meet joan didion’s céline side-kick: french dancer marie-agnès gillot
The étoile of the Paris Opera ballet is “the other woman” in Céline’s new campaign.
When Céline's spring/summer '15 campaign by Juergen Teller came out, the appearance of 80-year-old writer Joan Didion sent literary types into a frenzy. With all the furore centring around the queen of modern essay prose, i-D was curious about another of Phoebe Philo's campaign muses: the lesser-known (outside France) French dancer and choreographer Marie-Agnès Gillot. We tracked her down in Paris and heard about drinking rosé with Teller, confusing Charlotte Rampling and having the same rug taste as Philo.
How did Céline approach you?
They contacted my agent and friend Véronique. Phoebe Philo has been fond of dance for a long time. She thought of a ballet dancer for Céline's new campaign. I'm not sure that she ever saw me dancing live but with the internet, you can watch everything. At the end of October, a meeting was arranged with the team in a hotel in Paris. That's where I met Juergen Teller for the first time. While everybody ordered sparkling water, I asked for a rosé, he joined in and we started chatting. He gave me two of his books. I appreciated that he wanted to share his art.
Were you familiar with his work?
Yes of course. All his ads are very famous and always recognisable. I also remember some of his pictures from Paris Photo last year.
What did you talk about?
We discovered that we were both friends with Charlotte Rampling, so Juergen decided to call her. He spoke to Charlotte for few minutes and then put me through. I said: "Hello Charlotte, it's Marie-Agnès". She said, "Sorry my dear. I am very confused as I was just talking to Juergen Teller on the other line". It didn't occur to her that Juergen and I could be together.
Did he explain the concept of the shoot?
He mentioned nothing at all. Nearly ten days after the meeting, we flew to Tangier. We stayed for five days instead of the two initially scheduled because of the heavy rain. Only Freya [Lawrence - the other campaign model] and I came to Morocco. Juergen went to New York to shoot Joan.
What was Juergen like on set?
He's very positive, encouraging and works quite fast. He was fascinated, because I would execute all the moves he requested. On one of the pictures, you can see me standing by the tree trunk and then he asked me to climb on, which I did. I'm not sure if those pictures will be published, but they were funny to do.
Was Phoebe Philo on the set?
Not the first night but she was there all time after. She decided all of the looks.
What did you do when it was raining?
Eat and go shopping of course. If you're seeking a scoop, I have one for you: Phoebe and I bought the exact same carpet. She even got a tuk-tuk!
Did you enjoy the experience?
Yes. I thought of it more as a dialogue between three artists.
You're working with choreographer Wayne McGregor on Tree of Codes, which will premiere at the Manchester Festival in July. Will you invite Juergen to watch it later on at Sadler's Wells?
I am bad with PR things, but we're still in touch. He even invited me to his Christmas party in London.
Will you work with him again?
Yes, I'd love to.
You've already done shoots with Mario Sorrenti, Dominique Issermann and others. What photographers would you like to work with?
Tim Walker, Peter Lindbergh, Mario Testino.
Are you still in touch with Phoebe Philo?
Yes. She said she has something in mind that includes me. It's still confidential.
Photography Juergen Teller for Céline