Xavier Dolan is one of those searingly talented polymaths. His success as both an actor and director brought him to the attention of Cannes Film Festival, who last year granted Dolan a place on their infamous judging panel. Now, the fashion world is lapping at his well-heeled feet. Wonderland speaks to the newly-appointed face of Louis Vuitton menswear.
XAVIER DOLAN × LOUIS VUITTON
Actor, director, Cannes judge and new face of Louis Vuitton menswear; meet the 2016 Renaissance man.
Wonderland: Hello Xavier. First things first, how did your collaboration with Louis Vuitton come about?
Xavier: It’s impossible to forget! On my birthday last year, my publicist called to tell me that Louis Vuitton wanted to do a seasonal campaign with me. I could hardly believe it. I immediately called my French agent, who works fairly closely with the Vuitton fashion house. Apparently, the idea had been an initiative by an advertising company employed for the campaign in question. When the Paris office heard about the idea, they actually decided to abandon the campaign in favour of an ambassador role. It was absolutely amazing.
W: No doubt! What do you like about Kim Jones’ work at Louis Vuitton?
X: I like his modernity and his refinement. He is rational and direct. There are so many ideas and textures, so much richness, but without any affectation or preciousness. I’m happy to represent the Vuitton man as Kim imagines him. There’s nothing more difficult than wearing clothes which don’t represent you in any way, or which inconvenience you because of their style or cut. What Kim does, corresponds to my tastes and, strangely, to the man that the post-adolescent in me wanted to become.
W: During the latest shows you’ve had the chance to meet the female ambassadors and friends of the house. As a director, would you like to work with any of them?
X: I love Catherine Deneuve. We’ve known each other for a little while now. We always meet in slightly fleeting, even superficial moments, but our exchanges are always very amusing and frank. She makes me laugh a lot. Léa is a friend and I’ve just finished making It’s Only the End of the World, in which she acts. Aside from that I really admire Michelle Williams, and there was an immediate connection between us the first time we met.
W: You have a long history with the Cannes Film Festival. Do you have any stories from your time on the jury last year?
X: It was out of the ordinary as an experience, and literally exceptional. Never could I have dreamt of that kind of adventure, or of that kind of adventure happening the way it did. Obviously it would have been different with other jurors, in another year, or with other films. We had profound, human conversations, without any pretentiousness, all in good humour and without anyone’s egos or ambitions getting in the way of our debates. It was really great.
W: And whilst you were there, did you have any encounters which could pave the way for a future collaboration?
X: The Coen brothers, and in particular Joel and his wife Frances, who I love, are now friends of mine. I have a great, great fondness for Guillermo del Toro, who came to Montreal to see me one day on the set of It’s Only the End of the World. He’s a well-learned, curious and honest individual. I’m very close to Sienna Miller, too, who I have the pleasure of meeting up with now and then at certain events in London and elsewhere. We don’t see each other often, but the festival has created some unbreakable bonds.
W: What about your own work? Which of your films are you most proud of?
X: It’s Only the End of the World is the one which makes me feel most proud, and is the best in my opinion. But I say that about every film. I hope that will always be the case.
W: Naturally! Do you ever feel nervous about how people will respond to your films?
X: I’m not nervous. I’m not afraid of the public, or of the press. But I make films for people, for others. If they don’t like them, or if they don’t go to see them, I can content myself with a few good reviews or an appearance at a prestigious festival. The life of a film exists in people’s hearts; it’s there that artworks remain in posterity. Only the public has the power to decide upon the films which will make a mark upon their generation, in some minor or major way. The films which stay with us, the films which live within us. Only the public can decide upon these things. So I’m not nervous about who does or doesn’t like my films. I’m hopeful that people like them, and go to see them. In fact, I live in that hope.
W: And how do you go about choosing your actors?
X: By watching them act.
W: Good point. Can you tell us a little about how you came to work with Adele on the music video for “Hello”?
X: Fairly simply. Her label contacted my manager and we arranged to meet up to break the ice, to talk, and to see if the chemistry between us was good. What was supposed to be a formal meeting became quickly intimate and right away we had a mutual trust in one another, an almost automatic bond.
W: Did you have complete creative freedom over the video?
X: Yes, so long as we were in agreement on everything. She wasn’t so sure about certain decisions, and had certain anxieties. Adele is a great artist because she’s fundamentally honest and doesn’t refuse herself any emotions, any weaknesses. She’s genuine, and sometimes vulnerable, like everyone. After a long break, she was coming back into the spotlight and clearly wanted her return to be as good as it could be, and for people to like her song, her album, and to like her too. What’s more normal than that? I didn’t officially have carte blanche. But she gave me her trust, and supported all of my decisions.
W: Is transitioning from one film to another painful or is it exciting?
X: Inspiring and exciting. By the time a film is finished and is ready to be shown to people, for those who made it – the team and me – it’s in the past. I’ve thought about it, edited it, dressed it, visualised it, mounted it, calibrated it, mixed it, made it, unmade it, refined it, polished it, loved it, hated it. I’ve passed through all stages, all emotions, and the film itself – even though I’m proud of it – no longer stimulates me. There’s a sadness about that. But it’s then that I turn to the computer and start to write, and think about the things to follow. Then, very quickly, or less quickly, an idea appears. It comes from me, from a book, from a piece of music, or from a friend. And that idea becomes the new dream.
W: Final question! Would you still like to act in front of the camera rather than hide behind it? And would you prefer to act in your own films or for other directors?
X: Absolutely, and more than ever. And I would say for other directors. On my own, I’m so limited and I haven’t got what gives actors a goal: to surpass themselves in order to satisfy someone’s expectations. I’m hard on myself but nothing can make me surpass myself more than the desire to please someone else, and to see in the eyes of that person that they enjoy and admire my work, that I have “satisfied” them. Any collaboration, and any friendship, any love, I think, is based upon the admiration we have for people, and our determination for them to admire us in return.