Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images, Amazon
For all of 2021, we’ve been looking forward to the launch of Ridley Scott Gucci house. The second one, those are weird Photograph are from the set starting to trickle in, it became clear that the movie was going to be huge – a perfect Zeitgeisty marriage between real crime and the camp. And then when the trailer finally dropped, the excitement exploded. It further confirmed that GET OVER PARTS is a must see; every detail of it is perfect, from Jared Leto calling the pink velvet suit “chic” (he’s not wrong), to Adam Driver looking glamorous in giant glasses and a giant sweater, to the way Lady Gaga says “but I am fer” and murderously taps her espresso spoon. But long before the public began to obsess over the story of the Gucci family, journalist Sara Gay Forden literally wrote a book about it. Scott’s screenplay is based on Forden’s book of the same name, first published in 2000.
Forden’s book, which revolves around the story of the murder of Maurizio Gucci but also tells the complete history of the company, starting with the founder Guccio Gucci, has returned to New York Times Best Sellers List. Her renewed interest in story has been an opportunity for Forden to reflect on the events she meticulously recounted 20 years ago and see the story from a new lens: that of a viewer. Cut talked to her about how a family business becomes killer and told the story of what Gucci would be like.
What drew you to the Gucci story?
I think it’s Maurizio. He’s very excited, but he’s also very determined. The power of the desire to revive Gucci is contagious. He spread it to everyone. And then the tragedy was that he couldn’t do it – I found that fascinating, and I wanted to strengthen his legacy because I felt that he would be forgotten. He’s already spent all of this money and he’s running the company to his heart’s content, but he has a longer-term view, and he may have miscalculated the readiness of Investcorp’s partners in the future. bank financing for him. Finally, he said, “Give me just six months and I promise you, the wind will return in our sails.” And they didn’t give him six months; they had forced him out well before. Sure enough, six months later, sales were sky-high. It took a while to complete the rotation, but he was right.
Your book has become a book about the history of Gucci. Did you feel the weight of that as you wrote it?
Well, I don’t feel the weight of that because I can’t imagine it, but I feel it’s a really hard job and I feel so small. I’m not sure if this book will be successful. At one point, I contacted Severin Wunderman, the watch manufacturer whose licensing of Gucci watches has always been wildly successful. Licensing fees have kept the company afloat. I asked if he would talk to me, and he called me on a Motorola Brick cell phone while I was in the courtroom – the trial had already begun. He say, “I will write Gucci books. I know Aldo, and I know everything about the story. I am a very rich man, and I will make the movie and your book will be nothing.” I’m really shaking in my boots.
I interviewed people around watch licensing, and I distilled it down to three pages. In those days, it was still fax, so I stuffed three pages into the fax machine with a cover letter and I said, “Dear Mr. Wunderman, I know you don’t want to be interviewed for the book, but I” finished this job. It would mean a lot to me if you read these pages and let me know if anything is extremely inaccurate or if there is anything you would like to add. And I was just loading the last page into the fax machine when my phone rang and it was him. And he said, “Miss Forden, this is Severin Wunderman. You have two choices: next weekend at my chateau in the south of France or next weekend at my townhouse in London. ”
Great. So you have received the interview.
I’m a single mom with a 3-year-old, so I couldn’t go to a castle in the south of France, but I did go to London. I think I have to spend five or six hours with him. He is an amazing person. I could have written another book about Severin.
I’m impressed by how in-depth your interviewing process must have been. The language is descriptive and the scenery is very detailed. I’m like, How did she know this?
In each interview, I try to curate a few details that I can add to my footage. Everyone has a different opinion, and everyone contradicts each other. I had to do a lot of work to rationalize all these different views by sifting through all my research to try to figure out what was closest to the truth. I myself hadn’t read it in 20 years, and I went back and read it this year. I said, Keep, as, How do I know that? I forgot a lot. A lot of it made connections between what different people said. And once the trial started, I was in court pretty much every day. I want to make sure I capture the key moments and that I can see the expressions on people’s faces and hear what they have to say.
Obviously you’ve given Ridley Scott plenty of material to draw from. What do you think about the movie?
It is extraordinary. I was passionate about writing the book, it took two years of my life – it was a lot of blood, sweat and tears indeed. They took an inherently engaging story and they really took it up several levels.
Well, I’m curious what you think of the casting – I know some people from the Gucci family negative reaction with it.
I mean, first of all, Lady Gaga is a perfect fit for Patrizia. She is Italian. She is short and petite, like Patrizia. She has a strong personality. She is so charming. She has style. And even though the press at the time called her Vedova Nera – Black Widow – she also has a fascinating story.
That’s what she does – there’s been too much focus on her obsession with money and luxury, but the story is much more than that. When this book was published, there was not much question about capitalism in mainstream political discourse in the United States, and now there is a much stronger anti-capitalist movement. Do you think the movie and the book approach questions of caste and privilege differently?
That really affected my boredom with the luxury industry at the time. Those companies are just making money, they are very profitable. However, I don’t see a big push towards sustainability or return. The film focuses quite specifically on family dynamics and the relationship between Patrizia and Maurizio, and it ends before Gucci’s total transformation. I think the class issue is evident in that Patrizia comes from a humble background, and she is seen as the kind of woman “on the other side of the rails” in Milanese society.
One of the things I try to explain in the book is that Italian society is very stratified. There is a whole concept of bella figura, save face. They do not mix social classes. That’s why Rodolfo was offended when Maurizio said he wanted to marry Patrizia, as he viewed her as a socialite and a gold digger. I think she never felt safe or welcome in that very closed society. It’s one of the factors that we have to consider when trying to figure out, you know, how she evolved and what she did.
Do you have any sympathy for her?
While we cannot forgive what Patrizia did, we can empathize with what it must be like to find ourselves caught up in the midst of this very dysfunctional family. And then she lost what she had gained without her own resources, for she came from humble beginnings. She had longed for that world, but then she really didn’t know how to get rid of it. It just feels like less choice, especially for women. It’s a very patriarchal company and a very patriarchal society.
Patrizia is now out of prison. Did she ever reach out to you or anything like that?
I actually tried to interview her while I was in Milan in September, but she is currently under the supervision of a court appointed administrator and they do not allow her to do any interviews. which problem. I interviewed her in person in 1993 in her Milan penthouse not long before Maurizio lost control of the company. She ran a smear campaign against him in the media, and reached out to journalists and gave interviews to disparage him. At the time I started writing the book, she was in prison and prison administrators declined my request to interview her. I began a prison correspondence with her in which she shared what her early years with Maurizio were like. At that time, she was still maintaining her chastity.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to work at Gucci when all of this is happening. Especially considering how closely people are engaged in the work they are doing.
There are ex-Gucci people around the world who still keep in touch.
Like they’ve all been through this important thing together, and they’re all still connected by it.
Do you feel part of that?
I do. I am part of it. As a journalist writing the book, I was somewhat at a distance; it was more observant and tried to keep perspective. But it also attracted me, and now it engages me in a different way, where I’m not the writer anymore, I’m the participant. Or maybe I’m the storyteller.
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