Chanel advanced women's rights, says actress Tautou

Mon Sep 21, 2009 10:08am EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel didn't just make beautiful clothes, she also advanced women's rights, says actress Audrey Tautou, who portrays the pioneering French fashion designer in a new film about her early life.

"Coco Before Chanel," which opens in the United States on Friday, tells the story of Chanel's early life growing up in an orphanage, trying to be a singer with her sister, then becoming wealthy man's mistress to pull herself out of poverty.

She then met the love of her life who helped her realize her design talent and funded the start of her fashion label.

"Her personality, desire to have the same freedom as men -- not to depend on them -- is exactly what we've been fighting for," Tautou, whose previous film roles include "Amelie" and "The Da Vinci Code," told Reuters.

"She was fighting for herself, but ... she changed, I think, many things for her and for us," she said. "She did things for herself first, she was not carrying a cause."

Tautou said she had been approached about a few different Chanel film projects, but chose director Anne Fontaine's movie because it focused on Chanel's early life. She also admitted she was nervous about portraying the designer.

"She was such a brilliant woman and so special and unconventional and so charismatic that I was nervous not to be able to express or to show how different and charismatic she was," said Tautou.

"I didn't want to do a movie about the whole life of Chanel. I didn't want to do something superficial or just illustrating the big events because I really think that Chanel's personality was so unique and unconventional, amazing, brilliant," she said. "I wanted to take off the veil."   Continued...

<p>French actress Audrey Tautou waves during a photo opportunity after a news conference for her film "Coco Avant Chanel" in Tokyo, September 8, 2009. REUTERS/Toru Hanai</p>