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LAist Interviews: Coco Before Chanel

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Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

If Coco Chanel had been a contestant on Project Runway they would have moved her on to at least the final three. Her heart-wrenching backstory, which would have been revealed as Tim Gunn came to her home to check on her progress before Bryant Park, is reality television gold. But Chanel came before Bravo and Lifetime, and before she was Chanel she was just Coco. Born into a poor family, Coco’s mother died when she was young and her father took off soon after, leaving her to be raised in an orphanage. She later worked in a cabaret and earned money by doing a bit more than just singing. She made up stories to hide the embarrassing details of her past as she grew to become a fashion icon. Along the way she befriended wealthy French racehorse owner Etienne Balsan and a handsome Brit nicknamed Boy, either of whom she could have lived with happy-ever-after if this was a Hollywood story instead of a true one. The reality of Coco’s life is much more interesting. She faced many hardships, but like any good designer, she made it work.

I recently had a chance to sit down with the film's writer/director Anne Fontaine and Amélie ingénue Audrey Tautou to speak about the woman who inspired the film, Coco Before Chanel.

LAist: Tell us, why were you so interested in Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel?

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Anne: When I was young I had the chance to meet Chanel’s last assistant, Lilou Marquand, who was with her a long time and also lived with her. She was very close with Gabrielle Chanel. I knew of Chanel, as everyone did, as this old woman with cigarettes who was very tough and bourgeois. When you find out who she was in the beginning, a courtesan, it’s amazing what she built for her own destiny. It was very revolutionary for a woman of her time.