How to Crash a Marc Jacobs Campaign With Your Mom

Actress Sophie von Haselberg talks shooting the Marc Jacobs campaign with her mom – Bette Midler! – and working on her first film with Woody Allen.

Sophie von Haselberg and Bette Midler

When Marc Jacobs calls, you go – which is exactly what Sophie von Haselberg did when he asked her to appear in his spring 2016 campaign, shooting the very next morning. Her mother, Bette Midler, was already set to be the star of the ads when Jacobs had the “very last minute thought” to include von Haselberg, too, the designer said in a characteristically candid Instagram. For an America- and theater-themed collection, it was an appropriately super-sized cast: Sky Ferreira, Emily Ratajkowski, Guinevere van Seenus, Jamie Bochert, Christina Ricci, Bella Hadid, Beth Ditto, and Midler were just some of the models shot by David Sims, and soon von Haselberg, an actress with no background in fashion, was a part of the mix herself. Back from the premiere of her new film Equity at Sundance, von Haselberg talked working with Jacobs and her mom, plus how she landed her first film ever, with Woody Allen.

How did you end up in the campaign? Was it really that last minute? Well, my mom and I went to his fashion show together last season and had a total blast, obviously – it was so incredible and theatrical. I knew my mom was going to do the campaign a couple weeks later and was extremely excited for her. Then I got a call from her assistant literally the night before the shoot being like, “So, I just got a call from the Marc Jacobs’s office, and they are wondering if you want to join?” Initially my response was, “Hmm, that seems like maybe not the best idea, maybe I should lay low.” And then I sort of slapped myself in the face and realized that would be totally idiotic. I guess I must not have had anything planned because I sort of said yes, got into bed, and was like, “Okay!” [laughs]

What was it like on set the next morning? The whole vibe of the shoot was very ‘70s, very David Bowie-influenced, so it was loud and crazy in the best way possible. A lot of super fun ‘70s music. They brought me into the big room with all the clothes, and I kind of died over them. They were really fabulous. But of course everything was a sample size zero, which I am not, so I exhaled all the possible air in my body and eventually squeeze into this amazing suit version of the coat that my mom is wearing, which actually has beads where the faces [of opera legend Maria Callas] are. And then I put on a pair of high, high, high heels. I had never been to a fashion shoot of that scale before – they had an entire floor with all the clothes and a gigantic hair and makeup station. It had a very cinematic feel in a way, because it was sort of, “Oh, this is what it looks like in the movies.” But it is actually like this.

Right. Was it like being on set filming a movie at all? No, actually, because movie sets tend to be pretty quiet when you’re rolling, whereas this had a constant buzz about it. I feel like hundreds of models were there, but that must be an overestimation. [laughs] We were only there for one day, but it was a multi-day shoot. It was a pretty big operation.

Bette Midler in the spring 2016 Marc Jacobs campaign. Photo by David Sims, courtesy of Marc Jacobs.

What was it like to work with your mom? It was great. It’s fun to take photos with her. She of course has much more experience with this stuff, so I would look at her and be like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay, we’re here, we’re doing this, it’s cool.” It was fun and easy and she’s my mom, so it felt pretty normal.

What about Marc Jacobs? Oh my god, he’s hilarious and a total live wire. He’s obviously an aesthetic genius and had such specific ideas of what he wanted. A lot of what he was trying to impart was just the vibe of the whole collection, so he definitely encouraged us to have fun, move our bodies, and be fluid, not to be too stagnant or anything. And my mom has a huge personality, so I think the point was to kind of get that across.

Do you think you’ll do more in fashion? I don’t think so. I don’t even know if I’ll be in New York for Fashion Week. It’s not really my world, to be honest. I had so much fun doing it and I always have been a huge fan of the fashion world, but I don’t really feel like that’s where my strengths lie necessarily. [laughs]

That makes sense, although you’ve changed gears before. You got your degree in sociology and East Asian studies at Yale before going back there a few years later for acting school. What made you switch? I grew up performing, but when I got to college I decided to sort of become a “more serious person,” whatever that means. After that I moved to China and was working at this advertising agency, but I’d be sitting in meetings and having these pangs of missing out on being an actor. I knew that’s what I really wanted, so I moved back and spent a couple of years taking classes, and then I realized that if I wanted to be taken seriously, and if I wanted to take myself seriously, I needed really hardcore training. So I went to Yale Drama, which was the best decision of my life, and graduated from their MFA program about a year and a half ago. It’s been a pretty wild ride since then.

Seriously – your first film was with Woody Allen. What was it like to work with him on Irrational Man? It was insane, and obviously a dream come true for many, many actors. He’s been doing this for so long that he understands how to run a set in the most incredible way. It’s so easy. On the production side of things, everybody has their role so down that you kind of feel like you’re walking into this well-oiled machine and can just do your job. Not in my wildest dreams could I have possibly hoped for a better first professional experience.

Sophie von Haselberg with Emma Stone in Irrational Man, directed by Woody Allen. Photo by Christie Mullen, © 2015 Gravier Productions, Inc.

Yeah, it’s crazy for a first movie! How did you end up getting that role? I had a meeting with this casting director who came to see the showcase that I did for Yale, and at the end she asked me if I would read a scene from a film with him. So I read with her, and she asked what I was doing the following week. I was like, “Nothing!” She was like, “I’d love to have you come back and read with Woody,” and I’m sure I blushed and started stumbling and couldn’t quite get myself together. I went back not knowing what to expect, just thinking I’d see what happened; after I did it, I didn’t hear anything for about two weeks. I was like, “Okay, you know what? That was an amazing experience, totally once in a lifetime, and that’s that.” And then my manager called me and was like, “Uh, so you booked that Woody Allen job.” I was on the street corner with my best friend and just started crying and, I don’t even know, screaming. So that was that.

What do you have coming up next? I just got back from Sundance where a movie I did called Equity premiered. I play a hacker and I work for a company that Anna Gunn’s character is taking public, and I’m sort of a leaker. It’s a small part but a pretty pivotal role, so it was really fun for me to play.