He might not be very well-known, yet, outside his home country but French actor Gaspard Ulliel is hard to miss. With his impossible good looks and easy charm, Ulliel, who is one of France's rising stars, was recently chosen by fashion brand Chanel to be the face of its new men's fragrance, Bleu de Chanel. The promotional video, directed by none other than the legendary Martin Scorsese, also stars Ulliel, whose Hollywood outings include Paris, je t'aime and Hannibal Rising.
Ulliel, who stars in the upcoming French drama The Princess of Montpensier, speaks about his experience while filming the short about a rebellious actor who refuses to conform, and of working with Scorsese.
How did you react when you found out that Martin Scorsese would be directing this advertising film?
I knew that a renowned director would be chosen, because Chanel advertising films are always directed by big names in cinema, but I admit that I was really surprised. When I found out, I told myself that I was incredibly lucky.
What is he like? Is he debonair? Does he give you a pat on the back in the morning?
Beyond being a legendary filmmaker and a real cinematographic encyclopedia, he's a very caring and humorous man. He loves to laugh. He has this great big smile that constantly lights up his face and his eyes are filled with kindness. Throughout the five days of work, he overflowed with energy and enthusiasm.
What do you think about the music by The Rolling Stones that accompanies the film?
It's an ideal and almost an obvious choice. Martin filmed them and he's a big fan of the Stones. I think it adds a lot to the film. He chose a track that is very catchy, very powerful and full of energy. I was glad to discover it.
Did you recognise yourself in this young actor?
Yes, totally. He's faced with problems that I'm familiar with and that I'm dealing with myself, for example fame, image, finding your place and especially finding a spiritual and artistic freedom in an industry that is often light years away from these concepts.
But doesn't a Chanel film put the same pressure on you?
It's true that when Chanel offered me the role, I thought a lot about the impact that it might have on my image. Because, with this film, I will be exposed to the entire world, whereas my international fame as an actor is not established yet. People who have seen me in movies might recognise me, but not necessarily. And those who didn't know me before might think that I'm a model and not an actor.
And you aren't just being a model in this film…
No, of course not. I was lucky enough to work with an illustrious filmmaker. And I liked that the script was very narrative.
When you saw the Bleu de Chanel film for the first time, how did you react?
It's always an anxious moment that I dread, but also a moment that I await with impatience. Objectivity is impossible the first time you watch yourself. You're influenced by all these memories of the shoot, ideas that are in your head, expectations that you had of certain moments. At first, what surprised me was the amount of material that was cut. So the first couple of times, I was a bit shaken. But I knew that I was watching something really powerful and innovative.
What did he cut?
He cut scenes in the subway, in the street, in a limousine on Park Avenue. He cut sequences in Brooklyn and a lot more that I've already forgotten.
It sounds like you made an epic film…
We shot a lot of footage. We filmed for five intense days and it was all wrapped up with impressive speed. During the shoot, I did wonder how he was going to fit all of it into one minute.
What does it feel like to be the first "male muse" for a Chanel fragrance?
Oh, I'm the first male muse? I didn't know that. I feel even more honoured.
What was the first element of the Chanel world that you ever saw? That you perhaps purchased or received?
In my memories, perhaps what marked me most were the quilted handbags. This is what first comes to mind. And then there are the fragrances, of course. For decades, there has been the famous Chanel N°5. My grandmother still wears it.
Have you ever offered a Chanel fragrance as a gift?
I have given a bottle of fragrance to my grandmother several times.
Why did you accept this campaign with Chanel?
It wasn't a hard decision to make… Chanel, Scorsese, a new fragrance — how could I refuse?