Charlotte Gainsbourg is the daughter of the French musician Serge Gainsbourg and the British actress Jane Birkin. She was born in London, grew up in Paris, began her movie career at 13 — and is best known as the star of Lars von Trier’s 2013 film Nymphomaniac. She has also released five albums. She lives in Paris with her partner, Yvan Attal, an actor and director, and their three children, Ben, 25, an actor, Alice, 19, a student, and their younger daughter, Jo, 11.
Early mornings are hell for me. I have to be up at 7am but I’m constantly grabbing at one more minute in bed.
I approach the day in stages: the school run, then my Japanese tea ceremony. The temperature is critical! I try not to look at my phone because that awakens a sort of anxiety in me: all the messages I haven’t replied to. I’m terrible at organizing my life.
It would be nice to say that I don’t care about the face I see in the mirror each morning, but I am fighting the aging process. I was never a beautiful woman like my mother. As an actress my quality was youth and I’ve done everything to hold on to that. So, yes, I do yoga, have facials and use expensive creams. No woman should be embarrassed about that.
I lived in New York for seven years and I was there with our daughters when Covid happened. Yvan and our son were in Paris and got stuck there because of the travel ban. I desperately wanted to be with them so we came back as soon as we could, but immediately I fell into a deep depression that lasted over a year. My father and sister both died in Paris and the city is haunted by ghosts. [Serge died of a heart attack in 1991; her half-sister, Kate, the daughter of Birkin and the composer John Barry, fell from an apartment window in 2013.] It’s not that my pain has disappeared, but that period of separation from Yvan made me feel very European. Paris is home.
The “woke revolution” is happening in Paris — women are speaking out and we recently had a politician accused of sexual harassment, but people are not being canceled in such a definitive way. In France, there are still strong feelings that we need to maintain a dialogue. I don’t take sides but I do believe justice should be administered by the courts, not social media.
As an actress my quality was youth and I’ve done everything to hold on to that.
It’s OK to put me in charge of lunch as long as I have a recipe. When I cook for my family I end up trapped in the kitchen, surrounded by dishes and pans.
New York was more relaxed than Paris. In Paris, I have to make an effort to look a certain way. I’m not complaining — it is nice to be wearing Saint Laurent and Hermès again.
Becoming a mother changed me profoundly. Yvan said that after Ben was born, my face turned towards the future. Before that, I was always turned to the past and the loss of my father. I was focused on death.
I have probably learnt far more from my children than they ever learnt from me. I love my children, of course, but to be a good parent you have to know better than them. I have good instincts but I lack good judgment and, consequently, I have made a lot of mistakes.
The “woke revolution” is happening in Paris.
In the evening my ideal is being at home with my family. Yvan and I have been together nearly 30 years, but I couldn’t tell you how we’ve lasted so long. We met, we had dinner and decided that evening to live together. We never got married and we have no idea what will happen next week. I just keep my fingers crossed and hope everything will be OK. Maybe that’s the secret to a long relationship: hope.
I’m in bed by midnight but I’m never asleep until 3am. I have tried breathing exercises and meditation but, sadly, the only thing that works is sleeping tablets from the doctor. The problem is that I have to take them all the time.
Impatience keeps me awake. Impatience with myself and with life. Lying in the dark and reflecting on who I am is not something I enjoy.
Danny Scott is a U.K.-based freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The Times of London, The Sunday Times, and City A.M., among other publications