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Director Joe Wright about his Work

For some, CHANEL No.5 represents a twentieth century icon. For others, the best selling fragrance evokes the eternal woman. Still, it is hard not to agree with Joe Wright, the director of CHANEL No.5's brand new advertising campaign that the scent equals “a phenomenon that continues to reinvent and reinvent itself”. Case in point: the unexpected and exciting decision to sign up Brad Pitt as the face of CHANEL No.5. The international leading man is obviously following in the footsteps of Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe, Catherine Deneuve, Lauren Hutton, Nicole Kidman and Audrey Tautou. It marks a first in the world of perfume just as CHANEL No.5 marked a first in 1921 with its radical and intoxicating mix of 80 ingredients.
It should also be stressed that it is a serious meeting of the icons. No living actor quite comparesto Brad Pitt – blessed with legendary talent, fame and looks – and of course the same could be said for CHANEL No.5. – conjured up by Ernest Beaux, the last Tsar's treasured perfumer. Meanwhile, the campaign which views the fragrance through the eyes of a man fits in with the “revolutionary” reputation of CHANEL No.5 – which broke down barriers – and CHANEL, a megabrand that succeeds by daring to be different.

Sunday, 21.10.2012
00:15 (Cet)

 
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For some, CHANEL No.5 represents a twentieth century icon. For others, the best selling fragrance evokes the eternal woman. Still, it is hard not to agree with Joe Wright, the director of CHANEL No.5's brand new advertising campaign that the scent equals “a phenomenon that continues to reinvent and reinvent itself”. Case in point: the unexpected and exciting decision to sign up Brad Pitt as the face of CHANEL No.5. The international leading man is obviously following in the footsteps of Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe, Catherine Deneuve, Lauren Hutton, Nicole Kidman and Audrey Tautou. It marks a first in the world of perfume just as CHANEL No.5 marked a first in 1921 with its radical and intoxicating mix of 80 ingredients.
It should also be stressed that it is a serious meeting of the icons. No living actor quite comparesto Brad Pitt – blessed with legendary talent, fame and looks – and of course the same could be said for CHANEL No.5. – conjured up by Ernest Beaux, the last Tsar's treasured perfumer. Meanwhile, the campaign which views the fragrance through the eyes of a man fits in with the “revolutionary” reputation of CHANEL No.5 – which broke down barriers – and CHANEL, a megabrand that succeeds by daring to be different.

For the shoot, CHANEL hired Joe Wright – reputed for his movies Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and his two Coco Mademoiselle commercials which also star Keira Knightley – and the renowned artistSam Taylor-Wood to take the «behind the scene» photographs. “It was a real treat that I will neverforget,” says Wright. “My favorite moment was the wide shot getting closer and closer and ending up on Brad. He's a beautiful human being and a proper actor who knows how to deliver lines. It's always lovely when you meet someone who you admire and they exceed your expectations”. Taylor-Wood, on the other hand, described the experience of “shooting a man for CHANEL No.5” as “pretty extraordinary”. “CHANEL No.5 is one of those classics that you have known all your life,” she says. “And it has the association with Marilyn Monroe wearing it in bed and all that sexy elegance”.
For most beauty empires, the partnering of their top female fragrance with a Hollywood heartthrob would represent too much of a potential risk. However, true-to-reputation, CHANEL believes in being creatively courageous and pioneer-like. Wright was commissioned to direct several short films, which capture the memories, thoughts and dreams of a man being seduced by a perfume. “Each resembles a short poem,” the 40-year-old director says.
Indeed, the first exemplifies an ode to the romantic scent. Filmed in black and white on a stark background, Brad Pitt talks to the camera and as he utters every line, it is hard not to feel emotionally uplifted.“I don't see why perfume commercials shouldn't be moving,” offers Wright. Memorable and magic, part of it is Pitt's voice which Wright describes as being “beautiful” and “the equivalent of a great American voice”. “If he had a squeaky little high voice, there's no way he would be Brad Pitt,” states Wright. “There are lots of handsome men around but it's his soul that comes out in his voice. It gets under your skin”.

The intimate approach – the antithesis of today's dense, complicated narrative – was inspired by the classic No.5 Catherine Deneuve advertisements, from the late sixties. “I really admired the simplicity of the Deneuve ads,” reveals Wright. “When you have Deneuve or in fact Brad Pitt, why would you need to decorate that? It would be like gilding the lily. I wanted to create something incredibly simple and strong that really focused on the performance”.
In order to prepare Pitt, Wright encouraged the actor to think about CHANEL No.5 in a personal way. “We never discussed it in intellectual terms,” Wright says. “We discussed what CHANEL No.5 meant to us. I wanted to ground it in a real, emotional context”. For Wright, the fragrance is “inherently elegantagainst a sometimes crumbling background”. “It reminds me of Lee Miller – an incredibly beautifulwoman dressed in an army uniform – taking photographs during the war”. That said, Wright stresses that CHANEL No.5 “is not a historical object” because it defines contemporary chic.
For the campaign, Wright's main goal was to capture the global element of CHANEL No.5 and insinuatehow it stands for a pervasive force throughout the world. “I found it touching that women in every country have had a relationship with CHANEL No.5 and I wanted to do something about that,” he admits. To achieve this, in another version of the N°5 film, he assigned the same woman to play four, very diverse roles, demonstrating that “she is not a specific person but a muse who represents many differentwomen”. Originally, Wright planned a complicated shoot which would include “amazing places that I had never been to”. Then he pared it down to a 6-day shoot in stylish capitals, which he describes as “the most glamorous shoot that my film team and I have ever done”. “It felt like doing a little miniature,” he recalls. “When you are making a feature film, you just end up on your knees because you get so tired. So it's lovely to make a commercial – you have more energy and it feels compact like a jewelry box”.
It was also “fun” to work with CHANEL for a third time. “Clever and ahead of the curve, the people are very uncompromising about who they are and what their brand is,” he says. Wright also admires the lack of “advertising executives and other middle men to dream up their dreams” and the refusal to be “slaves to a marketing department or focus groups”. “There is a direct relationship between CHANEL and the creative,” he says. “They trust their instincts and there is no second guessing”. With each project, he wrote down his ideas, produced images and then sat down and talked. “Occasionally, they'd say, ‘we're not so sure about that idea’ and they were usually right,” he says.
Having begun with CHANEL in 2006, Wright recognizes that he has matured. “I have seen myself evolve in my filmmaking and everything I do,” he says. His CHANEL commercials provide the opportunity to make “a small film of art”. “They talk about a world that expresses love and I love thinking about love,” he admits.
During his second Coco Mademoiselle advertisement, CHANEL kept on lightly ticking off Wright for making it “too romantic”. In spite of this, his sensual use of the camera led to his being offered CHANEL No.5. “It was an amazing privilege and honor,” he says. “It is such an iconic perfume”. However, Wright quickly realized that the “timeless elegance” of the scent made it “difficult to pin down”. “And I think that's one of the reasons why women like it,” he says. “So many perfumes are easy to recognize and associate with a time but you can't do that with CHANEL No.5”.

No doubt, Wright is referring to CHANEL No.5 defining the DNA of the fashion house. How the scent is accessible but also symbolizes dreams, luxury and seduction. “It does not feel like a perfume that is designed to attract a male yet it does,” Wright says. “It feels more than that and kind of beyond sex”.
Obviously, using Brad Pitt brought up the issue of Mademoiselle Chanel and her men – how theyimproved her life while their clothes aided her image. Nevertheless, the first time factor of using a man went over Wright's head. “I am quite irreverent and never really think about whether I am breaking rules or anything,” he says. “It just had to feel right that Brad should be speaking this love letter. So it didn't feel odd or strange to me”.

When arriving on the set, Sam Taylor-Wood was immediately struck by the family-like ambiance. “Joe is really easy to work with because he's collaborative and not at all territorial,” she says. “He understands and lets you get on with it”. Brad Pitt charmed her with his “old school Missouri manners”. “He is so charismatic and enjoyable that you have to remind yourself, ‘this is Brad Pitt,’ she says. “There is not a shred of diva behavior; he wants to do the best for you”. As for CHANEL, she was pleasantly surprised by how “free rein” they were. Her past experience of working with other equivalent brands was having “someone heavily breathing down your neck”. “I kept on saying: ‘do you want to see what I'm shooting?’ and CHANEL were like, ‘no, no just carry on’”.
Although Wright is intrigued by the public's reaction to his opus, he is not worried. “I am only ever nervous if I am not proud but I'm proud of it,” he says. In his mind, the campaign will cause a positive influence. “The world is kind of crumbling at the moment – there is so much loss and despair – and CHANEL No.5 stands for an aspiration, a time and self-love.





 
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