‘House of Gucci’ – Lady Gaga and Jared Leto Interview

House of Gucci
Lady Gaga stars as Patrizia Reggiani and Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci in Ridley Scott’s ‘House of Gucci’ (Photo Credit: Fabio Lovino © 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc)

Teamed up for a special Critics Choice Association press conference, House of Gucci stars Lady Gaga (“Patrizia Gucci”) and Jared Leto (“Paolo Gucci”) had high praise for director Ridley Scott and everyone involved in front of and behind the scenes of the R-rated drama. Based on true events, the film begins with Patrizia Reggiani and Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) falling in love and ends with Patrizia convicted of Maurizio’s murder. In between, the drama explores the Gucci family dynamics and what ultimately led Patrizia to hire hitmen to end Maurizio’s life.

“This for me was like the Super Bowl of making art,” said Lady Gaga during the December 7, 2021 press conference. “Incredible artists, an incredible director, and a story that it couldn’t possibly be made up.”


What was the process like working with Sarah Tanno and Frederic Aspiras on the makeup and hair for Patrizia?

Lady Gaga: “Working with Sarah Tanno and Frederic Aspiras every day on the set of House of Gucci was an absolute honor. Our trailer was very much like a science lab and we had huge boards of every image that we could possibly find of Patrizia Reggiani and Patrizia Gucci, so before and after marriage. We also had continuities for the scenes so that we could really follow what was happening.

What I found really exciting about working with both Frederic and Sarah is they were always working in service of the script and in the service of giving Ridley what he needed to execute his vision. We actually sat together every morning and went through the scenes that we were doing for the day so we were never just putting on hair and makeup. We were really inventing together to create something for cinema.

Frederic and Sarah both used products that would have been used during the eras of when we were filming. Meaning, if it was in the ‘70s it was hair products from the ‘70s. If it was in the ‘80s it would be makeup products from the ‘80s. We really stayed true to the characters.

Furthermore, I have to say Ridley has such strong attention to detail. We wanted everything to look as natural as possible so obviously I didn’t undergo the same prosthetic transformation that Jared did but I actually did have a prosthetic bald cap on every day to make sure that the wigs looked as natural as possible. Frederic has his own very special technique for doing that.”

Can you discuss working with Göran Lundström on the prosthetics used to transform into Paolo Gucci?

Jared Leto: “Göran was a lifesaver. He came in…we had three weeks to prepare. We were actually working with someone else and then they had to drop out. I did call Ridley and say, ‘I’m not so sure we can do this. You might have to find someone else.’ And then I watched this beautiful movie called Border and they just used prosthetics in a really interesting way in that film. You could tell there was a genius at work there, so we tracked down this Swedish genius Göran. He was crazy enough to say yes with that little bit of time and we were off to the races.

The great thing about Ridley is when he hires people – I know Lady Gaga will attest to this – when he makes a decision to hire someone he believes in them fully. He gives you the space and the freedom to go and create. You know that he has the faith in you to do it. It’s an incredible thing.

We got a hotel room in Rome and just started experimenting without sleeping very much. We just hunkered down. It was a beautiful experience and a very, very, very special one. It was an absolute honor to be in the presence of Lady Gaga, a true American artist for the ages. It was exciting.

(Laughing) I can talk a lot about it! Honestly, we all do things all the time and we’re fortunate to do them. This was a very, very special one for me. It hit me in the ‘feels’ and I’m so grateful that I had a chance to work with some of my heroes and that they took a chance on me and I was able to contribute – and I didn’t ruin the movie. I’m relieved about that. I’m honestly just happy to be a part of the crew and along for the ride.”

Patrizia goes through an incredible transformation. Was it more interesting for you to play her in the early stages of her relationship with Maurizio Gucci or later as that relationship deteriorates?

Lady Gaga: “I would say that actually what interested me and fascinated me about the role in general was the arc of the character and the ways in which her youth also tied to her experience later in her life. Meaning, who Patrizia was when she was younger was somebody that was really trying to survive the world in a way that I think a lot of people can relate to.

I think given the nature of her relationship with her mother and the fact that Silvana Reggiani – her mother – used to always show her clippings of rich bachelors that Patrizia should be looking at to date…she was 12 years old when this was happening so in my opinion there was an abuse that Patrizia experienced when she was very young. And when crafting her, I had to kind of work backwards because most of the information that I had about Patrizia was some of before she got married to Maurizio, after marriage to Maurizio, and then after his death. So earlier in her life I sort of had to reverse the car to figure out who she was in the beginning.

I found it all interesting. I found the character so fascinating because I realized very quickly working with Ridley so closely that this woman was truly in love with Maurizio. When they got married Maurizio had not yet inherited Gucci and he didn’t have money. When he was murdered, they had been divorced. So there’s these landmark moments in the film where there’s this assumption, I think, before you see the movie that she has some financial game here when actually what was interesting to me was the arc of her whole life and the arc of this woman just simply wanting to matter…wanting to matter to Maurizio, wanting to matter to the Guccis, wanting to have a say. Wanting to feel like she was more than where she came from and then being disposed of one by one by all these men.

I think wealth and privilege are inherently the most evil thing in the world. And while they were all fighting over wealth and privilege, fighting over Gucci, they missed the true disaster at hand which is that she was falling apart and she was in pain. She made this terrible mistake that none of them caught.

What I would say to answer that question in a very long way is I could not possibly choose one part of her life that is the most interesting because I think it’s all the pieces of her life, all the moments where she was triggered, all the moments when she was traumatized, that led her to do this horrible thing. I think it allows us to look at this story and consider as women what does it mean to be pushed too far. Not every woman will commit murder because these things happen, but if you live your life in survival mode like an animal, at what point have you simply been beaten too much, have you simply been starving too much and do you snap?”

House of Gucci
Adam Driver stars as Maurizio Gucci, Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci, and Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s ‘House of Gucci’ (Photo Credit: Fabio Lovino © 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc)

What was it like to find the right balance to keep Paolo from being portrayed as the family joke but rather as a character who felt truly discredited?

Jared Leto: “I think he was treated like the jester quite a bit. That was a great deal of his pain was that he wasn’t seen or heard by his own family, the people closest to him. That’s a difficult thing. I mean, I related to Paolo right off the bat. His desire to be an artist, to create something and share it with the world. His desire to be taken seriously and to be appreciated, to be loved – all of those things.

In its own way there’s a Shakespearean thing about this story of this wild family, and I think in some ways Paolo is the crown prince. He’s a tragic figure. He’s someone who could never quite put it all together in the way that he dreamt.

He broke my heart and filled my heart in ways. I fell in love – as you could probably tell when you watched the film – I fell in love with the character, the opportunity, the scenes, and my co-stars.”

When do you think the turning point came for Patrizia where the relationship went from her being so in love to that deterioration? Was it when Maurizio humiliated her in front of his friends?

Lady Gaga: “I actually think that it happened, for me, much sooner in the film when Patrizia moved to New York with Maurizio and he began to work for the family business. Working with Paolo’s father, Aldo Gucci (played by Al Pacino), there was this closeness that was forming. As an Italian-American I had to think about what are the ways in which Italians are different from Italian-Americans. And also, what are the ways in which we are very similar? So her relationship with Aldo was something that was very meaningful to her and the way that he engaged with her about the family business, the way that he engaged with her about Maurizio, their familial friendship and this complex daughter-like with also just a hint of flirtation recipe between the two of them turned into something that was very meaningful to her, meaning that she mattered to Aldo.

When she finds the counterfeit goods that Gucci is actually selling but she doesn’t know that yet and she brings this to Maurizio’s attention, she brings this to Aldo’s attention…she’s marching into the office and she sits down and she says to Maurizio first, ‘Who’s making this stuff? Who’s allowing this to happen?’ And then she goes to Aldo and she says to him, ‘What about Gucci’s credibility?’ He says this stuff is very profitable and she’s saying what about quality and the sacred cows in Tuscany. He says to her, ‘This is not a girls’ game.’

When she’s told that it’s not a girls’ game as she’s sitting in the office dressed in head to toe Gucci print and she’s defending the company she thinks she matters and he’s telling her, ‘You don’t matter.’ He then essentially says, ‘Gucci’s what I say it is and if it wasn’t for me you’d all be shoveling cow shit in Tuscany.’ This is a huge transition moment because not only does he put her down as a woman, put her down as a family member, but he puts her down as Maurizio’s wife in front of Maurizio. And Maurizio doesn’t defend her. For me, that was the first crack in the porcelain and there were many more after that.”

As musicians, did you ever approach a particular scene of dialogue as you would a song, finding the tempo and rhythm of the scene and letting that move you?

Lady Gaga: “To me, I love to work long periods of time on a script. I spent months and months and months on this script, like a romance. I loved working with Susan Batson who’s my acting teacher. She’s absolutely incredible. I also worked with Beatrice Pelliccia on my accent. For me, there’s a way to break down a scene that I have studied that is personal that I don’t want to fully air out and share because it’s one of those sacred acting secrets that I keep to myself. But, there’s a way to break it down to really understand what’s happening in a scene.

I think that, for example, the scene between Rodolfo (played by Jeremy Irons) and myself and Maurizio when I share that I’ve had a child, to me this scene was a baptism. It was all about receiving the baptism. These are the sorts of ideas that I might have going to set and then when you get to set you throw your ideas out the window and you simply listen.

And then the musicality of the accent, talking to your fellow actors, the natural true alchemy and chemistry that occurs is to me something that is extremely sacred and not meant to be controlled but rather meant to be studied. And then to truly listen to each other because it’s then that I think the chemistry of humanity can shine and that you get those true, real moments.

I mean, my scene with Paolo and the moment where we talk about keeping Gucci’s secrets and I say, ‘Father, Son, and House of Gucci,’ this came completely from a spontaneous place because of me and Jared just simply speaking to each other and being in character all the time. I think it’s a mixture of studying as well as being open to the spontaneity of acting and really living in art.

For me, I feel like my career has been an exercise in celebrating the art of life and I think bringing the art of life to set. When you have a director as great as Ridley Scott, you have an opportunity to express all sorts of sides of yourself. If you do your homework and you care about it, which Tony Bennett always says, ‘If you’re nervous, you care.’ If you have those nerves and you fight through them, I think something truly great can happen.”

Jared Leto: “I think there’s a lot in common there (between dialogue and songs). Italian is a musical language, right? There’s so much melody and a big key into the character of Paolo for me was his voice. I have kind of a boring, dry, monotonous voice in my own life so it was nice to pull the strings of Italy there and jump into this symphony of words.

I had a high voice at times – a very, very high voice. There wasn’t very much when I was doing research; there wasn’t very much I could find of Paolo speaking. There weren’t a lot of interviews. There wasn’t a lot of audio. There were very limited photos, and I talked to family and friends. But there was one clip of him talking in an interview and it was just enough to get a launchpad into the range of his voice, the dialect, his kind of mischievous way of using words. He always had a bit of a twinkle in his eye.

Another part of the voice that I took was from a very good friend of mine who grew up in Rome who spent a lot of time all over Italy. I kind of filled in the blanks with his voice. He happens to be the creative director of Gucci, so there’s a little bit of a connection there. And it was fun for me because I’ve had a love affair with this country for so long. I love anything and everything Italian. Kind of in a way Paolo is my love letter to Italy.

But, music, yeah. I know that Gaga did this for sure but listening to the songs of the period, like the Italian hits of the ‘80s…I recommend it to everybody. It’s a blast! There’s some incredible music of that era that’s been forgotten and that was really fun. I know that when we danced, we were certainly going back to a different era together.”

House of Gucci Jared Leto
Jared Leto stars as Paolo Gucci in Ridley Scott’s ‘House of Gucci’ (Photo Credit: Fabio Lovino © 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc)

Was the look for Paolo Gucci set in stone or did you try out different looks?

Jared Leto: “No, it wasn’t at all and when I read the script, I had no idea what Paolo looked like. I just read the script and kind of fell for the character and the possibilities there. And then when I dug in, you know it’s interesting because he looks a lot like my grandfather. He really does! Which is weird because my grandfather as well was a cue ball by the time he was 23. I don’t know how I ended up with hair because it was my mother’s father and it’s supposed to be your mother’s father. I don’t know how that worked out. Either way, he looked like my grandfather. My grandfather was also kind of gregarious, funny guy, a spirited guy, a mischievous guy. I think there’s some of grandpa in the character as well.

But the look wasn’t set in stone. Ridley hired me and I knew that there was an opportunity. When he hires his actors, and just across the board his team, I think he believes in his decision and he believes in that person. He expects that people are going to rise to the occasion. So, we just went off like Gaga was talking about with her hair and makeup…we went off in hotel room in Rome and just experimented. A little bit of panic, a lot of excitement, and sleepless nights and we cobbled together this life. And, of course, it’s not going to be Paolo but I feel like when you do play a real person you have an obligation to do your best to bring to life an impression, a spirit, of the person that you’re playing. That’s the best you can hope to do.”

House of Gucci
Lady Gaga stars as Patrizia Gucci in ‘House of Grace’ (Photo © 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc)

Can you talk about the collaborative process of working with Ridley Scott?

Lady Gaga: “Working with Ridley was just such an amazing experience. He’s such an architect and he really works like a mathematician. The way that he places the cameras is geometric heaven. It’s exciting being an actor on his set. I don’t know, Jared, if you felt this way but just knowing that he’s capturing both of us at the same time while we’re working together, we know that if anything spontaneous happens, both of us are getting caught at the same time. It’s true chemistry. It’s not over-the-shoulder and then reversed.

Working with Ridley was special. He believes in spontaneity, creativity, and momentum. Sometimes we would rehearse. Sometimes we would start rehearsal and he’d go, ‘No, that’s it.’ He would stop us because he could feel that it was happening. He would get this feeling.

He’s a conductor. I think when you watch House of Gucci you see – to go back to the musical element that you were mentioning – the whole cast together were all like different instruments in a symphony and Ridley’s conducting us all together. We all sound different. We all have different Italian accents or versions of accents that would have been appropriate to our characters given where they lived, where they went to school. My character in particular, she grew up in Vignola but then she spent a lot of time in the north so I had a Northern Italian accent.

Working with Ridley from a perspective of momentum as well as setting up the scenes, rehearsing, going over the script, and then also calibrating the accents with him was such a wonderful and interesting experience. I spent a lot of time with him talking about Patrizia’s accent because I showed up in my accent. And when we went through the script, he noticed that my voice was higher when she was young; it was lower when she was older. Depending on who I was talking to it would change as well.

For example, my scenes with Salma who’s amazing…I love working with Salma Hayek…Salma’s from Naples so there’s a little bit more of a grit and a different style to the way that we would speak. All of these things were exciting.

Being on a set like that is something I will never forget. I get chills every time I think about being in Italy and filming this movie because I felt like I was living inside a real art piece all of the time.”

Jared Leto: “Paolo is not shy with words and it’s safe to say that anything too naughty was probably something I dredged up from my own experience. (Laughing) There’s a lot on the cutting room floor, I’m sure, that was maybe a little too outlandish. But I told him in the beginning I was just kind of going to go nuts and he embraced it. He stayed true to his word which was like, ‘Yes, let’s do that.’

He basically took the cuffs off and let us, the inmates, kind of run the asylum for a while. And it’s fantastic because you fail a lot when you’re improvising but those times when you can break things a little bit and then recover from that, it kind of jars you into a sense of truth that’s a beautiful, beautiful moment. When that happens, everyone is catapulted to the here and now. You have to look at the people in the scene. You have to listen and be there now. So, it’s meditative in a way. It pushes you into a new place – a magical place.

There was lots of improv’ing. It’s scary, too, when you jump off the cliff like that because sometimes you’re going to fall flat on your face but you know it’s okay. Like Lady Gaga was saying, the way that Ridley shoots you know that if something happens spontaneous, something that’s a little messy, you know it can be used. He’s an actor’s director. He’s known as a shooter but he’s really an actor’s director and that’s the beautiful thing.”

How much did you know Patrizia prior to the film and was there anything in the script that surprised you about her?

Lady Gaga: “I did a lot of research about Patrizia. Once I read the script a couple of times, I then began this investigation like a journalist about her. I started writing a backstory in the first person, so sort of like an autobiography as her. It’s pretty long and I used to read it every day. It’s sort of like putting it in your body, putting all the information about her life – her birthday, her mom’s birthday, the relationship with her father, what did her father do for a living, what was her relationship with men in general, what did she love about Maurizio, what did he love about her.

I spoke to a psychic that knew the family. I spent a lot of time learning everything that I could possibly learn about her. And if I felt like there was any stone unturned, I read it. I did stay away from the book though because I felt like the book had a really strong point of view and I didn’t want anyone to tell me who she was. I wanted to discover who she was.

And in terms of the script, something that I discovered about her that was surprising to me or interesting to me? There was a lot. I think that the thing I loved the most was how much she loved him. I think she just loved him so much and I think that she thought the world of him. I think she really believed in him. From all the research that I’ve done, what he loved about her, what I found out is that he loved her strength. Knowing that she was strong, knowing there was a time in her life where she wasn’t evil. There was a time in her life when she was just a real woman trying to survive in a man’s world. And knowing that she, in the script even, was encouraging him to take helm of this huge thing that he had in front of him, this inheritance of his father. To basically say, ‘Maurizio, when I was born I didn’t have this opportunity but you do. I believe in you.’ I found that really exciting and I found in it then a reason to play a murderer.

To be frank, on American Horror Story I played a vampire and there was a sort of science fiction element to the whole thing. But when it came to this role, it was very important to me that there was a good story to tell in terms of being a woman. Meaning, not to tell a story just about greed, sex, and scandal, and that she murdered for money. Or, it’s that sort of stereotypical idea of a woman that snapped. What I found interesting in the script was that there’s this story of a woman who fell in love and was simply too hurt over and over again, and simply too mangled on the inside by life.

For me what was so fascinating about her was that she was real and that I could play her real. She had a realness to her; she wasn’t faking it. She really wanted to be great and she was really, really hurt when people didn’t think she was great.”

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MGM’s House of Gucci opened in theaters on November 24, 2021.