The Face of Coco Mademoiselle

The Face of Coco Mademoiselle

Some people have it lucky. They can throw on something simple, add a hint of makeup and look impeccable. Keira Knightley belongs to this privileged elite. She never looks more splendid than when she is natural, refusing all artifice in her daily life. In fact, when we ask her about her beauty secrets and the miracle products that she has in her handbag, she doesn‘t answer straightaway. Then, in a jumble, she mentions a cream for dry skin from Australia, a moisturising lotion and… a CHANEL eye pencil. But she does admit to having one obsession when it comes to her body: her nails. But not in the way one might expect. “I bite them, so that means that I‘m obsessed with them, right?” she asks in a burst of laughter. Then, she talks about the ritual that she performs at the end of every film shoot. ―As I‘ve been carefully made-up for weeks, I love to go out and buy nail polish in the most absurd colours and paint my nails with them. Last time, I chose yellow – which I do not recommend! I looked like I had nicotine-stained fingers. I won‘t repeat the yellow experience, but you can count on me to find an even crazier shade next time!”

When we talk about well-being to Keira Knightley, even though she confesses to having a weakness for the nail salons that fill the streets of New York and Los Angeles, it‘s gastronomy that tops her list of indulgences. “I admit it. I‘m a real food addict!” she declares enthusiastically. She then quickly goes on to say that her favourite restaurant is… Parisian. “Le Chateaubriand. I highly recommend their second service, because they don‘t take reservations. So you find yourself in line with people from all over the world who‘ve come on a sort of pilgrimage. The dishes there are wonderful. And the restaurant isn‘t intimidating at all. It feels like you‘re in a small Parisian bistro. You get the impression that everyone is there out of pure love for food.” But her French preference has competition. “I dream of discovering Noma, a restaurant in Copenhagen. Friends of mine had the chance to go recently and they said it was one of the greatest culinary experiences of their life, just incredibly decadent. I can‘t wait to find out for myself!” Two names to remember if, like her, you want to savour the continuously renewed and therefore endless pleasures of cuisine…

Between CHANEL and Keira Knightley, it‘s a family affair that goes back to the actress‘s early childhood thanks to an olfactory memory that has never left her over the years. “My grandmother wore CHANEL N°5,” she reminisces, amused. And, as if an invisible thread linked them over the decades, Keira Knightley decided to wear Coco Mademoiselle, well before becoming its muse. “A friend gave it to me a couple years before I received this wonderful offer. Until then, I had never worn women‘s fragrances, because I found them too sweet or floral. Suddenly, people were stopping me in the street to ask what perfume I was wearing. I was really proud!” she recounts, with a burst of laughter so characteristic of her vibrant and joyful humour. So it was only natural for her to enter the CHANEL family with this precious magic key. “Once again, I was really proud when I got the offer. I immediately thought of the amazing commercial that Jean-Paul Goude made with Vanessa Paradis in a birdcage. Also, I have a real admiration for Coco Chanel. For the woman she was, a free woman in the strongest sense of the word. And for the designer able to create clothing that everyone could wear. Coco Chanel is timeless and her creations precisely express her free spirit.”


Speaking of family, both those that we inherit and those that we create, this story between Coco Mademoiselle and Keira Knightley could only be written with the imagination of the filmmaker who has stayed by her side for almost 10 years: Joe Wright. “Joe is the first filmmaker who really believed in me. The first one who told me that he liked the way I acted. And hearing those words when you‘re only 19 is just priceless.” These compliments honoured a young woman who, as far back as she could remember, had always wanted to be an actress. This was probably due to the fact that her father was an actor and her mother a screenwriter. Her childhood was marked by their discussions with their actor, writer and director friends, whose words she eagerly consumed, creating within her the certitude that art could actually change the world. But also… the direct result of watching West Side Story over and over until the VHS tape was completely worn down. “I can‘t precisely explain where this desire came from. Unless it was because I didn‘t really have to decide who I wanted to be, because I could take on a different personality with each role.” Bend it Like Beckham and Pirates of the Caribbean would be the first films that would introduce her to the public at large, even though she had made her debut in front of a movie camera at the age of 9. But it was Pride and Prejudice, shot in 2005 by Joe Wright, that would change the way people considered her and earn her an Oscar nomination. Arising from the very traditional auditioning process, this collaboration would lead to two other full-length films to date: Atonement and Anna Karenina.

“Neither Joe nor I could ever have imagined that this collaboration would continue for so many years. Having this creative relationship with him is an incredible chance for me. We saw each other grow up, personally and professionally. And working with someone you know and who knows you just as well changes absolutely everything. We can create a story together more quickly. As a result, of course, the way that people see our work changes. Little by little, an expectation developed that didn‘t exist for Pride and Prejudice or Atonement.” But this in no way detracts from the essential: the unique vision that Joe Wright has of her and the continuously renewed way in which she inspires him. “On a set, Joe is very quiet and he gives me space. He gives me very simple, concise and clear directions. I have complete trust in his taste, which I can always count on. And a glance between us is all it takes to get a message across.”

But working together also means trying new experiences. Jumping into the unknown, hand in hand. Before their shared adventure on Coco Mademoiselle, neither Keira Knightley nor Joe Wright had ever shot commercials. And, of course, they had to find their marks in this formal exercise with its specific codes. As always, this took place very smoothly between them in a joyful and festive atmosphere. “For the first campaign, I remember that Joe came to present his idea to me and he brought the hat that I would wear at the beginning of the film as an offering!” A gesture that sets the tone for the shoot, where, amidst a series of mirrors, Keira Knightley lit up the screen in a magnificent red dress created especially for the occasion by Karl Lagerfeld. For the second episode, the mood changed. We rediscovered her, as bewitching as ever, in a skin-tight jumpsuit that gorgeously hugged the curves of her body as she rode through Paris on a motorcycle… quickening the pulse of her suitor, a photographer this time. “This girl controls everything. She‘s not a typical ‘nice‘ girl. She likes to play with others, manipulate them.” And this mischievousness and impudence lie at the heart of the third volume of the saga, in which she tantalizes her prey at a party, before she slips away again. This time at the helm of a boat on the Seine. “We shot this moment at 4 a.m. to see the sun rise. It was sublime.” Just as sublime as the stage design created by Aline Bonetto, who won two César awards for her work with Jean-Pierre Jeunet on Amélie and A Very Long Engagement and who had already developed the stage design of the previous Coco Mademoiselle film.

In this new film, we can notably admire an imposing staircase that plays with the initials CC, which Keira Knightley, now bedecked with a sublime white dress, walks down with majestic delight. Even though she cheated… “With my high heels, I was bouncing on the stairs and I was really afraid of breaking my neck. So Joe kindly allowed me to go down the stairs with bare feet. But don‘t tell anyone!” Her sin is confessed… but completely forgiven when you discover the scene to the music of ‘She‘s Not There’ a song by the British pop group The Zombies, directly from the 60s. “We couldn‘t have dreamt of a better title for this character: Coco Mademoiselle never seems to really be there. In any case, she is never where you expect her to be.” Music actually played an essential role on the particularly festive and rhythmic film set. “As Coco Mademoiselle comes right out of a party, the music becomes a character in its own right in this new film. To put us in the mood, we could count on two enthusiastic DJs. Joe, of course, but also my husband, who was nice enough to come support us.” On the program: mainly… Kanye West for a more low-key work atmosphere than ever and a result that combines glamour and energy, like the most thrilling of cocktails… to enjoy without moderation, as it is driven by a love of acting that jumps off the screen. A childlike pleasure in the literal sense of the word. “For a long time, I had trouble saying that I was an actress, but today I can. I‘m still just as stressed out when I start a film shoot and I‘m not happy with everything that I do, far from it. But with time and each new film, I continue to learn, unlearn and learn again. And therefore to build who I am.”  We can logically assume that Keira Knightley will return to Joe Wright one day for a new adventure with CHANEL or on other horizons. “Since I met him, Joe has always supported me and helped me push back my limits.” The family gives one wings to fly. For Keira Knightley, these wings trace the flamboyant shadow of a mischievous and joyful angel. There‘s no doubt about it: she is Coco Mademoiselle!


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