Collared: Jared Leto to play Chanel supremo Karl Lagerfeld in biopic

The fashion-friendly actor will star as the larger-than-life designer, who died in 2019, in a new film project

Jared Leto’s foray into fashion continues. After playing Paolo Gucci in Ridley Scott’s sprawling House of Gucci last year and Gucci designer Alessandro Michele’s “twin” at this year’s Met Gala, he will now star as Karl Lagerfeld in a new biopic of the designer.

Lagerfeld, who died in 2019 at the age of 85, was one of fashion’s larger than life characters, so he undoubtedly has a theatrical dimension that would appeal to an actor. According to an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, when Leto first met Lagerfeld, he said to him: “You know, one day I have to play you in a movie.” Lagerfeld answered appropriately in fashion speak: “Only you, darling, only you.”

The film project is being managed by Paradox, the production company that Leto owns with his partner, Emma Ludbrook. Pier Paolo Righi, Caroline Lebar, and Sébastien Jondeau, who all worked with Lagerfeld, will be executive producers of the film. It follows the announcement last week that the Metropolitan Museum of Art will stage an exhibition of Lagerfeld’s work as its fashion exhibition in May next year. The Met Gala – which takes its theme from this exhibition will probably be a sea of monochrome.

Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci in House of Gucci.
Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci in House of Gucci. Photograph: Fabio Lovino/AP

Lagerfeld was known for his signature outfit of sharp suit, high-collared white shirts, black leather gloves and sunglasses – accessorised, in different decades, with a Diet Coke, a fan or an iPod (he reportedly had 310). But he was also famous for his outspoken and sometimes problematic pronouncements. These included calling Adele “a little too fat” and dubbing sweatpants as “a sign of defeat”. He said he was “fed up” of the Me Too movement, and described Angela Merkel’s policy of accepting Muslim refugees as “a huge error”.

The designer is credited with revitalising Chanel, after founder Coco died. He was creative director of the brand from 1983 until his death, and created “moments” ranging from Claudia Schiffer in a Chanel bikini in the nineties to launching a rocket on the catwalk in 2017. Famously a workaholic, Lagerfeld was also creative director of Italian fur brand Fendi, and had his own brand.

Since the film is a collaboration with Lagerfeld’s camp, the story is likely to be tightly controlled but Zoolanderish moments from Lagerfeld’s personal life could provide fertile ground for Leto’s film project. Famously, Lagerfeld lost 93lbs in 13 months in 2001, in order to fit into clothes made by designer Hedi Slimane. Quitting bread, he was said to sniff a perfume that smelled like it whenever he was hungry. In 2011, he adopted Choupette, a white fluffy cat that has custom-made Louis Vuitton luggage and eats out of silver bowls.

Karl Lagerfeld with models, and fan, after a Chanel show in 1996
Karl Lagerfeld with models, and fan, after a Chanel show in 1996. Photograph: Daniel SIMON/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

The film’s plot remains unknown but, according to a press release, it will cover “the key relationships in Lagerfeld’s life, told through an unpredictable lens”. The designer’s youth will no doubt appeal to film-makers. Arriving in Paris from Hamburg in the 1950s, he and fellow young designer Yves Saint Laurent became friends and rivals. By the 70s, he was a jet-set scenester, and the duo were part of a glamorous international circle that also included illustrator Antonio Lopez and model Jerry Hall. Lagerfeld even had a small role in Andy Warhol’s 1973 film, L’Amour. The designer had a longterm, although non-physical, relationship with French aristocrat Jacques de Bascher. When de Bascher died of Aids-related complications in 1989, Lagerfeld was by his side.


Lauren Cochrane

The GuardianTramp

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