It’s been three years, but Lady Gaga is finally ready to let go of Patrizia Reggiani. The performer sat down for a brand new interview with Vogue this month, where she discussed the mental toll becoming the character took on her, how she went full-on method to nail the part, and why she refused to drop that Italian accent for nine months during filming.
“It is three years since I started working on it,” Gaga tells British Vogue for the November 5 issue. “I will be fully honest and transparent: I lived as her for a year and a half. And I spoke with an accent for nine months of that… Off camera [too]. I never broke. I stayed with her.”
Fans got a glitzy first glimpse at that accent this summer when the first trailer for the film dropped. Then, they got another look just last week when a follow-up preview hit the internet, and naturally there were some strong reactions to Gaga’s Italian inflection, which some pointed out sounds more Russian than Italian.
Gaga explains the accent in the interview, revealing she started with a “specific dialect from Vignola.” She then, “started to work in the higher class way of speaking that would have been more appropriate in places like Milan and Florence.” The 35-year-old notes that the accent is slightly different depending with whom she’s speaking in the film.
“It was the experience of a lifetime making this film because every minute of every day I thought of my ancestors in Italy, and what they had to do so that I could have a better life,” she adds. “I just wanted to make them proud, which is why I made the decision to make the performance about a real woman and not about the idea of a bad woman.”
House of Gucci revolves around the rise and fall of the Gucci empire, and notably includes the scandalous reveal that Patrizia—whose marriage to Maurizio Gucci (played by Adam Driver) eventually disintegrated—had ordered a hitman to kill him. Salma Hayek, Al Pacino, Jared Leto and Jeremy Irons also star.
The accent wasn’t the only way Gaga embodied the character for the film. She reveals it was “nearly impossible” for her to speak in the accent as a blonde, so she instantly dyed her hair. “I started to live in a way whereby anything that I looked at, anything that I touched, I started to take notice of where and when I could see money,” she says.
“I started to take photographs as well. I have no evidence that Patrizia was a photographer, but I thought as an exercise, and finding her interests in life, that I would become a photographer, so I took my point-and-shoot camera everywhere that I went. I noticed that Patrizia loved beautiful things. If something wasn’t beautiful, I deleted it.”
Gaga also read every newspaper clipping and recording of Reggiani that she could find for a good year, although she decided not to read Sara Gay Forden’s The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, the book on which the movie is based.
Gaga also decided not to speak with the convicted woman herself, even though she is alive and living in Milan after serving 18 years of her 26-year prison sentence. (The article notes Patrizia is thrilled someone of Gaga’s stature is playing her in the film, but miffed she didn’t come to speak with her directly.)
“I only felt that I could truly do this story justice if I approached it with the eye of a curious woman who was interested in possessing a journalistic spirit so that I could read between the lines of what was happening in the film’s scenes,” Gaga says. “Meaning that nobody was going to tell me who Patrizia Gucci was. Not even Patrizia Gucci.”
The Patrizia that Gaga became definitely took a toll on her, though. In the interview, the performer candidly reveals that she had a really hard time letting go, despite the “silence and disconnect” she felt with her family and friends during the time she so fully committed to the character.
“I had some psychological difficulty at one point towards the end of filming,” she says. “I was either in my hotel room, living and speaking as Reggiani, or I was on set, living and speaking as her. I remember I went out into Italy one day with a hat on to take a walk. I hadn’t taken a walk in about two months and I panicked. I thought I was on a movie set.”
Gaga explains that she did drop the accent as soon as filming wrapped, but she couldn’t completely disengage with the character right away.
“You end up sounding and looking like them, yes, but it’s not an imitation, it’s a becoming. I remember when we started filming, I knew I had become—and I knew that the greater challenge was going to be unbecoming,” she says.
“That’s my own journey as an artist that I still reckon with. And I ask myself, ‘Is this healthy, the way that you do this?’… I just don’t know any other way.”
House of Gucci hits theatres November 24.
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