DANCING WITH A STAR: Xavier Dolan for Chopard
Text by Kee | Photos courtesy of Chopard
A behind-the-scenes shot of Xavier Dolan shooting Chopard's campaign starring Julia Roberts
A behind-the-scenes shot of Xavier Dolan shooting Chopard's campaign starring Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts campaign lensed by Xavier Dolan
Julia Roberts campaign lensed by Xavier Dolan

Xavier Dolan, at the ripe young age of 32, is already one of the most seasoned storytellers around. Now, the award-winning director and actor has been tasked by Chopard to handle his biggest leading star to date – sorry Adele – for a Happy Diamonds campaign. She’s the one and only Julia Roberts.

To start one’s directorial career with a film titled I Killed My Mother and call it semi-autobiographical might just be the antithesis of sound advice. Montreal-born Xavier Dolan, who was just 20 at the time, showed the kind of fearlessness that would become the difference maker for someone striving to achieve greatness in the craft. The former child actor didn’t just direct the film; he wrote the script at 16 and found ways to finance it before going on to produce and star as its lead. This hands-on approach didn’t go unnoticed in the eight feature films he has directed thus far, going on to scoop a bevy of César Awards and prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, of which the latter has been Dolan’s choice setting in debuting his films (he has even served as part of the jury in 2015). It is likely that on multiple occasions at these showpiece events, Dolan’s natural gift caught the eye of Chopard’s co-president Caroline Scheufele. The jeweller has been a fixture at the Cannes Film Festival circuit since 1998, providing red carpet stars with some of the most sparkling jewellery ever assembled and creating the prestigious Palme d’Or prize, known as one of the highest accolades in filmmaking. It would only be serendipitous that Dolan and Chopard were to collaborate on a project of some magnitude. Enter the Happy Diamonds campaign of Chopard’s that celebrates the 45th anniversary of those free-moving diamonds that skate around the dial of its wristwatches, motioned by the movement of its wearer. By calling on Dolan to direct the shoot, Scheufele needed a proper red carpet muse, one who has continuously lit up screens and captured hearts with her every move. Chopard has been known to set quite a high bar in picking names for its campaigns too with Rihanna, Marion Cotillard, Arizona Muse, Petra Němcová, Adriana Lima, and Zhang Ziyi being just a select few who have graced its billboards. The first and only choice? Oscar winner and rom-com queen Julia Roberts. Known for her infectious laughter and megawatt smile, the 54-year-old has been highly selective of the brands she has endorsed, having worked with only a handful of fashion and beauty labels since her big screen debut in 1988 (the year before Dolan was born). In a short interview with Dolan, we discover from him the magic of Roberts and what this new Chopard campaign means.


MANIFESTO: How did you react when you got the call to direct the Happy Diamonds campaign?

XAVIER DOLAN: I was really flattered and, I think, a bit intimidated too, because I’ve never shot a commercial before. So I’m guessing I felt happy!

M: How did you feel about working with Julia Roberts?

XD: It definitely gave it a whole new meaning. She’s been important to my life and my story, particularly through Erin Brockovich. So knowing I‘d get to work with her was obviously exciting for me.

M: What were your aesthetic aims for this campaign?

XD: Conceptually, something was already there, a guiding principle about letting go, ease and freedom, so everything artistic and aesthetic was naturally going to revolve around that. We needed – both in terms of costumes and lighting – something simple, light, accessible and human.

M: Is Chopard’s stance on ethical luxury important to you?

XD: It’s quite rare to work with a luxury brand that has an ecological and ethical conscience. A maison like Chopard has that sort of sensitivity, that concern for the environment, for its staff, for the way it manufactures and produces. And that is whom you want to work with because they have principles.

M: How did the shoot with Roberts go?

XD: We hit it off very quickly, we clicked and made each other laugh. I think humour is a facilitator, socially speaking.

M: What does she represent to you?

XD: Obviously, since Erin Brockovich... I was probably nine or 10 at the time. And I remember being very impressed by her freedom, her personality. Maybe – and I suppose it’s normal – up until that point, I’d only ever seen women on-screen used as accessories, or being objectified, less in control of their destinies. Then Erin Brockovich turns up somewhere, in a situation and makes her own destiny, changing that of others, too. And I think that really impressed me and has stayed with me ever since, so there’s no question that Julia represents, for me, that kind of modernity in a woman we think is really sensual and beautiful.

Yes, she’s got a big smile, but what you remember is the woman accepting her Oscar who retorts to the host: “You’re out of time! Take a seat, I’ll be here for at least 10 minutes!” That’s the kind of thing that leaves a deep impression. In any case, that’s definitely what strikes me most about Julia: her humanity.


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