Two icons merge as Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard becomes the new face of Chanel No.5
Among luxury’s beau monde, few words carry the weight of “Chanel No.5.” Created in 1921, the debut perfume by Gabrielle Chanel still resonates to this day. Joining the ranks of the late designer and actors Ali MacGraw, Catherine Deneuve, Carole Bouquet, Nicole Kidman, and Audrey Tautou, Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard becomes the face of the most celebrated fragrance in the world. “I feel very lucky. It is exciting to be part of the story of this fragrance,” says Cotillard. “To be part of such an iconic piece of art – I’m not sure if ‘piece’ is the right word to use, but this monument of art.”
A century ago, Chanel turned to celebrity perfumer Ernest Beaux to create her first fragrance. The fifth blend that Beaux presented was chosen; a moment of fate as the number five was Chanel’s lucky number. Composed of bergamot, lemon, neroli, and ylang-ylang at the top, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley and iris at the heart, and at the base, vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, and patchouli, the blend has hardly evolved to this day. The late designer was never one to play by the rules, with her fragrance launched at a time when the world of perfumery was subject to restrictive binaries. A floral juice consisting of just a single flower was for the reputable woman, whereas the more provocative turned to animal musk or jasmine.
“To work with the creative team at Chanel just brings more joy to this adventure,” says Cotillard of her role as the face of No.5, the first fragrance she has ever fronted. “The experience has been so, so deep and what’s interesting is we’re talking about a fragrance, but by extension about women, and their love of women, their respect for women, and their passion for women.” Renowned for her commitment when preparing for a role, her work with Chanel on the campaign for No.5 was no different. “When I decide to embody a character for the cinema, I’m always driven by finding someone who is very, very different from who I am; as that is what I am most comfortable with, exploring the unknown,” the actor explains. “For this adventure, it is a little different, because we created a character that has a lot of me in it; it’s not a totally different character. I think that when a house chooses to collaborate with an actor, it’s because, in a way, of who she is.”
Cotillard, who turned 45 in September, is known for her quintessential French beauty. When not in character, her brown locks are cropped to her shoulders and she is often pictured in radiant, barely-there makeup with but a subtle smokey eye or sweep of rouge across her lips. “Beauty creates emotion. It certainly has an energy that we can share and makes you feel alive – like every emotion,” she muses. No stranger to strong, emotive roles, she kicked her career into high gear with the French action/comedy series Taxi (1998). Her most renowned role to date saw her win the first-ever best actress Oscar for a performance in French, for her portrayal of singer Édith Piaf in the 2007 biopic La Vie en rose. She also played love interests in A Good Year (2006) and Midnight in Paris (2011). She later played a double amputee in Rust and Bone (2012), a migrant in The Immigrant (2013), and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (2015).
For the Chanel campaign, shot by director Johan Renck, Cotillard stands alone on Pont Louis-Philippe on a snowy night in Paris. Draped in a black cape, she gazes up at the full moon. Suddenly, she finds herself transported there. Donning a gold evening gown inspired by one Gabrielle Chanel herself wore and chosen by Chanel creative director Virginie Viard, she springs into motion with a handsome stranger, Étoile dancer Jérémie Bélingard. “What we wanted to convey is a simple joy, through love, through dancing,” explains Cotillard. The actor admits that the choreography by Ryan Heffington did not come as second nature. “I love to dance, but I’m not a professional dancer, I really need to work on it,” she says. Those with an acute ear will recognize that Cotillard covers the hit single “Team” by Lorde for the campaign. “The song is not easy to sing. I love this song; I love what it tells, and I love to sing,” she smiles. In the final scene, Cotillard has returned to the bridge, along with her dance partner. The classic flacon of Chanel No.5 appears, filled with its golden juice. Fragrance’s milky way.
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Originally published in the November 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia