Audrey Tautou: The Movieline Interview

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When I first meet Audrey Tautou in a courtyard at the Four Seasons, I'm immediately struck by two things: Tautou's delicate, porcelain beauty, and the fact that this tiny woman, dressed to the nines, is struggling to lift and reposition a gigantic, shade-granting umbrella. Sure, it might be a little easier if we just move our chairs into the shade that's already there, but Tautou isn't daunted by taking on the tougher task, and it's that same sense of impossible, irrepressible ambition that makes her such a perfect fit to play Coco Chanel in Anne Fontaine's new biopic Coco Before Chanel, which traces the headstrong designer's eventful early life.

After Tautou finished with the umbrella, she sat down to talk with Movieline about her own childhood, her affinity for Chanel, and her position on doing more English-language films.

Coco Before Chanel makes the argument that what happened before Chanel's fame was the most important time in her life, that many of her most important qualities were forged then. Could I say the same about Audrey Tautou?

I think that in Chanel's youth, she was your typical Romanesque heroine. She came from a very, very poor family, her mother died when she was young, her father abandoned her in an orphanage, she was a self-made woman...and of course, that's all the truth! It makes that part of her life very interesting. As for me? When I was a teenager, I thought nothing would ever happen to me because my childhood was so normal. I had this complex of normality. Maybe that's why I've been playing a lot of orphans. [Laughs]

I'm sure everyone has asked you about your own similarities to Coco Chanel, but I'd like to know what you think Anne Fontaine has in common with her.

Yeah, that's the wiser question to ask! I think that Anne had a real strength and she's a woman who's able to assume responsibility and drive the team. She's an independent woman and she has a way of talking that's very straight and direct. In acting, that's something you really respond to.

Anne told me that to a certain extent, she blackmailed you into doing this project. If you hadn't agreed to do it, she said she wouldn't have written it.

Well, before starting to research a moment in Chanel's life which would be interesting to Anne, she wanted to know if the idea of playing Coco Chanel was inspiring me. But she didn't tell me, "If you don't do it, I won't do it," she just said, "Would you be interested in playing Coco Chanel? I'm not sure if I will find a movie in Chanel's life that will interest me because I don't want to make a movie about fashion or clothes or just a superficial thing about her own life. I want to focus, maybe, on the most Romanesque parts of Chanel's life and go as deep as possible in her psychology."

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