Mimi Talks to Alessandro Nivola

BATD ON Nov 24, 2009 AT 5:33 pm

Alessandro Nivola in Coco Before Chanel

Alessandro Nivola in Coco Before Chanel

With Coco Before Chanel out this week, we were lucky to catch up with the smouldering star of the film Alessandro Nivola.

We found out what he thought of the lady herself, why he sympathises with Coco and how he dealt with his wardrobe malfunctions


How much of the life of Coco Chanel did you know before taking on the role?
I knew nothing about Chanel before making the movie except that my wife wears number No 5 perfume.  (And I’d heard something about Nazis.) 

Were you surprised by her life story?
I was surprised to discover how well the story of her life suited a biographical film.  That she was born an orphan and sang in Parisian Cabarets, and that she remained unwed because of a tragic romance all seemed reminiscent of Edith Piaf.

Coco Before Chanel

Coco Before Chanel

Did you sympathise with her character or find her quite ruthless?
I sympathise with her character in the film, but maybe because she’s played by Audrey Tautou who I like very much as a person.  Perhaps if I’d encountered the real Chanel I might have found her a bit caustic.  That said, it’s not the fact that she was a powerful woman that would have turned me off.  I’m married to an actress (Emily Mortimer).  I’m attracted to her because she has a passion for something.

Did you enjoy wearing the costumes of the film?
The costumes were beautiful and went a long way toward making sense of the preposterous moustache I had to grow.  But they were very tight and difficult to breathe in.  When I sat down I would sometimes hear the sound of buttons popping off.

Did it make you more interested in the fashion business?
I’m not particularly interested in the fashion business.  I think fashion is an art – more so now that I’ve made the film, but I’m not very preoccupied with the clothes I wear.

Are there any fashion designers you would find interesting to play?
I don’t know which male fashion designers were the most interesting but if there’s one with a compelling life story then I might be interested in playing him.

Learning French with Audrey Tautou as your leading lady, did you feel any pressure?
Having to perform in another language is not an exercise I would recommend!  It’s terrifying.  Much more difficult than I had imagined it would be.  Unless you speak the language already extremely well, it makes you feel like a very stupid child.  Which isn’t the feeling you want when playing the sexiest man alive…

What style did you prefer for Coco’s character: the early boyish outfits or the later sophisticated classic suits?
My favourite of Chanel’s outfits in the movie is the one she wears to the fancy dress party where we kiss for the first time.  It’s a boy’s tuxedo.  I say in that scene just before we kiss, “J’ai pas l’habitude de deshabiller un garcon” which means “I’m not in the habit of undressing young boys.”

Coco Chanel says a woman should be two things: classy and fabulous, do you agree?
I think classy and fabulous is a good mix.  Maybe throw in a little tenderness…

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Coco Before Chanel is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray now, click here to pick up your copy.

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