Transcript excerpt below is from the US version
Take Five It was all Marilyn Monroe slept in, and the one thing, so said Catherine Deneuve, that can make any man want you. Now, to keep Chanel No 5 every woman's best-kept secret, Baz Luhrmann and Nicole Kidman have teamed up to make a two-minute epic. Excerpts from the director's diary.
JANUARY 3, 2003
Sydney, Bronte Beach
The last few months have been horrendous. Doing the first-ever classical opera on Broadway [La Boheme] while scripting, designing, casting, and scouting the globe to make a movie with a $150 million budget [an untitled project about the life of Alexander the Great] has just about killed us. All this time we've also been trying to have a baby - and failing. CM [Catherine Martin, Luhrmann's wife and production designer] has really been through it - two miscarriages, both on opening nights. Our work is to create. There's a blank page, then there's something - a movie, an opera. But the one thing we want more than anything we can't make happen. The blank page remains blank.
I know it must look as though we lead a charmed life. We do - almost too charmed. At a preview of Chicago a few weeks ago, Harvey [Weinstein] thanks us publicly. Later that night, we jump on a Global Explorer that Dino [De Laurentiis, who is producing the movie with Luhrmann] arranged through the Universal Pictures [the studio funding the movie with Dreamworks], stopping in Rome to pick him up. He's brought breakfast - fresh bocconcini, tomatoes, coffee. That night, it's dinner in Amman [Jordan] with Queen Rania and HIs Majesty King Abdullah II, who has offered us the use of his army as extras if we film there. By way of the king's Black Hawk helicopter, we're also given a tour of the deserts of Wadi Rum, where Lawrence of Arabia was shot, that ends, at nightfall, with the sight of Petra ablaze with hundreds of candles. A trip like that is such a rush it momentarily makes the frantic pace seem manageable. It's also what I call "experience bulimia."
Then things really got out of hand. Just as we pull into Paris, and check in at the Plaza Athenee, where we we're spending Christmas, Dino calls with big news - the rumours that Oliver Stone is making his own movie about Oliver Stone has been confirmed. If we don't start shooting first our production could be jeopardized. Now we have to go even faster! This washes over us at a moment when we are already feeling totally trapped. Lately, about the only place we've been able to be alone is our hotel bathroom. "How did we get into this?" CM asks me. "It's like we're on a roller coaster we can't control." We have a talk and decide it's come time to stop, if only for a brief break. There's something bigger than a movie in our lives right now. We've come back to the beach house, and we're going to make this baby happen.
Chanel has offered Nicole [Kidman] a contract to become the next face of No 5, and they want me to conceive, direct, and produce the ad campaign. We're always looking for ways to collaborate - she's committed to play Olympias, Alexander's mother - but I can't really consider the offer, with all I'm juggling. Still, the idea interests me. We're all engaged in the work of selling an audience something. In movies, it's an emotion, a belief, an observation - in advertising, a product or a service. But the tools of the trade are fundamentally the same, and sometimes the art of advertising can even result in artistic greatness - Toulouse-Lautrec. Rockwell, et cetera.
There's also an interesting link with the Red Curtain Trilogy [Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!], Chanel No 5 is a cultural icon, not some fragrance of the season the requires a direct sell. What I'm thinking is much more ambitious - a story about a the essence of the kind of woman who wears No 5, the product being just a touchstone in the drama, like Tiffany's in Breakfast at Tiffany's].
For the past ten years touring to promote my movies, I've sometimes remarked "how potent the love story can be" - you can use it to reveal a large idea about the human condition or to inspire people to march into Poland (even war stories have an element of love, after all - they're anti-love). What seems incredible to me now is that here I am considering using a love story to sell perfume - why not?
MARCH 22 - Los Angeles
Down to the wire on the Chanel decision. Nicole says she's told them, "No Baz, no me." Chanel's position is that it won't take more than three weeks. Three weeks - I don't have three days to spare right now. Nicole is lobbying to accommodate out dates for Alexander. It's the only way.
MARCH 30 - London
I'm overjoyed - CM's three months pregnant. Being this far along she seems to be finally out of the danger zone. I'm also petrified. The baby is due the same month that we're to begin shooting Alexander.
MAY 26 - Sydney
I've spent the last two months writing the treatment - a 150 page draft in screenplay form. CM locks me in my study in the morning and doesn't let me out until night. Due Date: July 10.
JULY 14 - Los Angeles
Me with Dino, Steven [Spielberg, principal of DreamWorks], and Stacey Snider [chairman of Universal Pictures], and they are tremendously enthusiastic about the script - and incredibly understanding about our dilemma. In fact, a huge decision has been made, one that is going to let us finally take part of our life back. All of us agreed that racing Oliver is pointless, that starting our family and perfecting the text must both be given the proper room to happen. They're also supportive of my desire to collaborate with [British playwright] David Hare on the next draft.
JULY 19 - London
For weeks I've been thinking Chanel would be the straw that broke our back. Now it's the perfect fit for the new circumstances of our life. While David is working on the script, we'll be able to turn our attention to a smaller work, one that fulfils exactly what we need at this moment - a chance to deepen our creative relationship with Nicole while developing our visual-FX language - not to wow an audience with vast digital spectacles but to use it with the power of a painter, the way Turner conveyed emotion through a landscape. It's also crucial, during this brief fallow period, that I get to roll camera.
JULY 29 - New York
Interviewed Aire [Kopelman, president and COO of Chanel] and Alain [Wertheimer, the chairman] at Chanel's offices in Manhattan. My first question; Looking back on this project two years from now, how would they describe a success? Answer: Re igniting an audience's emotional relationship with a square bottle filled with gold liquid. This is the mission.
All the creative work we do undergoes the same process. The first step is total immersion. My oldest memory of Chanel is of Marilyn Monroe being asked what she wears in bed. "Chanel No 5, " she replied. That's the best free advertising in the history of the world. I've been combing through every single commercial. The slam dunks above and beyond everything else are those with Catherine Deneuve in the seventies. In one, she just looks at the camera and says, "It's not important that I'm Catherine Deneuve. I know he loves me for what I am deeply. I know because he cares about the little things. He brings me coffee, always in a small cup, because it is precious to me. He gives me Chanel No 5 because I love to put it in a special place...behind my knee. " The slogan" "You don't have to ask for it - he knows what you want."
JULY 30 - Paris
Three-day visit and fact-finding mission. My team films everything - our tour of the apartment of Coco Chanel lived in on the second floor of 31 rue Cambon, the atelier. And the company's immaculate black-and-white offices in Neuilly-sur-Seine, where Jacques [Helleu, Chanel's artistic director] and I had our first meeting.
What I need to examine: the tradition of Chanel, the history, the house as it is today, and the living flame, Karl [Lagerfeld].
AUGUST 22 - New York
Earlier in the week I visited Nicole on the set of The Stepford Wives to try the idea on her. We always talk things through. I'm envisioning the ad as mini-movie, a two-minute trailer of an epic motion picture that has never been made. The plot is about a female character who represents the very essence of the woman who wears Chanel No 5. I've dubbed her "the most famous woman in the world" - a composite of all the iconic women who had or who very well could have had some relationship with Chanel, from Marilyn Monroe to Jacqueline Kennedy, Maria Callas, Catherine Deneuve, Princess Diana, and, now, Nicole. In becoming icons they become mythologized images of themselves, and maintaining that mythology becomes a hob. There's a certain degree of tragedy but a beauty in that tragedy. It is the yearning to escape this responsibility by way of an innocent romance that can perhaps be understood by all women.
This kind of tragic story is what Nicole and I spent a lot of time exploring in Moulin Rouge - there's even a connection between Satine and this new character. At the time, I have no doubt that Nicole drew from the circumstances of her own life to play Satine. It was a moment when she had to decide either to run from public scrutiny or to confront it - and take control of her life. The idea that seems right for the Chanel spot follows a similar storyline - at the beginning, the character is hounded by the paparazzi, their harsh bursts of camera flashes representing the scrutiny of the public, but in the closing scene, she returns to a big public event able to face down the same bank of prying eyes. I often think that Nicole's down-to-earth Aussie common sense, combined with her utterly febrile charm, is what gives her a chance at living the kind of life that only Audrey Hepburn seems to have been equipped to survive.
AUGUST 30 - Biarritz
Fabs [Fabienne Isnard, filmmaker who is doing a documentary about the making of the commercial] and I arrive at the airport to a kerfuffle. Karl's personally come down to pick us up in his van, a real set of wheels. He's amused by the commotion, saying they rarely see "the marionette." The van is outfitted with TVs, a place to sleep and work. KL is stitched in the leather; a big biff guy is driving. Ostensibly I'm here to interview Karl for a signature edition of Australian Vogue that he's doing, but I must also use my time with him to try to see Chanel through the eyes of the high priest himself.
Everything with Karl is kind of slightly mysterious but fabulous - always fabulous. We have lunch with his other guests about five, and then we break off to settle into our rooms. No one actually says what time dinner will be. "Oh well, it could be anytime," one of the French staff tells me. "It could be eleven o'clock. It could be sometimes two o'clock in the morning." So I go upstairs to get unpacked. My eternal jet lag starts to come over me. There's a giant tub in the bathroom, an exquisitely tiled oasis, and an endless supply of all these curious Japanese bath products. How fantastic, I think. Plenty of time for a bath. I'm splashing around like a duck - la, la, la. Then there's a knock-knock. It;s the French guy, "Monsieur is waiting!" he says, like Monsieur is the Devil or something. Downstairs, everyone's dressed for dinner. The table is laid beautifully - giant dollops of caviar, massive wax candles. Karl's an Alexander buff, and as we talk, ancient and rare books on Greek history seem to appear from nowhere. The conversation goes until 2:00 A.M.
You don't set up a work meeting with Karl. Work is woven so tightly into the fabric of his life that by simply living the work gets done. Suddenly I find myself with Karl in his studio, a huge underground bunker the size of an aircraft hangar - thousands of books, photography equipment, an industrial-size filing system. He gives me a different glimpse of Mademoiselle, who also had a place in Biarritz - one you don't get from the maintained image, one of her being a bit wild, a free spirit... Words that remind me of Nicole. Strolling later on the beach, I was amazed to discover that this chic beach resort is a surf town. Right in front of the Hotel Du Palais, grand and glam, all these guys were out there riding waves. Looking a this scene, I thought of a scenario " The most famous woman in the world" staying in this palatial hotel, becomes so overwhelmed by the public demands on her life, she attempts to drown herself in the ocean and is rescued by a surfer, the only person in the world who doesn't know who she is.
SEPTEMBER 3 - Istanbul
I'm back on the Alexander caravan. Dino picked me up in Biarritz. Next Stop Venice, for the film festival. Then we head to Morocco, to the desert city of Ouarzazate, where Dino's building a studio for the shoot. In a few days I'm off to Iran, to visit the ruins of Persepolis, which Alexander burned to the ground in 330 B.C. and then I'm scouting the jungles north of the River Kwai, in Thailand, with Prince Chatri Yukol. Yesterday, visiting the Dolmababce Palace - one of the grandest imperial Ottoman residences - I turned my surfing idyll into something else: Staring out at the bridge that crosses the Bosporus, almost as grand as the Golden Gate, it struck me that the setting could be right there, smack between the romance of this Old World palace and the modern-day bustle surrounding it. Suddenly it became clear that the piece cannot be set in a "real" location. It must be a mythical metropolis, a quintessential city, one big enough to get lost in.
SEPTEMBER 22 - Sydney
I seem to have developed a strange eye infection. The doctors are advising me against being present at the birth of the baby. This is a real blow to both CM and me. SHe so much want me to be in the room with her.
It's a girl! One thing's been gnawing away at me all this time - and very few things really knock me out - the fear that the baby and CM wouldn't be all right. They are. And I've never known bliss like this. I looked like an astronaut in the delivery room yesterday, wearing a protective mask the doctor devised because of my eye.
I'm losing weight at an alarming rate - sudden loss of energy, can't sleep, staying up all night watching news about the war.
OCTOBER 28 - Paris
Meet with Jacques [Helleu] to tell him what I've come up with. I sketch the plot, something between a trailer, a short film, and a two-minute movie. The character - the most famous woman in the world - is attending an event in a mythologized metropolis and, in a moment of desperation, flees. She meets a boy - a bohemian artist - who doesn't know who she is. They share a few stolen days together, a deep romance. And then she must return. As looks across to the city on the other side of a bridge, the place to which she's gone back, he remembers her kiss, her smile, her perfume.
Jacques is very enthusiastic and gives me the green light.
NOVEMBER 1 - New York
There's a blind spot that must be addressed immediately - who will play opposite Nicole? Casting the male actor is crucial - the story is about the female icon, but it's being told by the bohemian writer. We've been looking for an actor of true and significant weight, one who can step onto the set with Nicole and not crumble from nerves, one who can make a real chemical connection with her. Otherwise, we'll have nothing.
The way Karl lives such a vital and fantastical life is that he is always constantly on the move. And because of that he's very hard to pin down. CM developed detailed presentation boards for him to use as a starting point for the look of the costumes, but without his sketches of the frocks, we're going to miss the very small window of opportunity we have to shoot - three days, just before Christmas. I've managed to work out that Karl has been invited to give a dinner talk to a group at the U.N. and I've come to New York to join him.
Karl's talk was great - entertaining, wise. All about how the moment of inspiration for him comes only when he can no longer escape from it - like now, in front of an audience. "I'm a professional improvisor." The next day, at the Mercer Kitchen, I saw it with my own eyes. In the middle of lunch, Karl starting saying "Well, here's what I think." Pulling out a pen, he started to sketch one dress after another until, by the end of lunch, I had one of the most vital pieces of the project, all on a bunch of napkins.
Ronna [Kress, casting director] told me to check out Love Actually for Rodrigo Santoro. He then came down to the Mercer, and we did a little screen test. And he showed me why he's one of Brazil's biggest stars. I immediately saw that he was the one to play our bohemian scribe. He's going to be a real sell in the campaign. Women may want to be Nicole, but they want to be wanted by Rodrigo.
...continued in scans.
Transcript by Foxy. Errors may exist.