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Yves Saint Laurent Casts Vincent Cassel

The actor and "Black Swan" director Darren Aronofsky joined creative forces again on a short film to advertise La Nuit de L’Homme.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWDStyle issue 01/21/2011

PARIS — After “Black Swan,” actor Vincent Cassel and director Darren Aronofsky joined creative forces again on a short film to advertise La Nuit de L’Homme, the Yves Saint Laurent men’s fragrance.

Cassel, who was featured in the scent’s first campaign for about two years, suggested Aronofsky for the new ad, which is due to break in late March.

When thinking of signing on to a movie project, Cassel first considers its director.

“I need a director that has to be a bit fascinating to me,” said Cassel, adding he’d seen everything Aronofsky had shot. “And I always thought he was one of the best of his generation.”

Cassel was also attracted to the idea of working with Natalie Portman. And the movie project allowed him to get back to his dancer roots.

“I have always been really physical in my training, so whether it was martial arts or ballet or acrobatics — I mean, literally, name it, I’ve done it at least for a month,” said Cassel.

He called his character in “Black Swan,” ballet artistic director Thomas Leroy, “a bit of a jerk, but he has a purpose.”

La Nuit de L’Homme is YSL’s best-selling men’s scent overall.

“We want to develop this fragrance as a classic of the house, and this story of seduction — subversive seduction — which is very Yves Saint Laurent, embodied by Vincent Cassel, is a story that we wanted to continue to enrich,” said Renaud de Lesquen, president of YSL and designer brands at L’Oréal.

“We met with Darren and explained to him that we would love to reinforce the interaction between a man and several women [that also figures in the first La Nuit de L’Homme ad],” said Nathalie Durán, YSL deputy general manager.

Aronofsky returned with a script inspired by Søren Kierkegaard’s “The Seducer’s Diary.” It features a man seducing — rather than consuming —women.

“We liked it because it’s at the same time La Nuit de L’Homme and La Nuit de Femme,” continued Durán. “The woman in the Saint Laurent world is absolutely free as an authority on her life, so can’t become a prey just for the sake of talking about seduction.”

The ad, which took three full days to shoot in five Parisian locations in mid-December, revolves around the idea of Cassel playing a character who, in the course of one night, goes to numerous milieus and each time he’s involved in a game of seduction with a woman.

“There is a matryoshka effect in the film; it’s almost a thriller, a thriller of seduction,” said Durán.

There will be a five-minute version for the Internet and more classical formats destined for TV and movie theaters. The campaign is to break starting at the end of March and in early April in countries such as France, Italy and Germany. The U.S. is to get it in the second quarter of this year and the U.K. in June.

Along with La Nuit de L’Homme’s film will be a print campaign shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.

Cassel found little difference in working with Aronofsky on the YSL ad than on “Black Swan.”

“He does as many takes on a commercial as on the set,” said Cassel, adding that being the face of a fragrance differs somewhat from being a character in a film.

“It is another role, but at the same time…when [people] see a movie, they think, ‘Oh, it’s a character.’ When they see an ad, they say, ‘Oh, it’s him,’ ” said Cassel. “But it’s not.”

Fashionwise, he sports streetwear mostly and has a penchant for the Homecore brand. On the more classical front, Cassel wears Armani, Lanvin and Saint Laurent. Signing on to the latter brand’s fragrance campaign was a natural fit.

“Yves Saint Laurent is very Paris,” said Cassel. “Yves Saint Laurent to me is like the guy I used to see at the Palace, at the Bain Douche, when I was 17. He was the guy who was the first designer to use a black model on the catwalk and all these things. So, you know, it’s a cool identity to be the face of something like that.”