A Closer Look at Nathalie Emmanuel’s Chanel Gown for Her First Cannes Red Carpet

CANNES — It was a mega moment for Nathalie Emmanuel, who hit her first Cannes red carpet for the world premiere of Francis Ford Coppola’s long-awaited “Megalopolis.”

“It was emotional,” she said, having just come from the film premiere at the Palais des Festivals. “It was quite overwhelming to sit in a screening with all these people, but I felt really proud of everyone involved.”

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She’d seen the completed film a few weeks before at a private screening in London, where she sorted through her big-screen jitters, which allowed her to come to Cannes with a clean self-critical slate.

“The first time I watch myself in anything, I’m slightly doing the hypercritical [thing]: ‘Oh, why did you do it like that?’ Or, ‘I wish I’d done it like this,’ or whatever that sort of self-scrutiny is that you do, because we’re our worst critics, of course,” she said.

But having been through that personal process, she was allowed to revel in the experience.

“I got to just watch it. I was able to really absorb it, and have this incredibly unique [film] wash over me, and see it in a way that I was unable to do, apparently, the first time,” she said.

Coppola has had this fever dream of a film in mind for four decades — a good handful of years longer than Emmanuel has been on Earth — and its ultimate message is that we have a duty to protect the planet for future generations. People should dream, even if problems seem insurmountable.

“It evolved all the time,” she said, as the script changed from first read and through the filming process. “But I just found those ideas to be so big and bold, and sometimes, above my own intellect or my own knowledge and worldview — all just so big and vast and epic.”

Nathalie Emmanuel poses for a portrait before the ‘Megalopolis’ Premiere during the 77th Cannes Film Festival at the Carlton on May 16, 2024.
Nathalie Emmanuel at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes just ahead of the “Megalopolis” premiere.

Some of those last-minute script changes combined with the big ideas meant she was learning philosophy on the fly, and memorizing Marcus Aurelius the morning of a shoot.

Emmanuel recalled someone handing her lines in which she quotes the ancient Roman emperor a few hours before camera call.

“They’re just beautiful, very profound quotes, but I hadn’t had them that long, so I had to just go for it,” she said. “The experience was a huge responsibility, and the stakes are really high. I just feel it’s a privilege to help tell this story and this vision that’s been in somebody’s head for 40 years, and the idea that they would like you [to be the one] to do that is a little surreal,” she said.

“I keep using the word ‘surreal.’ I feel like I need to find a new word to say, but it’s been my buzzword,” she joked.

The “Game of Thrones” star has half-a-dozen projects in the works, including the latest installment of the “Fast & Furious” series and “The Killer” with Sam Worthington and Cannes juror Omar Sy.

“I feel like my career is something very rare. And I don’t take it for granted,” she said. “I’m just from this small town in England.”

For the red carpet, the Chanel atelier sent her several sketches and she collaborated with the design team as well as her stylist Jason Bolden.

The dress was inspired by the shape of a look in the fall 2022 show, rendered in white, and the duo added details including a black satin belt to adjust to Emmanuel’s style. The dress also encompassed traditional Chanel tweed on the bodice, a heritage touch Emmanuel appreciated.

“It felt very classic, with the skirt being so floral and three-dimensional and a bit dainty, and then has a sort of boldness with the belt. This kind of strength felt like a bit of duality, and I have a bit of a duality with a femininity and masculinity I like to play with,” she said. She topped off her look with simple, slicked-back hair and bold makeup.

Still, the very slim silhouette meant that maneuvering was a bit of a challenge. “It’s a bit of a process [to sit down],” she joked. “I had to do a sort of sweep then swivel. I practiced before at the hotel, but I think I did OK.”

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