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Audrey Tautou Interview - Coco Before Chanel 




Audrey Tautou in Coco Before ChanelA 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 special.


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 attraction?


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.


Audrey 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.


Audrey Tautou in Coco Before ChanelYou’re not afraid to make Coco look tough. Do you think you shared some characteristics?


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 years.


What’s next for you?


Audrey Tautou: I’m next in the play A Doll’s House in Paris.


williamgooch @


read Chad Menville's commentary of Audrey Tautou in Coco Before Chanel


read Kevin Bowen's review of Coco Avant Chanel



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