Carmen Chaplin An eternal romantic

British actress and director, the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, is the new and very charming ambassador of Jaeger-LeCoultre watches. In love with Paris, she often comes here to visit her sister Dolores. Carmen enjoyed the sunshine that lit up the capital on the day of this interview, and had the pleasure of a mini-cruise on the Cachemire, one of the most beautiful and intimate boats of the Yachts de Paris.

Carmen, it seems that between Jaeger-LeCoultre and your family, it’s a true love story!
That’s right! When Charlie Chaplin, my grandfather, settled in Switzerland in the Canton of Vaux in 1952, the Jaeger factory offered him a watch as a welcome gift. My grandfather then offered this watch to my father when he was 14, and it was then passed onto my mother on the day of their wedding. It was when it was my turn for the watch to be given to me to take to Jaeger-LeCoultre for repair that I personally became acquainted with this famous brand! In 2013, I also made a short film for them with my daughter of four months.

Where does your father fit in amongst the numerous siblings born from the love between your grandfather and his wife Oona O’Neill?
My aunt Geraldine is the eldest of the siblings and my dad, Michael, the oldest boy. Charlie Chaplin was both of English origin and Gypsy by his mother. He was also born into a gypsy caravan. It is no doubt from these gypsy origins that comes my taste of nomadism! My father is a novelist and lives in Switzerland. He lived for a long time in the house of my grandfather, which is supposed to be turned into Chaplin museum next spring.

As a child, did people talk to you a lot about your world famous grandfather?
I had never been raised in the cult of Charlie Chaplin and it is only at school that I learned who he was. As our parents had mentioned to us his small size, and for a long time we thought that our grandfather was Louis de Funes! When we finally understood that it was Charlie Chaplin, we watched his films but because they were all made in black and white they were hard to relate to…

Among all of the films of your grandfather, which one is your favorite?
“A King in New York”. Because my father plays a little boy and Charlie plays a king. I also believe that for as much as I appreciate this film, it is certainly because for once Charlie is not playing his “Little Tramp” character.

Mixed bloods often make for beautiful children… you yourself are a blend of several cultures…
My mother, the painter Patricia Betaudier is half Irish, half Trinidadian. From age 6 to 14, I grew up in the Lot-et-Garonne with my parents who were very much hippies, living on a farm in the middle of nowhere full of goats, chicken, and sheep. We went to school there, but the director hated us. When my sister and I missed school to go to Cannes to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of my grandfather, he lashed out at us “So, you think it’s ok to miss class? You think you are stars?” He thought we felt superior…


What kind of a little girl were you?
A shy and introverted child who would not grow up, refusing to grow up or to even be a teenager, and a child who does not like school at all. At home, we were brought up very freely, and the contrast was too great with this countryside school where everything was very strict. At age 14, eager to discover a wider horizon, I asked to be sent to an English boarding school in Madrid where my Aunt Geraldine lived. Even though I spent all my weekends at home with her, and she knew everything to do to please me, life in boarding school did not please me either. So at 16, I stopped and came to Paris to try my luck at a modeling agency.

And that pleased you?
No, I was not crazy about that either. All they had to do was ask me to lose three kilos and I’d put on three more! I just wasn’t cut out for this job either. I then enrolled at the Cours Florent where Francis Huster took me in with affection and invited me to come see his shows.

Do you feel more comfortable acting rather than modeling?
Yes, because an actress can hide behind a character and it just seemed easier.

So at the age of 16, you came to Paris alone…
Not really alone. With my sister Dolores, my oldest one and the accomplice of my life. We lived in a maid’s room, on the rue de Verneuil on the 7th floor.

You had a rather dramatic start in cinema, since you were quickly led by prestigious directors such as Wim Wenders, André Téchiné or Sydney Pollack. And then, gradually, you overshadowed the screens…
I had a hard time finding my place in the movies where I did not belong to any family. I was very shy and not very sociable. The kind of girl who would just stay in the dressing room until it’s her turn! In fact, I was quite self-conscious. I was taller than average and had exotic features, so I did not fit the profile of the typical French actress and directors often had more desire to put me in their bed than in their films! (laughs). My mistake was not to expand my skills. I should have gone to film school, but I lacked confidence, I didn’t find myself brilliant enough to do that. For a long time my outlook on life was maybe a bit too romantic and that made me uncomfortable in the world today. My heroines were Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe.

At age 28, you moved again, this time to settle in the United States…
I initially moved to Los Angeles, where I made a few movies and then to New York where I started writing while doing theater and independent films. I lived there ten years and I met my husband, himself being of Indian origin.

The birth of your daughter, it seems, changed your life?
Motherhood has made me more present, stronger, and less of a day dreamer. During the first two years of her life, I wanted to be there all the time; to be very close to her. And then I told myself that if I was just a mother, a part of me would be frustrated. She’s only three, but if I want her to become an independent and passionate woman I must give be a good example of that as her mother! Anyway now I want to be more efficient, less scattered.


Since birth, you chose to live in London…
My husband is English in origin. Pregnant, I wanted to return to Europe, to get closer to my family. But I do not feel very English because this culture is not the one in which I grew up. However, unlike America, all races mix it up, even all the way to marriage! In New York, people mingle much less. Whites stay with whites, Mexicans with the Mexicans, Asians with Asian…

Do you come to Paris often?
About four or five times a year to see my sister Dolores! Paris seems much more easygoing though Parisians are often moody. London has lost much of its charm. Paris has a stronger identity.

Here you are the ambassador of Jaeger-LeCoultre. Have watches always been important in your life?
I always loved watches because I find in everyday life, they find their way in much more easily than other jewelry! For glamourous parties, I often wear their models of the 1920s. I love Jaeger-LeCoultre which for me still remains artisanal luxury, a symbol of true refinement. I take pride in representing this brand!

For glamourous parties, I often wear their models of the 1920s.

Bio Express

Bio Express

  • Birth in London
  • "Until the End of the World" by Wim Wenders
  • "My favorite season" by André Téchiné
  • "Say yes" by Alexandre Arcady
  • "Sabrina" by Sydney Pollack
  • Directed "Tryst in Paname" a short film with Bambou Gainsbourg and Dolores Chaplin
  • Directed a short film in the form of a visual poem, "A Time of Everything" of the manufacturer of Jaeger-Lecoultre
  • Shares the film poster for "Vicious" by Franck Merle with Malcolm McDowell.
By Caroline Rochmann ; photos : Stéphane Slama - Published the
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