basis for the screenplay, gathering other historical archived context and supplementing with personal creative choices.
“[Forden’s] book is full of wonderful details. A lot of the details that I wrote in the script were also things that I found in Italian newspapers from the 1970s and 80s,” Bentivegna said. “I had that advantage of being able to read Italian and I grew up in Milan. So I could kind of go into like the archives of the Repubblica and all these newspapers and see what they were saying about the Gucci family at the time. So for example, the Pigeon Fanciers Association that Paolo belongs to, that’s something that I read about in a newspaper article.”
Pina Auriemma (Salma Hayek) was introduced a little differently in the film versus how she and Patrizia met in reality.
“I think they [actually] meet on holiday outside of Naples. I just thought it’d be fun to have them meet telepathically or with the television, because I remember what I grew up in Italy in the 90s, there were all these TV psychics, and they were always on at three in the morning, and they were always on regional cable,” Bentivegna explained of his decision to change their first interaction. “And as a kid, I would be up playing Nintendo and Super Nintendo. And I would just go through the channels out of curiosity, and they were all there. So that always stayed with me and I thought, you know, that’s a really interesting way of getting two characters to meet.”
More broadly for cast and characters, Bentivegna described the logistics and business behind casting as something that led to more ideas and new scenes.
“The practical concern of having an actor say, ‘I need two more scenes if I’m going to do this movie’ [made me] think, ‘Okay, what are those two scenes gonna be?’” he said. “That’s something that nobody talks about. So you have to give them another scene or two other scenes, and some of those scenes are actually the best scenes that I’ve written. So it’s like, you know, happy accidents.”
And while some characters were bulked up after casting, some family members were cut out of the film entirely.
“There was Roberto, there was Vasco, there was a female Gucci who was given nothing. She was written out of the will by Guccio because he was very macho about it and felt that a woman shouldn’t be involved in the business,” Bentivegna said. “But I think for me, you have to just make it your own and you have to be very comfortable with that. And I understand obviously that the family feels outraged. I would feel probably a little bit upset too. Not to that extent, I would take it with a little bit more irony.”
Certain lines of Forden’s writing made it directly into the dialogue.
“The monologue that Maurizio gives, which I think actually was trimmed a lot in the film, but there’s a moment when he speaks to the Iraqi investors and he tells them ‘Gucci’s being run like a Fiat, it should be run like a Ferrari.’ And there was a monologue in her book that I’m pretty sure was verbatim what Maurizio said, and Adam and I just said, ‘Let’s take it from the book and let’s put it in the script.’”
Other famous remarks, like the well-known “Father, son and House of Gucci,” were ad-libbed, and Jared Leto — who starred as Paolo Gucci — added his own dramatic flare.
“Some of the most outrageous things Jared says, okay, like the pissing on the scarf — not in the script,” Bentivegna said. “Originally he takes the scarf and he says, ‘I’m Paulo, Gucci. I’m going to start my own line’ and he drops it in the fireplace. And the night before Ridley and Kevin Walsh were like, ‘What if he pisses on it?’ I was like, ‘Okay.’ I just wanted to see Jared Leto piss on a scarf because I thought that would be really funny.”
Bentivegna’s favorite moment shot in the film was when Patrizia approaches Maurizio with her photo album and says “We built something beautiful together” to which he responds “I don’t love you. I don’t hate you. I just don’t want to be with you anymore.”
“I just think that’s a really very heartbreaking scene, and they acted it beautifully,” he said. “I wrote a thing that didn’t get shot. It was Patrizia at the end of the movie remembering a moment in St. Moritz and remembering when they were happy after she’s had him killed, and she says, ‘I hope I never forget that dream.’ And it’s a dream of him, which is sort almost like a like a dark fairy tale because the way I wrote it, it’s like snowing and she’s looking at him through the snow and it’s very surreal. And I always really loved that moment in the script.”
“House of Gucci” is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.