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Grin and Bare It

Those who can't make the trek to the Great Wall of China for Fendi's fashion extravaganza on Friday can still get their Karl kicks in New York, starting Wednesday, when Rodolphe Marconi's documentary "Lagerfeld Confidential" opens at Film Forum.

Those who can’t make the trek to the Great Wall of China for Fendi’s fashion extravaganza on Friday can still get their Karl kicks in New York, starting Wednesday, when Rodolphe Marconi’s documentary “Lagerfeld Confidential” opens at Film Forum.

The young director spent two years following the designer, capturing moments both very public (Lagerfeld escorting Nicole Kidman down the red carpet during Chanel’s paparazzi-themed show in 2004) and very private (sketching quietly at night in his office, sans signature sunglasses). Marconi talked with WWD about convincing Chanel to let him shoot, dressing for a meeting chez Lagerfeld and getting the designer to kiss and tell.

WWD: What made you want to make this film?

Rodolphe Marconi: I always said if I make a documentary, it’s going to be a portrait; who is for me the most interesting and funny person in France, and I thought about Karl. I loved him for 10 years.

WWD: Was it difficult to get him to do the project?

R.M.: I called [the Chanel press office] and they told me, “Sorry, but we have no time for you.” I hate when someone says no. The day after, I called back, and after three months they called me and said, “You have lunch with Karl tomorrow at his house.” So I went to his house midday, I was a little bit stressed. All night I try all my clothes on and I don’t know what I’m going to wear to meet Karl. In the end, you always finish with jeans and a pullover.

WWD: And did he agree right off the bat?

R.M.: We stayed five hours and I left the house at 7 at night. And I said, “OK, bye-bye,” and he said, “But when do you want to begin?” I didn’t have any producer. But when Karl says yes, you begin.

WWD: What surprised you the most about him while you were filming?

R.M.: In two years I never heard him speak in a bad mood with somebody, never. He works all the time, but you never have the impression he’s working. A lot of people who would work like him would say all day, “I’m tired, oh it’s so difficult.” He never did that. He always wants to give you the feeling everything is light, everything is easy.

WWD: In the film, you ask him about his sexual orientation. Were you nervous?

R.M.: In France all the journalists told me, “Oh, it’s strange because you are very nervous,” and I always answered them, “Sorry, but I am one of the first people to ask him this question.” Karl has a certain age and, if he’s famous or not famous, when people are older than you, you cannot ask some questions so private. He never spoke about that, so I was very afraid, because if you ask something and you’re not very cool, he can stop everything the day after. I didn’t want to put him in a situation, because he always respected me a lot, so I wanted to respect him.

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