By Andrea Feick
Still under 30, he’s starred in well over a dozen films, including The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Twenty Years Apart, Comme Freres, and Five, but Pierre Niney is surely best known for his convincing portrayal of Yves Saint Laurent in the hit film YSL.
Handsome and boyish in person, the charming yet professional French actor strides in to Cafe Marly in Paris for our interview just on time.
The son of an artist and university professor, Niney is more bookworm than fashionista, and confesses he didn’t know much about fashion at all before training for his role in YSL. None the less, he’s stylishly dressed and scruffily bearded for his interview with us, and tells us that he was amazed at YSL’s influence on how women dress: “it’s truly incredible, the impact he (YSL) had on women’s fashion and women. With the introduction of the pantsuit…putting a tuxedo on women…he truly gave them a new strength, a new image.”
Many critics remarked on Niney’s portrayal of the design icon, but the actor modestly admits he had a lot of help: “I had a coach to teach me how a fashion house works,” he states. “It’s much more complicated than I imagined.” As for embodying the designer, Niney says “I had a lot of coaching to show me how he did things…how he sketched, how he moved physically, how he spoke, his voice, his vocabulary…” The complete difference between Pierre’s ‘normal’ voice and the rather effete one he used for his role as Saint Laurent in the film is really best appreciated when you meet the actor in person.
Another notable difference is the physique of the actor–he seems to have put on a bit of muscle since filming YSL and confesses ” I try to eat fairly healthy, and work out at the gym a lot with my friends. I also love to swim.” While there was a beautifully done pool scene in YSL, Niney got to be even closer to the water in his next film, which is centred around the life of another French legend: Jacques Cousteau. Starring Adrian Brody and directed by Jerome Salle, Niney was delighted to have spent so much time at sea around the world: the film was shot all around the globe, from Antarctica to Canada and South Africa.
But does Niney support the Cousteau Society or another Oceanic charity? “I’m actually looking for a charity to support right now,” he says. “I’m looking for something transparent, that supports the environment. What happened in Fukoshima was really terrible…I’d like to be part of a charity that stops these disasters from happening again. But I haven’t found anything yet. I’m still looking.”
Travelling the world, attending film premieres, taking on new roles and finding the time to seek out a worthy charity make for a busy life. Where would this young Frenchman like to be once he gets a break? “Australia. I’d love to just chill with my friends by the sea,” he says with a grin.
To see the trailer of the YSL film, click here.