Audrey Tautou Interview - Coco Before Chanel
AUDREY TALKS OF COCO
A roundtable discussion with Audrey Tautou
star of Coco Before Chanel
Reported by William S. Gooch
published October 2, 2009
Was being dumped at the orphanage at the age of 10 the beginning of Coco Chanel's repressed rage that she felt her whole life
toward men or social order?
Audrey Tautou: Well I think that’s a part of it. But I don’t think
all the little girls at the orphanage had the potential to become Chanel. She had something special and something innate. Her
sister experienced the same tragedy, but the difference between them is that her sister was hoping that someone would marry her.
Chanel was more interested in being creative. Chanel was not a passive person. She was very bright, really
Coco, Boy Chapel and Balsan had
such a fierce chemistry, what do you think may have connected the three characters, that was more than sexual/physical
Audrey Tautou: Maybe it’s because to Boy Chanel and Balsan Coco was a
fantasy character. Chanel was different from other women of her day. And what’s interesting is how those two men loved her
differently. For Balsan, she was a clown; and she was a muse. And he really didn’t take [their relationship] seriously. Balsan was a
mogul who’s old; he was conventional and couldn’t really go farther his station in life, and the rules that society had built. Boy
Chapel saw that her difference was something precious. He also wished she could be independent and encouraged her … In a way, he was a
man of the new century.
Do you think Chanel was a risk
taker? And if so, having embarked upon the path of being an actress, do you yourself take risks?
Audrey Tautou: I don’t
really think when you are an actor that you take any risks. No, it’s true. But I think that when you want to become an actor, you then
take risks -- because it’s difficult and the possibilities of you not succeeding, and being happy and satisfied are big…. but when you are
like me, and while I don’t work all the time, I have thousands of opportunities, I am very lucky, so it is not so risky.
Was it a risk as a French
actress to play one of the most famous women of the 20th century – was that intimidating?
Audrey Tautou: Oh yes, obviously it was
intimidating, because I wanted to be loyal to her and loyal to people who have an idea about how I have to play her.
Anne Fontaine spoke about not
doing the movie without you; that if you didn’t like the script, she wasn’t going to do the movie.
Tautou: That’s true. Anne always told me that Chanel and I have a sort of family resemblance, you know. I’m a woman from
central France; the middle -- we don’t have the sea. I’m a woman of the countryside.
I used to think fashion was
superficial, but after seeing the film, I was reminded that fashion is an art form. Did your relationship to fashion or style change after
doing this movie?
Audrey Tautou: It didn’t change my
relationship to fashion because before the movie my relationship to fashion was kind of distant. The only thing that changed is my way of
looking at Chanel’s style. Chanel wanted to have the same freedom as a man. And the first way she achieved that was by making clothes for
herself, and removing the corset. And the fact that she created a new way of seduction for a woman. Chanel created that. You know before
Chanel, women had to please men. And had to look like a crooked flower. Chanel creates clothes that are more masculine, more neutral. It
doesn’t hide you.
You’re not afraid to make Coco look tough. Do you think you shared some
Audrey Tautou: I’m not thinking about if
the character is sympathetic or not. I never judge. It’s not because it’s a choice, it’s because that's the way it is. And I know I’m
right. So Chanel was tough, but I didn’t want to show her only with that character. I didn’t want to only show her from this perspective
because I thought it would be too cliché to show the Chanel that we know as strong with authority -- and stubborn and cold. Of course she
became that and was that at the beginning, but it was interesting, I think, that she could be romantic. And as an actress, I know I’m “the
cup of tea” of many people, and I am not the “cup of tea” for many others. The most important
thing for me … is not to try to please everybody … In fact, if everybody loves you, than nobody really loves you. I think Chanel was
beyond the behavior of pleasing everyone. Chanel was famous and respected everywhere all over world. Maybe, the ones who are less aware of
her talent and how precious she was are French people.
Despite Chanel’s success, she
had a tragic life, do you view her as a tragic character?
Audrey Tautou: She did have lots of
tragedies. She was really unlucky in love. At the end of her life, she was very alone. It is very touching when you see a woman, who was
so ahead of her time, ahead of life; but society starts to evolve faster than she can keep up to it. She was a bit behind it: you know the
mini-skirts, etc. She had a great sense of humor. But she became hard, skinny with lots of make-up.
Would it be fun for you to play
[the older Coco]?
Audrey Tautou: Yeah, in fifty
What’s next for
Audrey Tautou: I’m next in the play
A Doll’s House in Paris.
williamgooch @ stageandcinema.com
read Chad Menville's commentary of Audrey
Tautou in Coco Before Chanel
Bowen's review of Coco Avant Chanel