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Daniel Brühl on ‘Becoming Karl Lagerfeld’ in Disney+ Series

Daniel Brühl on ‘Becoming Karl Lagerfeld’ in Disney+ Series

Daniel Brühl and his portrayal of the late, iconic fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld in new Disney+ series Becoming Karl Lagerfeld were in the spotlight on Thursday at a screening of the first two episodes at the cinema at Selfridges in London.

During a Q&A after the screening, the star said he had to laugh at first when he was asked to take on the role. “I laughed for 30 seconds,” he admitted. “And then I said, ‘This is absurd.’ And then I thought, ‘Hold on, that could actually be kind of interesting.’”

Brühl started his work on getting into character with the help of his one encounter with Lagerfeld, who died in 2019, early on in his acting career. “I met Karl Lagerfeld only once, and he was taking some pictures of me, and I was so nervous,” he shared. Calling the fashion icon “incredibly charming and cool,” he said, “after two minutes, he made me forget that I was with Karl Lagerfeld. But he was the distant figure who was that persona which reminded me a little bit of Andy Warhol, too. So I saw the whole uniform, the shield that he had created.”

The actor also recalled: “It was a very chilling moment when, for one second, he lowered his shades to check the photo and looked at me, and these two seconds I looked into very shy, soft, but deep, wise, sharp eyes. It was all at once. I will never forget that moment. And I think it had an influence on me that I at least had met him once in my life to then say, ‘Shit, I just have to do this.’ Even if it could go terribly wrong, I just felt that urge to want to play Karl Lagerfeld.”

The six-episode show also stars Arnaud Valois (120 Beats per Minute) as Yves Saint Laurent, Alex Lutz (Vortex) as Pierre Bergé, and Théodore Pellerin (Never Rarely Sometimes Always) as Jacques de Bascher. Agnès Jaoui (Singing Jailbirds) plays Gaby Aghion, the founder of the Chloé fashion brand, one of the first to recognize Lagerfeld’s talent.

The French series, from Disney+, Gaumont and Jour Premier, is set in Paris in the 1970s when Lagerfeld was just beginning to break onto the fashion scene. It is based on Raphaëlle Bacqué’s Kaiser Karl, a biography of the fashion designer. Bacqué adapted the book for the screen together with Isaure Pisani-Ferry (Kaboul Kitchen) and Jennifer Have (The Red Band Society).

The German-born Lagerfeld was a feature of the fashion world for decades with his signature white hair, black sunglasses and high, starched collars. He is best known for his long run as creative director of French fashion house Chanel, a position he held from 1983 until his death in 2019. He was also the creative director of the Italian fur and leather goods fashion house Fendi, along with having his own, eponymous, fashion label.

In London on Thursday, Brühl also lauded the connection he had with his co-star Pellerin. “This is the first time that for me, as an actor, I was invited to deal with such an intense love story between two men,” he explained. “So, it was a very interesting moment when we first met in Paris, because you just hope for a certain chemistry. If it doesn’t happen, you can still force it, and you can work on it … but it’s the most wonderful thing if something really makes it click, and we really believe ourselves to be in love.”

So, was there chemistry between Pellerin and Brühl? “There are some moments in this series that are among the nicest ones that I’ve ever done. And this is thanks to Jacques de Bascher because there were some moments — sometimes it’s only seconds — where it becomes the absolute truth. It’s a climax. And this is the very reason why I love this job so much.”

Such moments also inspire the German actor and keep him excited about his work. “Sometimes it’s just that one second that keeps on pushing you to do this madness for another 10 years,” he said to laughs. “And this is the beauty about it. So it reached the point where I called my wife, and I said, ‘Honey, I’m in love with a man.’ She said, ‘Oh, he looks cool.’”

Brühl then showered Pellerin with more praise. “He’s so clever me and so much younger than me — and never, ever would I have at his age come to the idea he did,” the star shared. “He could tell how tense I was because my very first day was with Marlene Dietrich, and Sunnyi Melles, the actress, is wonderful as Marlene Dietrich. She is Marlene Dietrich. So I was so nervous.”

The actor finished that day to find a big surprise. “I came back to get changed after the very first day, and then I saw this bouquet of flowers — 150 red roses. Again, I called my wife, and I said, ‘I’m so sorry. We’ve been together for 13 years and never, ever, not even on our wedding day, have I given you [this many roses].”

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Brühl finished his appearance by going back to his one and only meeting with Lagerfeld. “So we had this photoshoot 20 years ago, and it was a brief moment but very intense for me,” he said. He couldn’t find the picture Lagerfeld had taken, so he and particularly his German press agent “really started digging, and she found the assistants [on the shoot] in Paris who really found the picture.”

Describing the photo, Brühl said: “I see a very young me looking very melancholically. And it’s a beautiful picture because of Karl Lagerfeld.” The assistants also told him what Lagerfeld said after the shoot: “Isn’t that the little guy from Good Bye, Lenin!? And then he invited the team to watch the film. And after the film, he said, ‘He’s OK’. So starting the promotion [on Becoming Karl Lagerfeld] with knowing that, because he’d never told me because we’d never seen each other again, felt like a good omen. I’m not sure if he would approve of the show and me, but at least I had a good feeling that he liked me as the younger me.”

Daniel Brühl and Théodore Pellerin in Becoming Karl Lagerfeld.

Caroline Dubois

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