With a wide smile and a warm handshake, Audrey Tautou welcomes a reporter into her hotel room. After ordering a glass of water, she leans over and looks at her interviewer with big, dark eyes.
It’s been a matter of only seconds, yet the porcelain-skinned actress has already managed to put the reporter firmly under her spell.
So when she confides that she shares the same fierce temperament as Coco Chanel — the famous French designer she plays in the latest film by Anne Fontaine — it’s a little hard to believe.
“I was born that way, with a bit of an impulsive side,” Tautou says. “I say what’s on my mind. I’m not a hypocritical person. In fact, I’m a very poor liar.”
The film, Coco avant Chanel, is loosely based on L’Irrégulière, the book by Edmonde Charles-Roux. It deals mainly with the designer’s formative years, through being a small-time cabaret singer, a young woman passionately in love, a frustrated seamstress and an aspiring courtesan.
Though the film doesn’t showcase the fashion maven’s triumph, it does capture the birth of a style that, still to this day, defines the modern woman.
One scene shows the young rebel transforming her rigid corsets and feathered dresses into simple, practical outfits that reflect an active woman’s lifestyle.
This film represents a total departure for Tautou. Three years ago, the actress was featured in sparkling jewels and plunging necklines in the film Hors de prix.
Miles apart from Irene, her sultry and adventurous character in the Pierre Salvadori comedy, the role she plays in Coco avant Chanel is also much more in line with her own outlook.
“Hors de prix allowed me to fully understand the effect a sexily dressed woman could have on the male population. I had never experienced that before!” says Tautou.
“That said, I prefer the mentality of Chanel, who invented a kind of sexiness that doesn’t rely solely on a woman’s physical appearance, but on her personality, her uniqueness, her strength of character.”