Audrey Tautou seduces with her gaze in the latest Chanel N°5 film, her third collaboration with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. (Tautou starred in Jeunet’s Amélie, 2001, and A Very Long Engagement, 2004.) Set on a night train, the two-minute film is a tale of chance encounters, seduction, mystery and love that embodies the essence of the timeless, mesmerising fragrance.
Q&A WITH AUDREY TAUTOU
How does it feel to be the face of Chanel N°5?
I think it all goes beyond my image and my character. I feel more like I’ve become involved in the story of the perfume and the story of filmmaking with Jean-Pierre rather than becoming the image or face of the fragrance. For me, Chanel N°5 is a legend. You can wear it, offer it as a gift and share it, but it transcends all the women who have embodied the fragrance before me.
Catherine Deneuve, Carole Bouquet and Nicole Kidman are former faces of Chanel N°5. How do you feel about belonging to such a dynasty?
It’s not bad, is it? I even wonder what I’m doing here! I don’t compare myself to those great actresses. I don’t see myself as part of their lineage.
You’re too modest.
No, I’m happy. It may seem pretentious, but I think I was a good choice [for the advertising film]. The fragrance is very French. While I’m not a chauvinist, there is something refined, elegant and delicate [about French women]. And no, I’m not describing myself, but it’s often what people tell me they associate with French women, or at least it’s the image that foreigners have of French women, or the cliché of the French or Parisian woman. I’m happy that woman is me.
You play Coco Chanel (1883–1971), the creator of Chanel N°5, in the feature film Coco Avant Chanel to be released this year. Did that inspire you for your role in the advertisement?
The feature film enabled me to learn a lot more about Coco Chanel. She was avant-garde, ahead of her era. When you think about her childhood [in an orphanage], no one could have imagined that her destiny would be so incredible, so huge. The fact that she created a fragrance in the 1920s that could just as easily have been created yesterday reflects the standard of excellence that applied to everything she did in her life. Coco Chanel contributed greatly to the liberation of women. She is not the only woman to have done so, but she was really very different from the other women of her time. The image of this fragrance is the image of the personality of its creator: unusual and exceptional. By playing Coco Chanel and getting to know her [character], I understood even more just how unique Chanel N°5 really is.
You hadn’t appeared in an advertisement before. What made you say yes to this one?
I have always refused to appear in advertisements and to be the face of a fragrance – until now – because, first, I wanted to establish myself as an actress and, second, I wanted to be able to say “yes” with sincerity. I needed to have a sincere and real relationship with the product if I was going to be the face of the product. I could never have been the face of a fragrance I didn’t like and I turned down offers for that very reason. There was also the combination of Jean-Pierre, the House of Chanel and its truly exceptional fragrance. I have to admit it was a tantalising cocktail.
Could you love a man who doesn’t love your perfume?
I could only love a man who has taste. So no, I couldn’t love a man who doesn’t love my perfume; it would be hopeless.
Q&A WITH JEAN-PIERRE JEUNET
How did you come to direct the Chanel N°5 advertisement?
I believe in destiny. I was supposed to direct a feature film, when an actor changed his mind at the last minute and was replaced, which set my schedule back by four months. The day we decided to postpone shooting I received the offer to direct the Chanel N°5 advertisement.
Why did you feel that Audrey Tautou should be the face of Chanel N°5?
For an actor to take on this role where there is no dialogue, there has to be a real intensity in her eyes. I knew [Audrey] would be good. It is difficult to get across emotions and intentions through nothing but the look in people’s eyes and in a very short space of time. I haven’t worked on advertisements much. It’s a very different approach to making feature films. A character’s gaze has to be much stronger and more intense.
How did you bring about Audrey’s involvement in the advertisement?
The idea of Audrey came to me right away. It seemed so obvious to me that we needed a very expressive actress in very short shots, someone who could act with her eyes alone, and, God knows, I know Audrey’s eyes well. I knew she would be absolutely perfect for this so I recommended her to Chanel. Audrey and I were delighted to work together again.
Were you surprised to learn of Audrey’s lead role in the film Coco Avant Chanel?
If someone should play Coco Chanel, it should definitely be Audrey. I read a little about “Mademoiselle” just before making the advertisement, and if I were directing the story of Coco Chanel, I would have chosen Audrey for the lead role, too.