Granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, one of the greatest geniuses of the XXth century and the painter Patrick Betaudier, and great-granddaughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill, Carmen Chaplin has art and cinema in the blood. Born in London, raised in Spain and France, the actress, writer and director now divides her career between New York, Paris and London. While in Abu Dhabi for the Film Festival, Prestige met the ambassador of charm of the Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Carmen Chaplin, art is in your genes: your mother’s father was the painter Patrick Betaudier and your paternal grandfather the famous Charlie Chaplin. Did you always know that you wanted one day to work in the movies? At seven I wanted to be part of Doctors without Borders … But I quickly changed my mind when I realized that I’m afraid of blood (laughs). Otherwise, yes, I’ve always wanted to be an actress and make films…
Did you grow watching movies? My father always told me beautiful stories whenever I asked. Neither of my parents worked in the cinema. I grew up in the countryside, far from Hollywood … I was educated away from this world but at the same time, every time we went to my grandfather in Switzerland, we met Hollywood actors like Walter Matthau and James Mason … Small, I loved their films, so it impressed me more than to see the stars of the 80s, that’s what made me dream.
Did you know your grandfather Charlie Chaplin? He was already very old when I was little. I have memories of holidays in Switzerland at his home, where we spent Christmas, Easter and the summer holidays … As we had many cousins, there were large family gatherings, great fun for us. Magical moments … My memories with my grandfather are those of family gatherings rather than vivid memories of intimate moments.
Do you feel more pressure in your work, because you are the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin? I do not feel I have a particular pressure. However, by performing a short or feature film, there is always the pressure to succeed the project as well or better than our initial vision … Like any director. But I do not feel more pressure than other artists, even if sometimes it happened my realization was compared to his…
To celebrate the centenary of the “Little Tramp” character of Charlie Chaplin, you have made a short film entitled“The Innovators” in which there are three generations of Chaplin: your daughter Uma, Dolores your sister and your father Michael … When I was asked to realize this film, I did not want to make a black and white or documentary. I preferred to go to the opposite side by making a movie with my family … The images of my grandfather that I have in mind come mostly from family films he used to do with his eight children. My grandfather did the clown to make them laugh. At the time, he was 60 years. I liked his formidable family films in which he was very funny before knowing and loving his movies.
If you could talk to your grandfather, how would you imagine that conversation? I would especially like him giving me advice on how to make good movies! (laughs).
You are actress and director. Which do you prefer? An actress invests heavily in her role, but at the end the result of the film is not in our hands, and is not always what we would like. As a filmmaker, the challenge is greater because we have more responsibilities. I like both, but I prefer the realization, a new job for me. Being responsible for the entire film, have more power on each element … I find exciting having an idea, writing, working with others and that this leads to the film.
You are in Abu Dhabi for the opening of the Film Festival as a friend of the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand. How this friendship was born? In the beginning, since four or five years, I made my first short film in which a watch has an important role … I then chose a Reverso watch for men. It was our first meeting. Then my sister Dolores and I, in collaboration with Jaeger-LeCoultre, had organized a dinner to celebrate the anniversary of the Honorary Oscar for my grandfather. Subsequently, I directed the short film A Time for Everything with Memovox watch that the Swiss authorities in the Vaud Canton had offered my grandfather during his establishment in Switzerland in 1953…
There are also three generations of Chaplin in this short movie: your daughter Uma, your mother Patricia and yourself … I am very close to my family that inspires me a lot. In this short film I especially wanted to convey emotion. And for me, there are a lot of emotions with my mother and my daughter. It is easier for me to pass this emotion through them.
You are currently working on your first feature film. Can you talk about that? The film is called The Lamentation of Swans and takes place in Paris. This is the story of women who live extraordinary moments in their lives. I’m at the stage of rewriting the script … Filming is scheduled for next spring.
What is luxury for you? To spend time with my family, my daughter and my husband, and also be able to do the job that I love and that provides me with income. It is a luxury to get to juggle both and have time for both.
What is your favorite time of the day? morning.
What are the favorite times in your life? The present.
What is your favorite movie of Charlie Chaplin?City Lights.
What is your favorite movie? All About Eve.
What is your favorite watch? The one I wear, the pink gold Reverso of Jaeger-LeCoultre.
What is your relationship with time? As time passes, I feel better about myself. But with the passage of time, my skin does not get better (laughs). I’m a little afraid of the passing time, it’s true. At the same time, I have a girl growing up and getting beautiful over time … It is easier to grow old when you have a child. Interviewed in Abu Dhabi by Maria Nadim