“House of Gucci” is the #MeToo story Lady Gaga had been waiting for.
The singer-actress’ big screen debut — after a successful run of well-received records and Emmy-nominated tours — was written and directed by Cynthia Mort, a former vice president of Calvin Klein. A pivotal role in the story is played by her real-life love, New York Public Theater artistic director Tony Kushner.
Entertainment industry professionals read the script for all its faults, and not one received a contract. It was Weinstein protégé Jeffrey Skiles, an independent producer who had a financial stake in the film, who bought Mort’s abandoned spec script and made the deal.
“A stupid-and-dumb businessman bought it for me. Dumbest, most humiliating experience of my career,” Mort, a Bronx native, said in an interview Thursday with the Financial Times. “I got the movie out and nobody wanted to make it.”
The film centers on an aging woman who befriends a suicidal fashion designer and eventually teams up with him. Mort said she came up with the character of Edna March, when she was working at a downtown art gallery, and Kushner came up with her partner, Alan Sillitoe, a conflicted A&R executive, whom she won’t say how she discovered.
Given the project’s clear parallels to the current controversy over the casting of actresses in Hollywood, “you have to imagine a lot of female agents were saying, ‘You must play Edna March,’” Amy Pascal, the movie’s producer, said in an interview with the Daily News.
In June, months after the film’s release, Mort said, Weinstein issued an email that contained a homophobic slur. She responded by claiming it was an extortion attempt and promised to get the emails archived. Weinstein threatened a lawsuit but then, she said, dropped the issue, and the two hugged. (Weinstein had denied to Deadline Hollywood that any dispute occurred.)
“Within a minute, he would have stepped in and helped me more than I’ve ever done to help anyone,” she said.
Though the parties involved weren’t able to come to an agreement, the situation proved particularly useful for Gaga. She was in demand by moviemakers for a number of projects, including projects from Marielle Heller, who directed “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and Todd Haynes, whose HBO miniseries, “The Tale,” was to star Gaga.
They both backed out of the projects after Weinstein appeared as the subject of media attention, Mort said.
“She’s done things that would have been perfectly viable for her in a year,” Mort said of Gaga, who starred in the 2011 musical “The Fame Monster” and the 2015 biopic, “A Star Is Born.” “She might get into any number of the little production companies and be offered amazing jobs. It’s not that ‘House of Gucci’ was a dysfunctional project. I got that movie back for free and shut all the business down. It’s not a ‘no-brainer.’ We could have gotten her the chance she wanted.”
The film made only a few hundred thousand dollars at the box office. As The Times reported earlier this year, in Weinstein’s defense, producing a feature film became much harder after the disgraced mogul’s Hollywood empire collapsed. The business suddenly put less value on ownership of scripts, which often were for smaller budgets.