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Daniel Brühl Talks Playing Karl Lagerfeld For Disney+

Daniel Brühl has recalled the time he swerved a Karl Lagerfeld photo shoot two decades before playing him in the eponymous Disney+ series that airs out of competition at tonight’s Canneseries.

The BAFTA-nominated Rush star met the fashion icon in the early noughties but it has had a long lasting effect on him, and he was later to discover that this was true in the reverse.

Speaking to Deadline on the day of the Becoming Karl Lagerfeld premiere, the German-Spanish actor detailed how he was taking part in a photo shoot at the Berlinale right after announcing himself on the world stage with his critically-acclaimed performance in Wolfgang Becker’s Good Bye, Lenin!.

“There was this Karl Lagerfeld photo shoot and all the German actors were stood together cramped like sausages and my Spanish pride kicked in, and I just thought, ‘This is embarrassing’,” Brühl explained. “But [Lagerfeld] saw it out the corner of his eye and gave me a nod and smile as if to say, ‘That’s cool’.”

The pair spoke later, Brühl added, with Lagerfeld making a “young and nervous” Brühl feel at ease. Two decades on, Brühl’s German publicist was looking for images Lagerfeld took from that time and discovered that Lagerfeld had seen Good Bye, Lenin!.

“He didn’t mention this to me [when I met him] but after those photos were taken he realized he had watched Goodbye Lenin and said, ‘I’m a fan of this boy’,” added Brühl.

Becoming Karl Lagerfeld is set in 1972, prior to Lagerfeld taking the fashion world by storm but when he was a ready-to-wear designer, unknown to the general public. While he meets and falls in love with the sultry Jacques de Bascher (Théodore Pellerin), an ambitious and troubling young dandy, the most mysterious of fashion designers dares to take on friend and rival Yves Saint Laurent (Arnaud Valois), a genius of haute couture backed by the redoubtable businessman Pierre Bergé (Alex Lutz).

The portrayal was made trickier by the fact that Lagerfeld – who died in 2019 – lived a life of “contradiction,” Bruhl explained, and often told lies about his private life, such as regularly altering the year of his birth.

“I only met him once and I really just met the persona he created,” Brühl said. “I wanted to crack through that shield and find out who the person was.”

In order to do this, Brühl read three biographies, which admittedly “all contradicted each other,” found old interviews of Lagerfeld and spoke to people he had been close with in Paris.

Becoming a “fearless” actor

Becoming Karl Lagerfeld. Image: Disney+

The 45-year-old star, whose back catalog includes All Quiet on the Western Front and Inglourious Basterds, is conscious that his portrayal of the icon may be met with disapproval. But he said he has learned to embrace criticism over the years and is prepared for people to react by saying, ‘Eurgh, Karl Lagerfeld wasn’t like that.’

“The danger is something that thrills me,” he added. “The safety belt and driving at 20 to 30 kilometres has become a bit boring and I have become more fearless. David Bowie said if it is slightly outside your comfort zone and if your instinct tells you then you can get there somehow. There are some parts I would not accept if the weight felt too heavy but in this case I had the feeling that somehow, eventually, I will find something.”

On how Lagerfeld would have responded to the series, Brühl said he imagines a cool reaction of, ‘Oh it’s great that you’re playing me,’ with Lagerfeld’s “trademark sense of humor.” But “the only question is whether I would have believed the answer or not,” he added.

Next up for Brühl is Sam Mendes and Armando Iannucci’s HBO series The Franchise, which returns to filming in London after being paused due to the U.S. labor strikes.

Becoming Karl Lagerfeld will screen tonight out of competition at Canneseries and was preceded last night by Kyle MacLachlan and Ella Purnell-starrer Fallout. Later in the week, Michael Douglas’ Benjamin Franklin biopic for Apple TV+ will take center stage.

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