Karl Lagerfeld's new short film, starring Kristen Stewart, Géraldine Chaplin, Jérémie Elkaïm, François Marthouret, Amanda Harlech, Jamie Bochert, Jake Davies, Baptiste Giabiconi and Laura Brown, goes behind the scenes during the making of a Gabrielle Chanel biopic.
"Once and forever" will premiere at Cinecittà and on chanel.com on December 1st to coincide with the presentation of the Paris‑Rome 2015/16 Métiers d'Art collection.
PARIS — In his filmmaker guise, Karl Lagerfeld brings out the salt — and vinegar — in Kristen Stewart.
While typecast by some for aloofness, the “Twilight” and “Still Alice” actress is all combustible emotion in “Once and Forever,” the 11-minute movie Lagerfeld plans to screen in Rome on Dec. 1 in tandem with Chanel’s latest Métiers d’Art collection.
Tender one minute, exploding with anger and expletives the next, Stewart portrays a fiery young actress brought in to portray a young Gabrielle Chanel in a biopic — only to lock horns with practically everyone on the set. She reserves her affection only for the legendary fashion character she impersonates — and her costar Geraldine Chaplin, who reprises her role as the designer in her twilight years.
In one of those fizzy mental puzzles only Lagerfeld can construct, his latest directorial effort is a movie about a movie that will be screened at the Eternal City’s hub of Italian film, Cinecittà — and in studio No. 5, naturally.
“She’s beautiful, no?” Lagerfeld asked as he previewed the film exclusively for WWD at Chanel’s Rue Cambon studios.
In the opening scenes, Stewart is seen in a ruffle-neck blouse and demure turn-of-the-century woolen suit, when the young Gabrielle Chanel was an aspiring stage performer, belting out songs — “Ko Ko Ri Ko” and “Qui qu’a vu Coco” — that earned her a nickname that stuck for life.
In an interview, Lagerfeld noted that “the final image of Chanel is the old lady” and not the vivacious and flirty Coco of the fictional biopic-in-the-making — if ever Stewart’s character would stop quarreling with the white-haired producer and the hyped young French director, played by Jérémie Elkaïm, who’s been brought in to realize the project.
“You call yourself a producer?” Stewart screams when told she has to host a press conference on the movie before even having shot a single scene. “This is bulls–t!”
Lagerfeld said he conceived the film with Stewart in mind, convinced she could play the role of condescending, hot-tempered diva to the hilt.
“Nobody wants to be with her because she’s so nasty,” Lagerfeld said as scenes flit between Stewart, sulking alone in her dressing room in a glittering vintage Chanel dress from 1919, and Chaplin, fawned over by members of the film crew as she’s seated in front of her makeup mirror.
“She’s so good,” the designer enthused about Stewart, a front-row regular at Chanel, and a protagonist at last July’s casino-themed couture show, where celebrities were placed as the centerpiece of the show, feigning a game of roulette.
“I think she’s one of the greatest actors of her generation,” Lagerfeld said. “She gives the right emotion and the right intensity immediately so it’s very easy to work her, like it’s easy to work with Geraldine.”
He noted both actresses are quick studies, which he appreciates as he deplores the waiting and repetition often involved in filmmaking.
“Like on stage you have no second take. You have to be good,” Lagerfeld said. “There are very few second takes. I like the freshness of the first take.”
Stewart learned that Lagerfeld’s filmmaking methods are unique — unorthodox, even. He conceives the entire movie in his head, dialogue included, and then doles out lines right on the set.
“We didn’t receive scripts,” Stewart marveled. “From the outside it looked as though Karl was making it up as we went. And maybe he was.”
“I designed the set, the choice of the clothes, everything,” Lagerfeld said from behind his black Shamballa sunglasses, the temples studded with jeweled globes. “I like improvisation, but I like only very professional improvisation.”
“Once and Forever” was realized using four cameras at Luc Besson’s studios over two days.
Indeed, the film has the polish of a Hollywood production: scenes jump rapidly with the gymnastic agility of Lagerfeld’s mind, and color images depict the film set, while black-and-white ones portray the fictional biopic portion.
“I hate when they go on for hours. I think it should be short and sharp. That’s the idea of the movie,” the designer said.
For her part, Stewart found Lagerfeld “supremely natural,” thoughtful and confident — all of which rubs off on the actors. “His interest in cinema is clear and working with him in that way was inspiring,” she said.
Lagerfeld was “very flattered and honored” that Stewart “accepted to make something that could have been an amateurish movie, although I don’t think my movies are amateurish,” he said with a knowing chuckle. “Let’s wait for the next one.”
This is his 20th mini movie for Chanel since 2008, always detailing a chapter in the founding designer’s colorful and intriguing life. It’s also a wry commentary on the glut of real biopics about Chanel, recent ones in France having featured Anna Mouglalis and Audrey Tautou.
“They’re all horrible,” Lagerfeld sniped. “All my movies about Chanel are better than the biopics, just like the Saint Laurent movies. I could make a better one because I knew it.”
For one, he thinks Stewart “looks more like Chanel than all the other actresses who played her.”
He also acknowledged that working within Chanel puts at his disposal resources and information not available to outside filmmakers.
Asked if he would ever consider making a feature-length film, Lagerfeld shot back: “If I have feature-length time. I’m easily bored so if I have to do it like the others in three months, forget it.”
He certainly would not be up for a heavy subject.
“It would not be a politically correct movie taking place in banlieue [a suburb] or something like that,” he said, making a veiled swipe to the heavy movies set in gritty suburbs that often dominate the Cannes Film Festival — and French cineplexes. “I’m not good for the tragic. It would be more a comedy anyway.”
Meanwhile, Stewart has another starring role on the horizon chez Chanel: Lagerfeld is to photograph her for the advertising campaign for the Paris-Rome Métiers d’art. Source YT thanks @korita05
The call came early—4 A.M., in fact. Out of the sensory blur came the tinkling French accent of a photo producer who works with Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel. "Karl is making a movie," she said. "And he would love you to be in it. Playing a journalist. You'd need to get on a flight to Paris tonight and go straight to set tomorrow morning. What do you think?"
Um, let me think about that, oui. Like I wouldn't. Like anyone wouldn't. Having had the privilege of relatively recent entry into Karl's orbit, I'd quite honestly fly to Paris to clean out his fridge and recycle his Diet Coke bottles.
But as anyone who is a fan of Chanel and the man behind it knows, the madly prolific Lagerfeld—in between producing eight annual Chanel collections (often shown in exotic, far-flung locales), five for Fendi, and his own collection; shooting Chanel and Fendi campaigns, magazine covers, and fashion sessions; sketching; painting; and generally being the smartest man in the room—also likes to make movies.
Well, short films. But short films with a grand story—the story of Chanel. "The idea is this," Lagerfeld explains about his latest, titled Once and Forever. "The final image of Chanel is not her youth, her lovers, her beauty—it's the old lady." While Chanel's life and lovers are storied (her most famed, Boy Capel, died tragically in a car accident in 1919), he is, of course, absolutely right. The popular vision of Coco is not her great beauty, her Deauville stripes; it's the old woman, in pearls and a hat. "It's a visual impact you cannot miss," he continues. "People who know the history of fashion know, but the public doesn't see the woman, who she really was. That's the story of the movie."
But this story is markedly more meta. It's a movie about a movie: Kristen Stewart plays an actress preparing for the role of the young Coco in a biopic. (Geraldine Chaplin plays the older Chanel in alternate scenes.) But something's gone awry—the film has lost its director, some untested French enfant has been hired, and Stewart, well, she's in a mood. "She's not the nicest person," Lagerfeld says of Stewart's role. "She is quite condescending. [Stewart's character mocks her costars and snubs the press.] It's a modern woman, the way some modern movie stars behave with the red carpet, the paparazzi, all of that. If I had made image after image of Chanel's past, it would be boring." He shrugs. "I wanted, for example, to shoot a costume test, the way it's done today."
A Chanel ambassador since 2013, Stewart has been photographed by Lagerfeld numerous times, but this was her first moving Chanel picture. "His interest in cinema is clear," she says. "Working with him in that way was inspiring—to see him in yet another shade of light." It also required improvisation. "I didn't have much of a chance to approach it until it was upon us, as we didn't receive scripts," Stewart recalls. "From the outside, it looked as though Karl was making it up as we went." She laughs. "And maybe he was."
My role is basically to follow Stewart (a lovely, cool, sensitive girl who I've known since Twilight was but a sunrise) around—in hallways, on movie sets—and be yelled at and have doors slammed in my face. It is awesome. Why me? I ask Karl. "Because you are full of life!" he replies. "And maybe you've been in this situation." (Like when I was 22 and chasing Sylvester Stallone up a Hard Rock Cafe red carpet—those heady days.) "Also," he adds, "I like to make movies with only people I like."
On set, however, Stewart's character couldn't like me less. I tell her to conjure up every bit of rage she's ever felt against the media, and she nearly blows me off the soundstage. It's so much fun being a pariah!
As with any film—and especially a Lagerfeld production—we spend a lot of time waiting. But what a crew to wait with. Karl's constant collaborators: Eric Pfrunder, Amanda Harlech, hairstylist Sam McKnight, and makeup artist Tom Pecheux. Karl's handsome cohorts: Sébastien Jondeau, Baptiste Giabiconi, and Jake Davies. Also, model Jamie Bochert, who I didn't know was in the movie until I found her in the next dressing room. (Ah, spontaneity.)
This is a gang at the top of its game, and also one that drinks wine at lunch. I never want to leave.
But like all good stories, this too has to end. Lagerfeld has gotten such a kick out of this one—his energy is infectieux. "I wanted it to be modern," he says. "And to give some humor to it. If not, it would be totally humorless."
He takes off his glasses and fixes me with a look. "Which the French love, but not me."
Karl Lagerfeld is likewise broadening his cast. Following in his grand tradition of directing films to accompany Chanel’s Metiers d’Art shows, the creative director’s newest short, debuting in Rome on Dec. 1, will feature “Twilight” megastar Kristen Stewart. Stewart, who’s appeared in Chanel print campaigns, will now play a fastidious actress impersonating the brand’s founder, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Geraldine Chaplin will revive the more mature Coco she’s played in previous films — taking over after Keira Knightley personified a younger version of the visionary, shown opening her first French shop in 2013’s “Once Upon a Time.”
Lagerfeld’s shorts have grown increasingly cinematic, 2014’s “Reincarnation” featuring original music by Pharrell Williams in the account of how Coco found inspiration from an Austrian resort employee’s jacket. As for why he continues to tell fashion stories through film, Lagerfeld explained to WWD: “It’s a modern way to communicate.”