Now a spry 82 (lifelong fitness freak Vidal demonstrates yoga flexibility onscreen that Madge might envy), he sadly missed the premiere due to a month-long hospital stay for pneumonia in Los Angeles. Fortunately for us, he was happy to speak to StyleList exclusively by phone.
StyleList: Talk to me about inventing the Bob Cut, arguably your most famous achievement. It's well documented in the movie.
Vidal Sasson: [Actress] Nancy Kwan came to London and she had four feet of hair. Her director said 'I want you to give her one of your new looks, starting from scratch'. She was one of the most beautiful girls so you couldn't go wrong unless your scissors slipped. Fortuitously, she was half-Caucasian, half-Chinese so her hair was much stronger and kept its shape beautifully. She was a knockout girl and couldn't have been nicer.
SL: Did you know instantly that it would make your name? Can you tell right away when a cut is a classic?
VS: Yes. You know whether it needs to be improved, and go home and come back the next day to work on it more because there is no genius – just pure hard work and innovation. But you knew when you had something.
SL: What about Anna Wintour, who's become synonymous with the style?
VS: I've never cut her hair but it looks marvelous on her. I would love to talk to her about it, but I can't just call and say 'I love the way you're wearing my hair'. And Victoria Beckham – she has a lovely haircut, reminiscent of the '60s with a '90s touch. It has moved on. They're very good for our kind of work because so many of the young girls just let their hair hang down to their shoulder and most of it looks terribly ugly. It's not even cut to the shoulders, it's just hanging.
SL: It doesn't bother you when people tweak your styles, then?
VS: People can get hold of this bob and as long as they know the techniques, they can put their own artistry in it. That's what important – it shouldn't stand still, or it's dead.
SL: Even as an octogenarian, you stay current– judging the finale of a reality show like 'Shear Genius'.
VS: The show is a very good idea, because it encourages young hairdressers to develop so even if they're not superb, they get better. I enjoy doing it actually. I think criticism should be done in a very kind, upbeat way – if you tear someone apart, there's no benefit to that.
SL: But the film shows that you weren't always quite so mellow.
VS: I was crazy, I was driven. In one moment of the movie, talking to the different stylists who worked with me, one young man says '[Vidal] was absolutely crazy, he had so much stamina he could work half the night'. And I liked that. I'm doing my autobiography and the two together have worked so well, bringing back the memory of what actually did happen.
SL : This is the latest in a slew of fashion films, from 'Valentino' to 'The September Issue'.
VS: Grace Coddington was my top model in London. I did the 5-Point cut on Grace. We worked in Paris together, and so many other places. She's gone on to become a big star, which is lovely.
SL: What about 'Good Hair,' Chris' Rock's documentary about black women's complicated relationship with their hair? You called your Greek Goddess style 'the Caucasian Afro.'
VS: I had a number of good, good friends in New York who used to take me to Harlem in the 1960s, when it was difficult for a white face to be seen there. But I loved the jazz. And the inspiration for the Greek Goddess cut, the perm with no setting, came from great looking black hair in Harlem, there's no question about it. I said 'Why can't we get Asians and Caucasians to have that look?' and we worked on it one whole weekend in London. I took a couple of rooms at the Grosvenor House hotel and had a salon there. The whole team stayed the whole weekend until we got it right, as close to what you could get in Harlem as possible.
SL: As both a hairdresser and onetime Israeli soldier, the rumor is that Adam Sandler's character in 'Don't Mess with the Zohan' was based on you . Was that another Sassoon biopic?
VS: Nobody spoke to me about it at all, but I would have loved to have joined in the conversation there. But though I can't mention who yet, a very well known company wants to do my life story with real actors, from a child to an older man. I'd cast Jude Law – he's English and a man with great style.