“You know how it works with actors, sometimes you get this tag on you like ‘Okay, she’s been naked in swimming pools so she has to be the sex kitten for the rest of her life. She has to be the bimbo forever,’” says Sagnier. “I was glad to be the ugly one.”
Sagnier as Isabelle
Ugly might be stretching it, but as Isabelle, a socially inept, fashionably-clueless executive assistant, Sagnier convincingly trades in racy lingerie and bedroom hair for ill-fitting button downs and stringy chignons. The perfect coifs and stylings are left to Christine, Isabelle’s ambitious, egomaniacal boss, played with a gleaming smile by Kristin Scott Thomas in this cat and mouse—and then mouse and cat—thriller.
Yet despite her appearance (“Usually I keep the clothes [from films], but these I didn’t take,” quips Sagnier), Isabelle is young and smart, a threat to Christine, whose every move she worships until the latter takes advantage of her efforts, pushing her to actions with irreparable consequences.
“Even at the beginning, I think she’s very unbalanced and when the humiliation hits her, it’s too strong, it’s a feeling she can’t cope with,” muses Sagnier of her character. “The director, Alain Corneau, was really precise about this point that humiliation could lead someone to a murder because that’s one of the biggest traumas you can have.”
Fortunately, no such competition existed in real life: the younger actress’ initial concerns that the formidable Scott Thomas might prove intimidating were quickly displaced (“She’s like a little girl playing dolls,” she remarks). And while expressing an understanding of Isabelle’s psyche and the allure of the mentor-mentee relationship, Sagnier, who has acted opposite such greats as Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Deneuve, is too well-equipped to fall prey to even tamer versions of such scenarios.
“If I had someone who was starting to harass me and set up a really toxic relationship, I would see it coming and beware and protect myself much earlier than she does,” she says. “Isabelle just gives herself away like Little Red Riding Hood—straight in the wolf’s mouth.”
Sagnier’s own path into acting was much more measured. The daughter of an English teacher father, raised in the town of La Celle-Saint-Cloud in northern-central France, she began studying theater at an early age as an escape from classical music, the preferred profession of her father’s family. She made her first film, Les maris, les femmes, les amants, when she was eight years old.
“I wasn’t like what you call a child actor in the US. I wasn’t famous. I would shoot a few movies here and there…and went to school just like a regular schoolgirl,” says Sagnier, adding, “It was almost like a failure, to be an actress was not much of a value in the beginning.”
When she was nineteen and began landing plum leading roles, like in Ozon’s Water Drops on Burning Rocks, her childhood endeavors naturally segued into an adult career.
Now a mother of two daughters, ages six and two and a half, Sagnier is quite in demand. She can currently be seen as Uday Hussein’s mistress in The Devil’s Double and will soon appear in Les bien-aimés, as a Roger Vivier shoe clerk turned prostitute, whose older counterpart is played by Deneuve. If anything, her children have helped keep her grounded in the face of such a challenging industry.
“A journalist once told me when you’ll be on your deathbed, it’s not the movies that’s gonna hold your hand,” she says. “So I guess it’s my statement now.”
Photo: Courtesy of IFC Films
Kate Winslet for St. John
On the heels of St. John’s collaboration with Angelina Jolie, Laird, who famously brought on Madonna to revive a fledgling Gap in 2003, wanted to move in a “more authentic” direction. “It’s not about, ‘Oh, what celebrity will we pick?’ It’s really trying to find these people that will really bring your brand to life,” says Laird. “When it’s an authentic fit, it’s really a powerful thing.”
The authenticity also resonates with Winslet’s well-publicized commitment to what she calls “real shape”—an image free of overzealous retouching. “She’s ageless and the idea of trying to make her totally Photoshopped and airbrush-y was so not appealing,” says Laird. “I don’t think that would have represented what we wanted to say.” On-screen, her face beautifully displays the tiny lines and wrinkles other starlets might have wanted wiped away, and she flaunts an amazing hourglass figure in a sexy body-hugging number. “She just really is the real deal. She’s a really really smart, cool, intelligent, great personality, great person to be around. I couldn’t have had a better experience,” says Laird.
And as if those glowing remarks weren’t enough, Laird was quick to recount that Winslet recently saved Richard Branson’s mom from a burning building while vacationing on his private Island. “Kate ran back inside and got Richard Branson’s 90-year-old mother and carried her out of the house,” says Laird. “So now, not only is she amazing and beautiful and intelligent and talented, she’s also a hero!”
Click here to watch Kate Winslet in action on set.
And what better way to inaugurate this than with a charity event? This coming Monday, Sara Beltran, Eugenia Gonzaelz, Karla Martinez and W Magazine will host the first of these Rose Bar Screenings with a showing of “Dias de Gracia,” with proceeds going to Project Paz, a non-profit started by Ciudad Juarez/El Paso transplants to New York to promote peace in their hometowns.
A scene from “Dias de Gracia”
Fitting, then, that “Dias de Gracia” is set in Mexico City and focuses on the violence therein, revolving around three World Cup Soccer matches—clearly to moving effect, as it received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
Good cause vibes, a cultural education and enter into a nightlife venue whose door guard might not normally let you in? Win, win.
Visit projectpaz.org for more info.
Photo courtesy of Dias de Gracia
What’s up with Natalia Kills? You’d performed under the names Verbz and Verbalicious before, right?
It’s funny, I don’t know how that even made it to the internet originally, but basically when I was a kid my mother used to nickname me “Verbal” because I used to speak a lot — run around singing and talking and dressing up since I was a little girl — and I suppose that’s how the nickname stayed with me for a very long time and took on all these editions and elaborations: Verbz, Verbalicious, Verse, Verbal.
But now it’s Kills. It’s the first time I was ever asked to name myself. I would’ve liked to use my real name [Natalia Noemi Cappuccini] but they say it’s a bit unpronounceable, and I’ve kind of learned that from checking in to airports and hotels; it is a bit unpronounceable. I was asked what’s the best description, or closest adjective, to describe you and it was Kills.
For example, the phrase, “You killed it.” Michael Jackson was the best singer of all time, he “Killed it onstage.” Or Naomi Campbell was “dressed to kill” at Fashion Week, she was wearing “killer heels.” When we say kill, we usually mean someone giving 100 percent of their passion and energy to something that defines them. So, me being a perfectionist, my passion is always there 100 percent. I guess that’s why Kills was the most beautiful and appropriate thing to call myself.
It seems like your personal style has evolved as well.
You know when I was Verbz I was 15 and I’m going to be 25 this year so that kind of explains itself. I looked like Fergie in “Fergalicious” before it existed. It was hoop earrings and a chola ponytail.
Like a Fly Girl…
Yeah, like a Fly Girl. Don’t get me wrong, I had swagger for days. I looked fresh as fuck back in the day, like Missy Elliott had a child with Fergie, but that’s nothing to be proud of. I still have big gold earrings, they still exist in my wardrobe, I just mix them more with black and leather now.
So how did will.i.am find you?
I put a demo on Myspace in 2008, and Perez Hilton found it and blogged about it. Then suddenly I had 2 million plays and got to number 1 on Myspace’s unsigned artist charts. So I decided to go out to LA and while I was there I met a DJ when I was out shopping… This man came into the store and said, “Oh, you have a really interesting look.” I gave him my website and he sent me a message almost an hour later saying, “You’ve got a lot of plays and your music is good, let me introduce you to a DJ who might spin your song.” And when he introduced me to the DJ, he was like, “You don’t even have a deal? That’s crazy. My friend is going to love you, he makes music.” So we drive to this house in the Hollywood Hills, it’s this massive crib and it’s beautiful and I’ve never actually seen anything quite like it, and when we get there, there’s Will at the table. I was like, “What the hell is this guy doing here?” And he’s like, “Yeah, that’s my friend I wanted you to meet. He’s going to love you.” And I was quite fortunate, because he did.
Does your acting background provide the impulse to direct?
Yeah, you know what’s so funny was that when I was acting I was desperate not to play a character. I really loved it at first, but I was always doing things like wanting to change the script and the lines and thinking my character would do something else. It’s really a naughty thing to do as an actress. I wanted do all the other stuff: be the director, the writer, I wanted to create something. That’s what I was saying about Love Kills. It’s not acted, even though it’s me using things I’ve learned to bring true expression onto the screen. It’s me being me. It’s literally me showing my fans and my audience my brain: this is what I think about when I lie awake at night, these are my regrets, these are my fantasies, these are things I wish I did.
But that’s interesting, because in the fight scenes you’re killing guys and being abducted by gangs. You’re like an action star.
I wish. It sounds so much interesting when you say it like that.
Do you ever think of going back to TV?
No, but my dream collaboration would be me and Tarantino, and I have a funny story about it… I was in the cinema a few weeks ago in West Hollywood, watching a really bad movie. It’s a really tiny cinema that seats about 50 people, but there were only six of us in there at about two in the morning, and this man at the front of the theater he’s laughing his head off, cackling, and the film is really sad, so it’s totally inappropriate. He keeps laughing the whole film and it’s totally driving me bonkers and then the lights go up at the end, he walks out with his date, and who is it? Tarantino. It was so funny. I’ve always had this dream of working with him and he’s just right there.
Photo: Tim Fahlbusch
Nate Lowman (left) and actor Leo Fitzpatrick in "Invasion of the Dilettante DJs" from W's December 2009 issue.
Today, artist Nate Lowman is turning up the volume on the soaring Gang Gang Dance track "Sacer" (from their recent album Eye Contact), a shout out to Lowman's dear departed, Dash Snow.
Sacer by Gang Gang Dance
And just as designers didn’t simply rehash looks verbatim from that decade, the show’s costume designer, Angela Wendt, who worked on the original Off-Broadway production in 1995 and its 12-year run on Broadway beginning in 1996, was set on making changes to her original creations.
“I was really interested in giving it a new look, looking at it fresh from a distance,” she explains. “It was a little difficult because it was very successful and a lot of the looks were iconic, if I dare use that word. And then I felt you have to disregard that. It’s good I designed it the first time around because it gives me to the right to also ignore it.”
The most notable departures were a product of the New World Stages’ small 499-seat space that allowed Wendt to rethink how the audience perceived her designs.
“It felt it would be good to go a little more gritty and closer up on the detail. When I did it the first time, I consciously stayed away from costuming it too much. We did it more as if you have people go on stage for a concert,” she explains, adding, “I’m always influenced by contemporary fashion. I don’t feel like you have to be slavishly bound to an exact period—you can approach it with new pieces and make it look like they are from the [requisite] time period.”
Here, Wendt gives us a peek at her inspiration boards and photos from a dress rehearsal, narrating her thinking behind outfitting some of the show’s iconic characters:
Angel's Santa outfit and inspiration board
“These were all the silhouettes and textures I looked at that I found interesting and then we kept simplifying and simplifying until instead of a thousand bows I had one huge bow. We had silver jeans, but then we dyed into them to make them a darker silver, we sprayed into them and then we applied in places clear sequins that you can iron on with little images like a candy cane and a Santa Claus—you can’t even see them from far away.
The director Michael Greif and I talked about Angel being more of a club kid personality and more of a boy, so it’s all a little less pretty drag and more in a boy direction. In the original production, he was in zebra tights and a little Santa dress.”
Angel's Pussy Galore outfit and inspiration board.
“The whole concept behind the original costume was he took a shower curtain and added a collage behind it that he made. And so I went, okay, this time around what could he have made? I came across Paco Rabanne and thought he could have just used cool objects that he found. So we came across the smiley faces, just Plexiglas findings from Canal Street, and then drilled holes in and made chain links—my wardrobe supervisor was drilling for days making our own little Angel version of a Paco Rabanne dress. We gave him a gold jumpsuit [inspired by the character from the James Bond film].
Trash & Vaudeville still has all the classic shoes from the late Eighties and early Nineties and we also went online a lot, starting with Zappos and also websites for drag shoes like Pleaser.com.”
From left: Mimi ready for “Out Tonight”; Mimi's inspiration board.
“The dress in Act 2 was a total variation on what she used to wear—it used to be lavender and now it’s more of a deep berry and we recut the dress slightly. It just works very well and once in a while you have to say, You know what? It’s a good idea and I’m not coming up with a better one.
For the outfit when she sings ‘Out Tonight’ I have to credit Greif because he said ‘Let’s honor the lyrics’ and she says ‘I want to put on a tight skirt and flight with danger.’ So we played with the idea of the tube top becoming a skirt at that moment and that was very helpful in getting away from the bright blue sparkly pants we had before which so many people loved.
We made the leggings for ‘Out Tonight’ and I started looking at a lot of punk leggings again, ripped hose and interesting holes and then I abstracted that for ‘Out Tonight’ with really high-waisted leggings and then I put mesh into cut-out places. The coat is actually a vintage tapestry coat from the first production.”
"Lena Dunham and Stella Schnabel: Born Free" from the November 2010 issue of W, photo by Laurie Simmons
Today, filmmaker Lena Dunham allows Cass McCombs’s carefree “Don’t Vote,” from his 2009 album Catacombs, to mellow her out on set.
Don't Vote by Cass McCombs
"Tisci's Tribe" from the September 2010 issue of W, photo by Willy Vanderperre
Today, Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci can’t help but fall for the effervescent beat of rapper Nicki Minaj’s paean to summer loving, “Super Bass.”
Super Bass by Nicki Minaj
Today, New York tattoo artist Scott Campbell cues up Salem’s “King Night,” the title track off their 2010 album. It’s not exactly what you might think of as a “summer jam.”
King Night by Salem