Byline: ALICE B-B
Kiera Chaplin is unlike any 21-yearold I've ever met. The granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin is, in LA-speak, 'double-barrelled' (multitalented). She is an actress, singer and chairman of a production company, Limelight Films, which she set up only a year ago and already has 70 people working for her round the world. I'm quite glad I'm meeting Kiera professionally as being her friend would leave me with a huge sense of underachievement.
We're sitting in her vast suite at the new five-star Baglioni Hotel with its shiny black floor, countless bowls of fruit and views over Hyde Park. She gestures for me to sit opposite her and, as I do, I notice a pretty teenage boy loitering in the corner wielding a video camera. It's far too big for a home movie. And he's pointing it in my direction. Hang on. I'm not a star.
I'm just a journalist. Get your big prying lens out of my face.
Anyway, where's my hair and makeup? 'Oh, that's my brother Spencer,' Kiera explains, seeing me freeze up. 'He's filming my day-today life in London for the AE channel because they're doing a biography on the next generation of up-and-coming people,' she explains. 'I'm sure they'll do a tight edit,' she adds, implying I'll end up on the cutting-room floor.
So who exactly is this fresh-faced 'next generation, up-and-coming' girl?
Kiera was born in Belfast and raised in Switzerland by her mother, Bernadette McCready, and father, Eugene, who was named after his maternal grandfather, Eugene O'Neill. He is the fifth of Charlie and Oona Chaplin's eight children.
Oona was Chaplin's fourth wife whom he married when he was 54 and Oona 17.
Eugene Chaplin's family lived in Charlie Chaplin's house in Vevey, which Eugene will convert into a museum next year.
Throughout Kiera's childhood the house had unusual visitors: Michael Jackson would land his helicopter in the garden and visit Oona, and David Bowie and Brian May worked with record producer Eugene. Kiera was unfazed.
'When you're a kid you don't really care,' she says, although she does remember Michael Jackson giving her a model doll of himself and talking PlayStation with her brothers.
Kiera went to the local school in Vevey, but had a tough time. 'At first it was fine but then people would say, "Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin, why don't you walk like this?" and mimic my grandfather's walk,' she says. 'I'd even hear guys saying, "I'm going to go out with her so I can drive around in a limo, eat caviar and she'll buy me lots of presents.'' ' But the hardest part was the attitude taken by her teachers. 'If I did something wrong, they'd be like, "Oh, just because you're Charlie Chaplin's granddaughter, doesn't mean you can do what you want."' When Kiera was only 14, her parents separated.
Her mother moved to Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire, taking with her Kiera's four younger siblings, Laura, Spencer, Shannon and Kevin.
Strangely, Kiera stayed in Switzerland with her father. 'I didn't want to change schools because I only had one more year left,' she explains, 'and at that time I used to get into a lot of fights with my mum, even though I love her to bits now, but I was always very close to my dad.' Kiera had a chaperone who would take her to school and cook her supper. It sounds quite miserable and I wonder if it was a traumatic time. 'No, not really because I was told that we were all moving to England, but that me and my dad were going to stay in Switzerland until we'd sold the house,' she says. 'But then I found it strange that our house wasn't for sale.' But surely she felt angry, being lied to. 'Yeah, in a way I was kind of mad. At the beginning it felt quiet and peaceful but after a while it was like "Hello, is there anybody there?"' After school, Kiera moved to New York and began taking acting classes with Sandra Lee, who had previously taught at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. …