Haute Time Exclusive: One-On-One With Carmen Chaplin

Carmen Chaplin and Jaeger-LeCoultre CEO Daniel Riedo at the inauguration of “Chaplin Forever!” Exhibition 1 - Getty Images
Carmen Chaplin and Jaeger-LeCoultre CEO Daniel Riedo

Last week in New York City, Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrated the opening of “Chaplin Forever!” This unique photographic exhibition pays homage to film icon Charlie Chaplin, and the 100th anniversary of his famous character ‘The Little Tramp’.

In celebration of the exhibition opening, Jaeger-LeCoultre was joined by Chaplin’s granddaughter, the actress and director Carmen Chaplin. To mark the occasion, Carmen screened her two short movies “A Time For Everything” and “The Innovators” as a tribute to her grandfather’s legacy.

Ribbon-cutting, Jaeger-LeCoultre CEO Daniel Riedo, Carmen Chaplin and Director of the Musée de l’Elysée Sam Stourdzé 2 - Getty Images
Mr. Riedo, Ms. Chaplin and Sam Stourdzé, Director of the Musée de l’Elysée, which curated the exhibition

Haute Time had the chance to meet with Carmen, who told us about her films, her grandfather’s Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox (a watch that is still in her family today), and her own introduction to the world of haute horlogerie.

Carmen Chaplin wearing a Jaeger-LeCoultre vintage Reverso Duoplan watch at “Chaplin Forever!” Exhibition 2 - Getty Images

Haute Time: You’ve been in big Hollywood movies with actors like Ewan McGregor and Harrison Ford, but you’ve also focused on shorts and your own directing. How do you find the balance between art and Hollywood?
Carmen Chaplin: I really don’t have much of a Hollywood life. I did some big budget films, but I haven’t been doing big Hollywood films. I’ve been focusing – out of choice and also because I wasn’t doing the films that I really would have loved to do – on writing and directing. I discovered through writing that when I wrote a film – I thought I would write it for myself as an actor – I realized that I really like directing as well. It’s become a passion, and it was an eye-opening experience, because I thought as an actor that directing would be too difficult, that you had to know too many different things. But actually I find it fascinating and really enriching to collaborate on all aspects of a film, from the costumes to the look of the set. All those aspects I find really wonderful, so I’ve been focusing on that. But I would like to do more acting as well, just because having a child, I also realized that directing takes up so much of your time.

You don’t get to just show up on set and do your part, then go home. I was never a tortured actress who couldn’t leave the part on set. But when you’re directing, you can’t help it. When you come home, you still have to figure out the next day, and actors call you…it never ends, it never stops. I enjoy it, and I would like to continue, but acting is a refreshing reprieve.

HT: You got behind the camera on “A Time for Everything” and the upcoming “The Innovators”. Is it hard to make the transition from being in front of the camera to behind the camera?
CC: The first time I directed, I didn’t act in it at all and I was just directing. Because I find it’s easier to just direct, and not have to be in front of the camera. When you’re directing you don’t have to worry about your hair and your makeup! You can just kind of jump on the set and not think about it. Doing both is a bit schizophrenic. But also very enjoyable, because it’s very enjoyable to act.

1953 Charlie Chaplin's Memovox watch 1 - Getty Images
Charlie Chaplin’s 1953 Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox

HT: You also directed your sister Dolores in a short film, “Tryst in Paname”. What was it like working with family?
CC: My sister is a very talented actress, so it was very easy! Also, and I think this is why directors often work with the same cinematographer, the same editor…it’s good to understand each other very quickly, because you’re always pressed for time in film these days. So whether it’s the actors or the crew, it’s nice to know each other. Although I imagine when you work with Cate Blanchett you don’t really need to know each other, she just shows up and something amazing happens! But I very much enjoyed working with my sister, she’s a great actress.

HT: You have roots in filmmaking, but also in the literary and art worlds. Growing up, did you ever feel pressure to be an artist as well? Or did it come naturally?
CC: I always – from the first day I went to the last – hated school. I wish I had been in film school my whole life. I was never going to be a doctor or a lawyer, or anything like that. It was not going to happen. My father’s sister had a circus, and her children who were very close to us as kids, they were in the circus with her, and when we were going to school they were doing the tightrope and learning violin and being magicians. At one point she asked if we want to be in the circus with them, and I hated my Dad for saying no, because that was my dream, to be in the circus! But I think my parents were very much, whatever we wanted to do was good. Except join the circus at 7!

HT: Your grandfather Charlie Chaplin’s Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox is still in your family. Is it something that can be worn everyday?
CC: It’s owned by my mother, so I don’t wear it a lot. At one time she wore it a lot, but when she decided she was going to give it to one of my brothers, from that moment on she stopped wearing it and put it in the safe.

HT: Was that your first experience with haute horlogerie?
CC: I can’t remember my father wearing a watch a lot, but my mother really liked wearing that watch, so I supposed it was my first encounter with haute horlogerie. I didn’t own my own Jaeger-LeCoultre watch until much later in life.

Grande Reverso Lady Ultra Thin or rose FB
Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Lady Ultra Thin

HT: What is your everyday watch?
CC: The Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Lady Ultra Thin.

HT: How did you begin working with Jaeger-LeCoultre?
CC: The first film that I made, in the story I wrote a watch plays a very important part. I chose a very beautiful Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watch for men, without having a relationship with the brand. I really liked it, and it’s a very important part of the film. And that’s how we first met, through this watch. Then I hosted with Jaeger-LeCoultre a dinner marking the 30th anniversary of my grandfather’s Oscar. And then, from the fact that my family owns this beautiful Jaeger-LeCoultre watch, came the idea to do a film together, “A Time For Everything”.

You get a bit nervous showing your films in front of an audience! But there’s been a very nice response. I feel very grateful to have shown these films [“A Time For Everything” and “The Innovators”] at the Lincoln Center. It was a very enjoyable evening!

“Chaplin Forever!” will be on display at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City from April 25th to May 4th, 2014. For more information, please visit the Jaeger-LeCoultre website.

Photo credit: Getty Images. Photos courtesy Jaeger-LeCoultre.

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