Gisele Bündchen on Anna Wintour and what The Devil Wears Prada got right about fashion
Supermodel Gisele Bündchen works runways for a living, but director David Frankel's 2006 classic The Devil Wears Prada marked the first time she got a job on an actual runway — as in, an airport tarmac.
Desperate for fashion elites to appear in the film despite a perceived fear of backlash from Vogue's Anna Wintour, when adapting author Lauren Weisberger's Faustian tale (inspired by her time working under Wintour at the fashion industry bible), screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna approached Bündchen before takeoff when they both happened to be on the same flight from New York to Los Angeles, and told her that she'd write anything she wanted in order to get her to sign on.
"I said I'll be in it, but I don't want to play a model," Bündchen exclusively tells EW in a special 15-year anniversary cast and crew reunion for the film. Determined to weave the model into the fabric of the film by any means necessary, McKenna subsequently stitched the legendary catwalker in as a bespectacled Runway magazine assistant, Serena (the glasses were the fashion icon's idea!), who worked for the publication's ruthless editor, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep).
On set for around three hours total, Bündchen improvised dialogue praising Andy's (Anne Hathaway) Chanel boots, bonded with her costars (particularly Emily Blunt), and says she got zero blowback from Vogue: "She's a more reserved person [but] she was always very nice to me," Bündchen says of Wintour, adding that she doesn't recall any negative sentiment in her chic circles: "I think she loved the movie. I mean, I'd be happy if Meryl Streep played me!" Read on for the full conversation.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I understand it was a chance encounter that brought you to the film. Can you tell me the story of how Aline approached you on an airplane?
GISELE BÜNDCHEN: I'm on a plane from New York to L.A., and I literally had to work when I got there, so I was trying to sleep! But, Aline sat next to me [and we started talking]. She said: "What are you doing? I'm working on this movie!" And she's telling me the story and asking, "Don't you want to be in it?" I was like, not really, I'm not really an actress…. I said I'll be in it, but I don't want to play a model. I don't want to play myself. Modeling is just what I do; it's not who I am. I wasn't really interested playing in a photoshoot or doing what I did every day. She said, "What would you be?" and I said, "Can I be an assistant? Can I play the other side of things?"
A few weeks later, my agent called [because] Aline wrote [me a part]. I don't think it was part of a scene that was originally in the movie, she just plopped me in there. The way my schedule was, I was working 365 days a year, so it was a fun break from everything!
The director said that you and Emily had a lot of fun on the set. Do you have any particularly memorable stories or moments from the set while filming?
It was a great mixture of comedy and incredible acting. I was only there for a day, but Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, hello! I'm a little bit out of my league here! I don't know what I'm doing! They were so welcoming and sweet to me. I was just the outsider who dropped in. They all made me feel comfortable. I was a little nervous. These people are the best actresses in the world, and I don't even know how to act!
Did you have to do any ice breakers before filming began?
I'd met Emily and Anne before briefly…. I'm a pretty outgoing person, I'm not really shy. I just came in and said, "Guys, help me out! I'm sorry if I screw anything up, just tell me what I'm supposed to do!" I did my scene in maybe two or three hours, in two or three takes and it was done.... [Anne, Emily and I] were giggling and talking about everything, being girls, talking about what we had for breakfast. When it was [time for my] scene, we were talking about an eyelash curler. I added a line, because it felt natural to me, and it made the cut! We did it a few times and I literally had one sentence or two sentences, but I think I added one because [Emily] was being mean [to Andy] and I thought, "She looks good!" They were like, "That's perfect!"
Do you remember the sentiment in the fashion world at the time regarding the movie? Was it being openly discussed in fashion circles as a movie that people wanted to avoid?
[Anna]'s definitely a more reserved person. That was my impression, but she was always very nice to me. She was supportive of my career. My first American Vogue cover, I was 19 years old! She was one of my biggest supporters, so I'm grateful to her. In my interactions with her, she was always nice and polite. I wasn't aware of all this other stuff that was going on or what people wanted to be in the movie or not, I just thought it could be a fun thing for me to be a part of. I didn't feel strange about it or weird or anything.
You just knew the people that worked at Vogue were dedicated and professional. Anna was the final word, and everyone wanted to please her…. but that's true for everything. Who doesn't want to please their boss?
I think people knew there was going to be a movie made about Anna, but I don't think people knew exactly how the movie was going to be, unless they actually had the script. It depends on how the director wants to take it, which parts of the book and character they want to focus on. It was definitely something people were talking about, people were curious about it…. everybody loved the movie. I think she loved the movie. I mean, I'd be happy if Meryl Streep played me!
Because there were so many people afraid of offending Anna Wintour because of this movie, did you feel any backlash from Vogue or the fashion industry after you appeared in this film? (Representatives for Wintour did not respond to EW's multiple requests for comment).
Not at all. I felt like some people were surprised…. I really wanted to make sure I looked nothing like myself. Let's put the hair back, let's put you in a top that's tight over your neck, with glasses. I wanted the glasses because I didn't want people to know I was there. If I was a really good actress, they'd forget I was Gisele!
You are an icon of the fashion world, so you have the authority to speak on this: What did this movie get right in the way that it presented the fashion world?
Even someone like me, who worked in fashion for so many years, we don't know what's going down because we work on the other side; We're the models! We don't know what goes on at a magazine, so it was a lot of learning for me as well.... It was very accurate, from the part of the fashion industry that I know: What's happening in the shows and the studios, from my perspective as a model, so what's happening in the world of the magazine [I don't know much about]. For example, I did a cover shoot for three days and the whole thing never came out, it was canceled. But I never knew until the movie came out what was happening behind the scenes that would make that situation come to light!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
A version of this story appears in the July issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
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