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EXCLUSIVE: Jared Leto Is Making a Movie About Karl Lagerfeld

The first time Jared Leto met Karl Lagerfeld, the actor told the designer: “You know, one day I have to play you in a movie.”

Lagerfeld responded approvingly, saying: “Only you, darling, only you.”

“I feel like this is a full-circle moment and Karl would be proud of what we are doing,” Leto related, revealing to WWD exclusively that he is partnering with the Karl Lagerfeld fashion house to create a feature film about the late German fashion superstar.

Leto is to not only play the lead role, but also produce the movie alongside his partner, Emma Ludbrook, through their production company Paradox.

“Karl was an artist. Period,” Leto said. “He was a fashion designer, he was a photographer, he was an artist. There was no defining him. He was a creative powerhouse.”

It is still not clear when cameras will start rolling, and the exact storyline remains under wraps, though it will delve into the “key relationships in Karl Lagerfeld’s life, told through an unpredictable lens, much like the man himself. Producers are currently in conversation with filmmakers,” according to a press release from the Karl Lagerfeld company.

Asked if the film would be a love story, Leto offered: “There are a multitude of relationships to explore. Karl had a career that spanned 50-plus years so both personally and professionally he was close to a number of people. I can say we are going to home in on key relationships that convey different parts of his life.”

Leto is to collaborate with three of Lagerfeld’s most trusted confidants, who will partner with him as executive producers of the forthcoming film. They are Pier Paolo Righi, chief executive officer of the Karl Lagerfeld house since 2011; Caroline Lebar, senior vice president, image and communications at Karl Lagerfeld, who was at the indefatigable designer’s elbow for 35 years advising on press matters, and Sébastien Jondeau, who logged two decades as the designer’s personal assistant and bodyguard.

Karl Lagerfeld, Sébastien Jondeau, Pier Paolo Righi and Caroline Lebar. Cesar Segarra

Righi said the company has been approached by several Hollywood producers over the years, all eager to partner on a movie about Lagerfeld’s life and career.

“It has been only since we met Jared and Emma that we felt truly confident about the story being told in the artistic way Karl would have loved to see,” Righi said in the release. “Throughout our conversations we have created an equally trustful and inspiring creative relationship that will allow us to work together very fluidly on this beautiful project.”

To be sure, Leto has been a keen observer, and participant, in the fashion scene for many years. He crossed paths frequently with Lagerfeld in St. Tropez, where the designer spent several weeks every summer, and as a guest at some Chanel fashion shows, including the fall 2015 couture display.

In recent years Leto has been closely associated with Italian fashion house Gucci, even attending the Met Ball last May as creative director Alessandro Michele’s plus-one — dressed like his twin.

“I’ve worked with Gucci and Alessandro for about seven years now, and continue to. It is an incredible partnership and a beautiful friendship with Alessandro and the entire Gucci team,” he related in an exclusive interview conducted by email. “Alessandro actually worked with Karl for about five years at Fendi and always has had the kindest things to say about him.

“My role is to portray him on screen as honestly as possible,” Leto continued of Lagerfeld. “With celebrity, most people don’t get to see under the surface. They see one or two facets of a person as presented through a public lens. Karl was a human being. We all have beauty within us and we all have faults. We have masks and then we have moments when we reveal the mask. I’m always interested in seeing what’s behind the mask.”

Leto hinted that he’s already plunging into researching what is sure to be an epic role for the seasoned actor, whose breakthrough was probably the 1997 biopic “Prefontaine.” He won an Oscar for his role in 2013’s “Dallas Buyers Club” and recently appeared in “House of Gucci,” in which he played Paolo Gucci. He is also a member of the rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars.

“It’s an exciting part of the process. You start at the beginning and try to learn everything you can,” Leto said. “I’m grateful to be doing this with an outstanding group of people who were incredibly close to Karl for many years of his life.”

To be sure, Righi, Lebar and Jondeau were among the closest witnesses to Lagerfeld’s career designing for Chanel, Fendi and his namesake fashion house while also juggling a slew of surprising side projects.

Jondeau, now a style consultant at Karl Lagerfeld, wrote a book last year in which he chronicled the designer’s four-year battle with cancer, which finally claimed him in February 2019. The book also exalts Lagerfeld’s work ethic, generosity, intelligence and kindness.

More than a designer, Lagerfeld was a fashion mastermind, one of the most prolific, admired and multitalented fashion figures of the modern age, credited with setting the modern template for reviving and animating heritage brands.

A polyglot with a photographic memory and vast knowledge of history, philosophy, art and popular culture, Lagerfeld ran his own publishing imprint and bookstore.

“I hate leisure,” the designer told WWD in 2008, “except reading. I’m really a person made to work, if sketching is considered work.”

News of the film project arrives less than a week after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that its spring 2023 Costume Institute exhibition would be dedicated to Lagerfeld, focused on his “stylistic vocabulary as it was expressed in through lines.” 

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