Three Quick Questions for La môme’s Edith Piaf: Marion Cotillard

from / by Boyd van Hoeij

French actress Marion Cotillard walked the red carpet at the Berlin Film Festival for the opening film La môme (La Vie en Rose) in which she stars as the chanteuse Edith Piaf. Here she describes what might be the role of a lifetime in her answers to three quick questions.

How did you prepare for the role?
It is of course a magnificent role and required careful preparation. I knew her music when we started of course — she is a French legend — but people from my generation grew up only with her records, not with her presence. I started listening to her music when I was about twenty and became interested in chansons réalistes and listened to Piaf and others. For the film, I started with reading about her life and once I had an idea of that I immersed myself into images of her: from interview and from her films. The director and I wanted to do something beyond an imitation of Piaf and I had to find that place within myself where the two characters, me and Piaf, could co-exist together and function properly.

Since the transformation was so complete, was it difficult to go back to normal again after filming?
This indeed took some time. For the four months of filming, my voice, my posture, my make-up and everything else was different. Just imagine walking like a duck for four months and then suddenly being able to walk normally again. It took some time to get used to it!

Do you feel any affinity with the story of Piaf since you also come from a family of artists and which scenes required most preparation?
I come from a family of artists, yes, but this was a very different family and I had a very different youth. I was most worried about the scenes in which I play Piaf in her forties, until her death at 47 when she looked over 60, simply because I am not that age yet. And the death scene was completely draining and also etrexemely delicate, because it is so easy to overdo it and then it looks ridiculous. But most preparation went into the playback of the songs and Olivier (the director) insisted I worked on that the most, because if it is not convincing it completely takes you out of the film. So I worked hardest on that.


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