House of Gucci, opening Nov. 24 and based on a 2001 book, dramatizes the murder of Gucci heir Maurizio Gucci. Three decades ago, Jeremy Irons — who plays Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo, in the film — starred in another true-crime tale set in high society and won an Oscar for it.
In 1990’s Reversal of Fortune, based on the 1985 Alan Dershowitz best-seller, Irons, then 41, played Claus von Bülow, a Danish aristocrat charged in 1982 with attempting to murder his socialite wife, Sunny von Bülow (played by Glenn Close), via an insulin injection that left her in a vegetative state. Von Bülow, who had been having an affair with soap opera actress Alexandra Isles, was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years.
But he appealed and hired Harvard law professor Dershowitz (played by Ron Silver) to consult on his defense. Dershowitz enlisted some students, including Jim Cramer (later host of CNBC’s Mad Money) and future (and disgraced) New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Von Bülow was acquitted in 1985, aided by testimony from eight medical experts who said Sunny’s coma was not caused by insulin.
Shortly after walking free, he drew a mention in a Dec. 5, 1985, THR column, which noted that partygoers at an event in New York celebrating Vincent Price “retreated to the opposite side of the room” when von Bülow appeared.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.