My cameo in the 1999 Roman Polanski film The Ninth Gate

Dear Shaded Viewers,

I always wanted a clip from The Ninth Gate and my little cameo from two decades ago and thanks to Chris Cipollini’s post about the film, he sent me my few seconds on screen for my archives. This is longer than my appearance in Ben Stiller’s Zoolander 2 and shorter than my 2 scenes from Robert Altman’s Pret a Porter and Larry Clark’s The Smell of Us. It’s a funny story actually. One day I was walking home from taking the students at Paris Fashion Institute for a shopping tour in Paris and was quite exhausted and I walked by a tea room that used to be on Ave. Bosquet and the casting director asked me if I had forgotten the casting. True a few days before she had stopped me as I walked by and asked if I would come for a casting. Acting is not on my agenda but I said yes ok. Then it is not that I had forgotten the casting I just simply did not care and was tired so I said, as she had stopped me for the second time, who is the director…when she said Roman Polanski I suddenly had the time to get the polaroid taken. A few days later she called and asked for my agent of which of course I did not have one and then I did not hear from her again. Then I was talking to my friend , the actor Geoffrey Carey,  who was the dialogue coach on the film for Emmanuelle Seigner and told him it was really strange how the casting director had called and then kind of disappeared. A few days later, because of Geoffrey, the casting director called again and explained that the initial casting was for the Black Mass and since I said that “you could add anything but take nothing away” and that the scene required me to let my hair down and walk barefoot…she did not cast me. I told her that was right I would never do either. However she said there was another part she wanted to propose me for which was only with me, a fake husband, a driver and a valet and I could appear just as I am. I told her she could propose me but not to push it but if Polanski really wanted me I would do it otherwise let it go because I was teaching early in the morning at Paris Fashion Institute and if I did a shoot which would take me to the early hours of the morning and no sleep I would be a wreck when I had to teach. She proposed me, he wanted me for that scene and so I went.Typical of shoots you arrive at noon and shoot around midnight. My ‘fake husband’ was anything but appealing. All the extras were hanging out at the Kraft by the snack table when Roman Polanski passed by. He discretely looked at me. Said nothing and walked out to the terrace. Funnily enough the location was exactly the same as my first cameo in Robert Altman’s Pret a Porter. Anyway the costume designer came over to me and said Roman wants to meet you, he said you look fine except you need to wear heels and not platform shoes. I already had figured that out and brought a pair of heels. When finally it was time for the shoot my not so handsome husband and I kept getting in and out of beautiful cars which all seemed to have a problem. I think there were at least 7 cars. At last the car functioned and we were ‘acting’. After I don’t know how many takes we get out of the car and my ‘husband’ puts his arm around me. It sent a chill down my spine and I asked him why he did that. Then back to the car for another take. Roman Polanski came to the car window and said ‘english or french’ I said it didn’t matter. He proceeded to say “you are an old married couple without an ounce of affection left, you would never put your arm around her.” One sentence, on direction and it was so well articulated that nothing more was needed to be said and believe me I did not want the actor’s arm around me. The shoot went on till 4 or 5 am and that morning I was back at Paris Fashion Institute giving my class. I was exhausted but it was a very great experience I had adored Polanski since Knife in the Water. Decades later I saw him at Les Deux Abeilles, well several times, and finally got up the courage to ask him if he’d be a guest of honour at  ASVOFF. Actually it was Marco de Rivera that intruded upon his lunch with his daughter telling Polanski I wanted to talk to him,  Polanski said he knew…anyway when he finished his lunch he came to me, his table was positioned right behind ours, he kneeled down and asked what I wanted. I told him, he said he hated fashion and that his wife liked it too much. He said what would he screen, The Piano…then instead of me saying that we honoured  his dear friend Jerry Schatzberg at ASVOFF in New York a few years earlier, Marco inserted how Jean Paul Gaultier was the President of ASVOFF 8, of course one cannot get more fashion than Jean Paul Gaultier so instead of making it more cinema/culture than fashion  fashion, that kind of put the nail in the coffin. He was very polite and said we should ask his wife. Funnily enough that edition, ASVOFF 8, there were two films with Emmanuelle Seigner submitted and one won the best actress award for How to Get Rid of A Ghost by Emir Erlap.

So that is my Roman Polanski story. Now if we run into each other at Les Deux Abeilles we say hello. I won’t ask him again for ASVOFF but I do regret not mentioning Jerry Schatzberg who upon hearing about the killing of Sharon Tate dropped everything to fly to LA to be with him. Oh, another funny or uncomfortable moment, after Polanski said no to my proposal, I was late for teaching at Paris Fashion Institute so I got up to leave and as I was close to the door my coat caught on the back of a chair and caused the chair to fall. I did not look back figuring Marco de Rivera was behind me and would pick it up. When we got outside I asked Marco if he’d picked up the chair, he said no Roman Polanski did.



Diane Pernet

A LEGENDARY FIGURE IN FASHION and a pioneer of blogging, Diane is a respected journalist, critic, curator and talent-hunter based in Paris. During her prolific career, she designed her own successful brand in New York, costume designer, photographer, and filmmaker.