How MGM has sold a high-fashion drama
The House of Gucci, out in theaters this week, has a lot of talent behind it as well as a story made for late primetime in the early 1980s.
Directed by Ridley Scott (his second film in just a few months after The Last Duel), the movie stars Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, an ambitious woman who sets out to marry Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), heir to the fashion empire that bears his family’s name. She wants control though he doesn’t, setting up a power struggle between the couple and others in the family as well as between Patrizia and Maruizio themselves.
Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Irons, Al Pacino and others also star as members of the Gucci family or those in their orbit and influence.
MGM’s campaign has been heavy on the drama, positioning it as a feature length episode of “Dallas” or “Knots Landing” with all the intrigue and drama you’d expect from that.
announcement and casting
Though there had been ups and downs in Scott’s development of the the project since 2006 it wasn’t until November 2019 that things officially began moving forward, helped by Gaga’s casting in the lead role.
The film, developed by Scott, was reportedly picked up by MGM after that studio outbid Netflix in early 2020. Cast members were announced over the course of the year, including Pacino, Driver and others.
In March Lady Gaga posted a first look photo of herself and Driver as the married couple of the title.
Costume designer Janty Yates was interviewed about creating the period-appropriate looks for the characters and what it was like to dress fictionalized real people.
In a Variety cover story in May Hayek talked about this being the first role she took post-Covid and how the low stress shoot helped her get back in the groove given her lack of energy. Hayek also praised Lady Gaga’s work ethic on set.
the marketing campaign
Promotional artwork featuring Gaga, Irons and Pacino came out at the end of July showing them looking dapper and stylish against a stylish blue background.
The first trailer (13m YouTube views) was released at that time as well. As it opens, Patrizia is discussing the allure of the Gucci name and is clearly targeting Maurizio as a way to gain access to the power the family holds. We meet that family and see some of their dynamics before Patrizia reveals she wants to move the old guard out so
she they can seize control by whatever means necessary.
MGM gave CinemaCon attendees in August a first look at the movie.
It wasn’t until late September that the first poster came out using the same blue background as the earlier images but this time with all five of the main characters arranged in the photo. The deadly plot is communicated through the copy “A legacy worth killing for.”
Exclusive footage was provided to Vogue as part of another interview with costume designer Yates.
In late October the second trailer (7m YouTube views) was released. This time we meet the Gucci family via Maurizio introducing Patrizia to them all. The majority of this trailer’s running time is devoted to the intrigue around Patrizia’s plans to inject herself into the decision-making part of the business through manipulation, law enforcement and ultimately murder.
Another set of three posters came out shortly after that, this round using different color backgrounds for each of the characters. Another one with Hayek was added a short while later.
Leto was interviewed about how the role of Paulo Gucci fits into his career habit of completely transforming his physical appearance for each character he plays. How Gaga went full method after doing extensive research into her character was covered in an interview with her.
Tanqueray introduced a gin that was labeled as “inspired by” the movie.
Again, the next poster shows all five main characters but this time they’re shown against a gold background.
Spots like this began running in early November, running not only as TV commercials but also as pre-roll ads, social media promos and even as audio ads.
Leto and Hayek appeared at the LACMA ART+FILM GALA, an event presented by Gucci in Los Angeles.
A red carpet premiere was held in London with the cast and crew in attendance.
Regal Cinemas shared an exclusive video interview with the cast.
Gaga, Driver, Leto and others were all part of a featurette that not only offered a brief preview of the story but extolled the benefit of seeing it in theaters.
The first official clip has Maurizio and Patrizia inspecting a pile of knock-offs, with her taking it a *lot* more seriously than he is.
Gaga talked more about her character research and other aspects of the film during a Q&A following a screening in Hollywood earlier this month. She and Scott were also interviewed together about the story, working with Gucci and more.
Gaga later walked the red carpet at the movie’s Milan premiere.
The next clip shows Patrizia beginning to plant the seeds of a coup in Maurizio’s mind. Another has her buttering up Paulo.
Gaga introduces Patrizia and explains who she is in the story of the movie in another featurette. A similar video featuring Driver and others talking about Maurizio came out a bit later.
When he appeared on “the Tonight Show” Leto talked more about his physical transformation. Driver later talked about the movie on “The Late Show” and the whole cast did likewise on “GMA.”
New York City was the next stop for a red carpet premiere, with the cast and crew once again there. That was followed by a Los Angeles event a few days later.
Cinemark offered an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette.
MGM announced an experiential event in New York and L.A. that included exclusive photos as well as costumes, props and more from the film’s production.
An extensive personal profile of Gaga had her sharing how she tapped into painful moments from her past to capture some of the key character moments. How she and Driver staged some of the more intimate scenes was covered in a joint interview with the pair.
Another featurette focuses more on the family behind the fashion brand and how it’s populated by some very interesting characters. The family’s history and legacy was covered in a featurette just days later.
Patrizia asks for insights into her future in the next clip while another features the moment seen in many trailers and commercials with Patrizia talking about not being ethical but being fair.
At the outset I said the movie seemed to be big-screen drama that seemed to channel the aesthetics and style of an early-80s prime time soap opera and I stand by that. Perhaps it’s helped by the era the story is set in, but everything about the entire campaign makes me think we should be watching this on TV in the hour before the local news comes on.
Reviews have been mixed, with some critics calling it glorious and others saying it’s an inconceivable mess. That’s why it has a middling 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. But there’s a lot to like in the marketing, including it’s strong sense of brand identity, helped by the official involvement of Gucci itself in production.
But there are still two questions that don’t seem to have answers:
- Why is Adam Driver not featured in any of the sets of character posters? He’s a major star but only appears on the group one-sheets. It’s incredibly odd.
- Who made the decision that Lady Gaga should be the central focus of the publicity and press campaign? I get that she’s the star at the center of the action, but it still appears there were only three messages she had to share in each interview, so it’s thin soil to plant in.
These are the things that will continue to haunt me.