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Spanish-German actor Daniel Bruhl poses on the red carpet prior to the 2023 Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony in Paris.--AFP
Spanish-German actor Daniel Bruhl poses on the red carpet prior to the 2023 Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony in Paris.--AFP
Daniel Bruhl on playing Karl Lagerfeld: ‘He walked like a matador’

Daniel Bruhl has the role of a lifetime as one of fashion’s most iconic designers in “Becoming Karl Lagerfeld”. He literally had to walk in the man’s shoes to nail it. The show, which comes to Disney+ in June, follows the ponytailed couturier, whose ice-cold wit and groundbreaking designs for the likes of Fendi and Chanel made him a paragon of fashion up to his death at 85 in 2019.

Bruhl, 45, known from hits including “Good Bye, Lenin!”, “Rush” and “Inglourious Basterds”, said he had never invested so much “time, energy, passion and love” into a character. “He fascinated not only us Germans, but everyone in the world. The big question was always: who is that funny, clever, intellectual man really behind that facade?”

Bruhl is a polyglot, having grown up with a Spanish mother, German father and French aunts. That was crucial for a role delivered entirely in French. Lagerfeld made his home in Paris, much to the chagrin of his native Hamburg.

“Of course the Germans were a little pissed that he left, but despite the arrogance and the jokes he made about Germany, we Germans still loved him,” said Bruhl. The actor was actually photographed once by Lagerfeld: “I will never forget that—his intelligent eyes looking through the lens and how nervous I was being observed by him.”

‘Eureka moment’

Bruhl saw the danger of turning Lagerfeld into a “funny caricature”. He did his best to emulate Lagerfeld’s extreme aesthete tastes—re-reading Proust and romantic poetry, watching classic films that he loved like “Les Enfants du Paradis”. “I tried my best... but the furniture, the posters, the photographs, the paintings, the books... to be such a perfectionist in aesthetics is something I absolutely share but obviously I’m useless in comparison,” he said.

Preparing for the role meant hours of speaking to himself in French on walks around his countryside home. “There were only sheep and donkeys looking at me trying to be Karl Lagerfeld, and that was very comforting because I saw in their eyes that they believed it,” he joked. The real breakthrough came when he saw the costumes. “I thought: ‘Jesus Christ’ these are so much fun to wear!”

Lagerfeld’s platform boots were a “eureka moment”. “I was thinking of flamenco and bullfighters—my grandfather was big into bullfighting... When I see Karl Lagerfeld walk, I always think of a matador,” said Bruhl. “That femininity and masculinity of the matador... I always had this ‘Ole!’ moment before a take that gave me the right tension between pride and strength but also tenderness and elegance.” “Becoming Karl Lagerfeld” premieres at the Canneseries TV festival in April, and is released on Disney+ on June 7. — AFP

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