“Beautiful and truthful”: Penélope Cruz on her surprise premiere (alongside Brad Pitt) at this morning’s Chanel show

By Luke Leitch

Photo: Chanel

A special mix of Penélope Cruz, Brad Pitt, and a quilted 11.12 Chanel handbag had Chanel's autumn/winter '24 runway show-goers cheering ahead of even seeing the collection. Scroll on for the video and Vogue's exclusive chat with Cruz herself

Even at Chanel, the audience will rarely whoop and clap before they’ve seen the first look of the collection. Yet that’s exactly what happened at the house’s autumn/winter 2024 show in Paris this morning. The reasons for that? Penélope Cruz, Brad Pitt, and a quilted black, chain handled 11.12 Chanel handbag.


The two Oscar winning actors were united on screen for the first time ever in their careers for a short film in which the canonical Chanel bag plays a significant starring (if silent) role: this morning that film received its surprise world premiere before the collection walked. Directed by Inez & Vinoodh, it is an homage to the emotionally charged 1966 New Wave classic A Man and a Woman. In that original, Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant play two widowed parents who meet at their children’s boarding school: that meeting sets off a train of events fuelled by the intensity of their mutual attraction.

Chanel’s short homage focuses on a key scene in the movie in which the two leads sit opposite each other in a Deauville hotel restaurant, dancing via dialogue ever more closely together. In the original scene, a handbag - Aimée’s own Chanel bag - was placed by the director Claude Lelouch on the table between them. That placement is repeated in the new Cruz and Pitt film. The new version also sees them served by a waitress, played by Rianne Van Rompaey, to whom Cruz eventually asks the question: “Do you have any rooms available?”

In Lelouch’s original film, it was Jean-Louis Trintignant who asks the question: but in the Chanel remake, the role is reversed. As Inez & Vinoodh explained: “The complicity between the two women – which is a central theme to everything we make for Chanel – encourages Penélope’s decision to make that first move.”

The music that played as Virginie Viard’s collection came out after the movie’s last moment dimmed was 'Sexy Boy' by Air. Of the symbolic placement of the house’s bag between Cruz and Pitt, Viard said: “it’s an object of desire that inspires dreams, that makes me dream. I like its touch as much as the way it is made, its cinematic dimension.”

Pitt could not make his latest premiere in Paris this morning, as he is currently working on a feature film set in the world of Formula One racing. However long-time Chanel protagonist Cruz could make the trip to see the project they worked on together receive its first public airing.

Below, lightly edited, was what Cruz had to say about her latest role.

So Penélope that was the premiere of your latest film – the Chanel fashion audience was whooping and applauding which is a good sign…

“It was such a beautiful moment to see it for the first time with an audience today. I've seen it many times before already, but only by myself at home. And I think Inez & Vinoodh did something incredible. A Man and a Woman is one of my favorite films ever, and Claude Lelouch is one of my favourite directors. And Anouk Aimée has always been one of my favorite actresses. And she’s such a beauty, such a fashion icon. So to be able to be part of this beautiful homage - to the film, to Claude, to the Deauville Festival, to the relationship between Deauville and Chanel and between Gabrielle and Deauville… There are so many layers. And they are all so beautiful. And they are also truthful.

After the film aired - and that applause rolled – the models came out to a backdrop of scenes shot by Inez & Vinoodh, including you and Brad walking on the beach, and scenes from the promenade. Even if it was a projection, the positioning of the collection against the place worked.

Yes! To see the shadow of the girls that were walking, and then far away our little silhouettes on the beach…

So this is the first time you’ve been on screen alongside Pitt, even if you were both in Ridley Scott’s The Counselor?

Yes. We had some read throughs together on The Counselor with Ridley so we met there. And then I’ve seen him sometimes at the Oscars, or Guy Oseary’s party, and my husband [Javier Bardem] and I had a dinner with him once, many years ago: so I knew him a little before, but not much. The shoot with Chanel lasted for two days, and we had a great time. We all wished he could have been here today. But he’s working on a film which – by the way – he's doing with my husband. But I had a great time working with Brad.

And then Claude Lelouch came on set as well?

Yes, for one of the days which was very special. I was able to tell him how much his work means to me. Especially A Man and a Woman. He came in this amazing car wearing a race car driver – it seemed almost as if part of Trintignant’s character lives in him.

A central scene in both Lelouch’s original and your tribute is when the two protagonists sit opposite each other in the hotel restaurant. It’s a moment freighted with the power of their mounting mutual attraction, and the character Anne Gauthier’s handbag sits on the table between them…

… And I remember from watching as a teenager that the bag never takes your attention from what is going on in the scene in that room. But it’s such a sexy element that belongs in that world and the magic that Claude created between that couple in that relationship. It’s very symbolic! And I remember feeling all those emotions and also thinking that I hope one day I can own one!

**I imagine that you now own more than one: your relationship with the house is really long-standing. **

Yes. My first show that I saw in person was 1999. And that’s when I met Elsa [Heizmann] and Karl and so many of the people that are still today working with Chanel. They've always made me feel really like a part of the Chanel family. And I don't say that just to say that. You know how kind they are and the work ethic that they have the respect for every single person involved in every department… I always like to go into the studio the day or night before the show to see what they have been doing. And nobody in there is ever looking at their watch, saying ‘when do we leave?’. The seamstresses - some of them have been working there for 30 or 40 years - if there is something they think is not exactly perfect, then don’t want to go to sleep until they are satisfied. It's like Chanel is their baby - it is also theirs.

Or if you go into the Le19m building and you see the artisanal way of working; the time, the attention to detail that is put into every single piece - not only couture but every single collection. For me, this is something that the world of fashion cannot lose, but there are not so many houses that are still able to do it.

Is there a parallel between that craft and the craft of filmmaking?

Exactly. It’s very precious. Like the way Pedro [Almodovar] would make a film; there are layers, and it has to have roots, and every single detail matters. So this is how they work to express the incredible talent of Virginie, and before Karl, and before them Gabrielle: it takes the hard work, dedication and talent of many other people as well. The way I feel to be part of this family is the same I think as they feel: it creates such a strong and real feeling of wanting to give back.

**And in this case you could bring your craft, your metier, to Chanel. **

It is a short film but it is telling a story. And of course, that's where I always feel most comfortable. And especially paying homage to a character that is so iconic. I think the film works because it reflects a history that is real. And the collection worked so well against it today for the same reason. You know those hats: hats were the first thing that Gabrielle made and sold, and her first store was in Deauville. And then blouses too. It was around 1912 and it was very brave for the time because it was as much about comfort as it was about elegance. And she would dress her sisters and their friends in the blouses and hats and send them out to walk on the same promenade, the same boardwalk, that we see in the film. So that was the mouth to mouth social media of the time.

Wow, Penélope: I’ve never interviewed someone who is working in partnership with a fashion brand who has such a deep knowledge of its history.

Ha! And all my friends at Chanel, they always laugh about that. And they say ‘Oh, if we have a doubt about the provenance of where one piece is from we're gonna call you!’. You know I acted as editor for Vogue Spain in 2019 and we shot two covers as a tribute to Karl with Peter Lindbergh. And we had trucks driven from Paris to Spain filled with archive pieces. And during the shoot we were talking all day about Karl, but we had no idea how sick he was. And that night he died. We loved him very much. I have so many amazing stories that I shared with him. And I honestly could not imagine anybody better in the world than Virginie to follow in his footsteps. She’s doing great. She’s doing an incredible job being herself, and at the same time being 100 percent the essence of Chanel.

Originally published on