Father, Son and House of Ridley

Keeping Up With the Guccis

Making Jared Leto Disappear

Variety Streaming Room

Father, Son and House of Ridley

Across a nearly half-century career that shows no signs of slowing down, Ridley Scott has established himself as the most eclectic filmmaker in cinema, someone who ranges across genres and styles while remaining in perfect sync with broad audiences.

Though the English-born Scott didn’t make his feature film debut until the age of 40, he has directed a number of contemporary classics — “Blade Runner,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Alien,” “Gladiator” and “The Martian” — some of the most distinctive Hollywood films of all time.

Both a regular box office draw and a critics’ darling, Scott remains somewhat sui generis — a big-budget storyteller whose movies are aimed squarely at an adult audience.

After starting his feature film career relatively late, Ridley Scott has proven himself a master storyteller.

His latest, “House of Gucci,” is a sweeping period piece that spans the 1970s through the 1990s, telling the story of how the Gucci family lost control of the fashion business that still bears their name. Packed with larger-than-life characters and unforgettable performances, it’s a deliriously entertaining family epic about greed, glamour, ambition and murder.

The film’s star, Lady Gaga, describes Scott as a uniquely versatile director, with an artisan’s sense of craft. He is “an architectural visionary,” she says. “He’s painterly in the way that he approaches his films. He’s also a mathematician, and the camera work is geometry. It’s almost as though we, as the cast, were all different instruments in an orchestra, and this movie is him conducting a symphony of all these different musical parts.”
Scott honed his technician’s toolkit as a trainee set designer before transitioning into commercial advertising, where he made some of the most iconic TV ads of all time.

Though “Gucci” is full of tactile opulence and foreboding shadows, Scott says he has taken a reverent approach to a true story. “I try to be as accurate as possible and as respectful as possible,” he says. Rather than creating “extreme presentations,” Scott believes in using visual prowess to develop the strengths of existing material.

The director’s star-studded retelling further solidifies he’s a master of his craft

By James Linhardt

Sara Gay Forden’s nonfiction book “The House of Gucci” was first brought to Scott’s attention 20 years ago by his wife, producer Giannina Facio.

Scott saw the appeal right away: “It’s a grand family history, almost Italian royalty in the fashion industry. In a funny kind of way, it recalls the houses of Medici and Borgia … It had this similar evolution where the destruction came from inside and spread through the family. How could that not be interesting?”

The plot centers on a shocking true crime, the killing of company CEO Maurizio Gucci by a hitman hired by his former wife Patrizia. Scott says he was thrilled by the possibilities of this unusual love story, where romance curdles slowly but inexorably into hatred.

As Scott puts it: “Love can run very parallel to irritation, and irritation is one step from dislike, and dislike is half a step from hate, and hate is one step from ‘How the hell do I get out of this?’ So, that’s working two ways. She is thinking, ‘My God, I married a fool,’ and he’s thinking, ‘My God, I married a monster,’ and that is the beginning of the third act.” 

Scott has a history of building films around powerful lead actresses, and for the role of Patrizia Reggiani, several performers were considered alongside different iterations of the screenplay. “Eventually, I started being very curious about Lady Gaga, particularly when I saw ‘A Star Is Born,’ and I thought, ‘There’s more here than her formidable talent as an entertainer and as a singer, and as a producer and a writer of her own show. This is a real engine of creativity.’”

Gaga says that Scott “understands the emotional quotient of a script and how to work with the actors and navigate what we’re trying to say.

“Ridley’s support in how I approached this character was really important to me, and he really empowered me. Working on a film that was mostly men, and portraying a woman who was controlled by men, Ridley cared what I thought about each scene.”

Integral to Scott’s technique is the use of multiple cameras simultaneously capturing all the action of each scene. For the actors, it creates a sense of immediacy, since they don’t know when they’re being captured on film.


According to Adam Driver, who plays Maurizio Gucci, “When you’re shooting with four cameras, then it tends to feel like theater in the round. When you’re shooting with one camera, you know what the frame is. And so you’re kind of aware of what your body is doing in the frame.” With Ridley, “Everybody’s on the front part of their feet all the time … It’s set up to be instinctual.”

“I think Adam was shocked at the speed I worked,” Scott says, “and what’s interesting is he liked it, because he just loved to get away from all that repetition.

“Early on,” Scott adds, “I had no training as an actor or as a director. I was just thrown in the deep end. I had no idea what I was doing, but I noticed the key was to cast well. If you cast well, you’re gonna get what you want in one take or two.” 

Jared Leto observes, “Ridley does an amazing thing for everyone that works with him. He hires you, and then he trusts you. He lets you loose. He encourages you and makes you feel safe.”

As a result, Leto says, Scott is able to place trust in his ensemble casts, and “We can do 60 setups a day as opposed to six.”

It’s one of the reasons that Leto — who plays Paolo, a sad-sack Gucci cousin who dreams of designing for the family brand — says he always wanted to work with Scott.

“Ridley’s work captured my imagination as a kid,” Leto adds. “It educated me, inspired me. The diversity of subject matter that he’s covered … the diversity of tone and ambition … he’s just one of a kind. To see him in full command and really doing some of the best work of his life this long into his career is just inspiring.” ★


Keeping Up With the Guccis

For over a century, the Gucci name has been associated with beauty and luxury — the best of everything. But as the film “House of Gucci” dramatizes, something went seriously awry as the 20th century ended. What was it?

Screenwriter Roberto Bentivegna, during his research process, came upon a telling quote: “The first generation creates the brand. The second develops it. And the third wrecks it.” That arc helped him crack the spine of the multigenerational, multinational epic, which explains how even in the best of circumstances, well-intentioned families can sadly pull themselves apart.

This particular saga had confounded as many as seven writers in the two decades since director Ridley Scott’s production company Scott Free optioned Sara Gay Forden’s book, “The House of Gucci.” Having been impressed with a neo-noir Western spec script Bentivegna had penned, Scott invited him to take a stab at wrangling the fact-based blend of romance and intrigue that focused the world’s attention on the Italian fashion house’s inner workings.

With a mother who worked in fashion and an upbringing in Milan, Bentivegna was already intimately familiar with the world of luxury commerce, and respectful of the family’s effort to establish, within a mere quarter-century, a global name synonymous with glamour.

Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” features a cast of elite actors, including Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jeremy Irons, Al Pacino and Jared Leto.

Speaking of the founder’s sons, Bentivegna explains, “They were given this huge responsibility to carry on this legacy, and their egos really got in the way.” In the screenplay, old-school Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) stays above the fray while regretting his lost youth as an actor, leaving his strong-minded brother Aldo (Al Pacino) free to drive company growth – a delicate balance placed in jeopardy by the cousins upon their rise.

Each is shown to display the same tragic flaw — an overweening pride, coupled with self-deception. Paolo (Jared Leto) woefully overestimates his savvy and design talent. Maurizio (Adam Driver), as described by Bentivegna, possesses vision but little business acumen.

Of the central couple, the writer says, “I think they were definitely drawn to each other. He was from a different planet, and she was this petite bombshell.” In other words, opposites attract. Yet beyond their initial passion, “She gave him the confidence and the hubris, for better or for worse, to eliminate his family members. And built him up into the monster, in her eyes, that he became.”

By Bob Verini

They were given this huge responsibility to carry on this legacy, and their egos really got in the way.

— Roberto Bentivegna, Screenwriter


With additional insight from the cast, hear Lady Gaga break down the multifaceted layers of Patrizia Gucci.

Throw into the mix the tempestuous Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) — who sets in motion her husband Maurizio’s rise and is complicit in his terrible fall — and you’ve got a sure recipe for domestic and corporate chaos.

Bentivegna and Scott carefully plotted a fierce romance gradually turning cold. Discussing a business tactic, Patrizia casually urges Maurizio, “Don’t be a cretin,” and he reacts with fury. “He has an inferiority complex, and he’s afraid of being a Paolo, he’s afraid of being a ‘Fredo.’ That really damages him,” says Bentivegna. Later, alone and on the run from the law in St. Moritz, Maurizio reflects on the Gucci legacy while realizing how differently he and his wife have come to perceive their world.


Watch Adam Driver and his fellow cast members discuss his dynamic portrayal of Maurizio Gucci.

With so many moments intensely focused on relationships, Bentivegna sees “House of Gucci” as far more than a tale of deadly corporate one-upmanship.

“Certainly, it says that wealth corrupts. But it also says that love changes, and that was interesting to explore, whether it’s Rodolfo disowning his son and then bringing him back, or Aldo hugging his son saying, ‘You’re my idiot.’ And Patrizia and Maurizio obviously go from this incredible passion to this virulent hatred.

“A lot of these things are very relatable. So, for me, it was essentially a family drama at its heart.” ★

Making Jared Leto Disappear

By Karen Idelson

Known for his versatility as an actor, Jared Leto is no stranger to embracing roles wholeheartedly. But when the svelte, charismatic Leto won the role of the balding, doughy Paolo Gucci, he knew he would need specialized help to make his physical transformation convincing, and he personally recruited one of the top prosthetic makeup specialists in the world, Göran Lundström.

“We needed not just an incredible craftsperson but a real artist and someone who was willing to work without the luxury of time,” says Leto.

Award-winning prosthetic artist Göran Lundström helped transform Jared Leto into Paolo.

“I had first seen Göran’s work in a beautiful film called ‘Border,’” he adds. “He brought [wigmaker/hairstylist] AnnaCarin Lock onto the team, and it really was the perfect group of people to create Paolo. The precision and detail with which they work is incredible.”

Lundström recalls that from the start, Leto “did not want to look like himself at all.

“This was like a complete character change. That’s pretty rare,” says Lundström. “Most of the time, you want to feel like it’s another character but it’s still that actor.”
When Lundström and Lock started working on the film, they had about three weeks of initial prep time without any physical access to Leto. The pair began by studying photos of the actor’s facial features, which were very different from the look Leto envisioned for Paolo.

Next, the duo started working from 3D scans of Leto’s head. While allowing for a jump-start with the transformation process, the scans didn’t supply all the information needed, such as exact skin tone or specific hairline details.

“I’m not used to using scans, and that was difficult because we didn’t know what [was] done with the hair on the scans,” says Lock. “We had very little information, which made it hard for both me and Göran.”

Embracing his reputation as a versatile actor in earnest, Jared Leto took his portrayal of Paolo Gucci to the next level.

Unsure of the accuracy of the scans, both specialists kept their options open, knowing they’d have to be adaptive once they were able to collaborate in person. For Lock, details such as the thickness and texture of the actor’s hair impacted the fit of the custom wig, leading her to create a combined wig and three-piece bald cap. Lundström chose to break the facial prosthetics into multiple pieces so he could more easily adjust the makeup once he met the actor in person.

When Leto finally got into the makeup chair, Lundström and Lock had only four to five days to refine what they had created.

“The first test was very tense,” says Leto. “We knew that it needed to be at the highest level of craft to work so we locked ourselves away in a hotel room and got to it.

“One of the people in the costume department was there when I walked out of the room for the first time. Seeing Paolo standing there in front of him brought him to tears. It was the highest compliment that could be paid to the work.”
During shooting, Leto never appeared in front of the other actors without his prosthetics, makeup and hair done — everything was completed away from the set to further push the idea that Leto was his character.

And even though Lock and Lundström had seen Leto in makeup as Paolo many times before they saw a screening of the film, both were astonished at Leto’s full transformation.

“The impression that people get from the character is all Jared,” says Lundström. “When we saw the film, we were like, ‘Wow, he’s so in the role.’ I don’t even think about him wearing any makeup, even though we made it.” ★



Learn more about Jared Leto's complete transformation into Paolo, and hear the cast marvel at how the prosthetics made his performance that much more convincing.

How Ridley Scott Called on His Collaborators to Bring 'House of Gucci' to Life.
Watch Variety’s Jazz Tangcay Break Down the Crafts of "House of Gucci”


Father, Son and House of Ridley

Keeping Up With the Guccis

Making Jared Leto Disappear