Marion Cotillard talks about being Edith Piaf
from Reelz Channel (US) / by Heather Huntington
Our interview with the explosive star of La Vie en Rose.
You may not think you’ve seen Marion Cotillard before, but you’d probably be wrong. The stunning French actress has actually crossed over to American film a while ago, including roles in Big Fish and A Good Year.
This Friday she takes on her biggest challenge yet in the impressionistic biopic about the turbulent life of Edith Piaf, the French songstress famous for such songs as “La vie en rose”—from which the film takes its name.
Cotillard first heard about La Vie en Rose before it was even written. “My agent called me one day and he told me that [director] Olivier Dahan, that I didn’t know at all, was about to write a script about the life of Edith Piaf and he was thinking about me,” says Cotillard. She decided not to get her hopes up until the script was really offered to her, which it was when Dahan completed it a year later.
“When I finished the script,” says Cotillard, “what I had just read was–I was speechless. I couldn’t believe that I had this in my hands.”
Although somewhat daunted by the role, she jumped at the chance. “I haven’t imagined that one day I would play a whole life,” explains Cotillard, who portrayed Piaf from her teens to her death at age 47.
By all accounts, Edith’s Piaf life was incredible—from growing up in her grandmother’s whorehouse to singing for her dinner in the mean streets of Paris to fame and wealth as a singer of international renown. And Cotillard feels that Piaf was easily her most challenging role to date. “I didn’t try to imitate her. I wanted to understand her inside,” the actress explains. “There’s a very technical part–reading, watching, listening. I watched her a lot, the movies she did as an actress, the interviews, her personal images, like the Super 8 intimate footage of her. And I tried to understand who she was.”
But as humble as Cotillard may be about her process, the transformation she had to undergo to embody Piaf was dramatic—both the character to her physicality, particularly later in life when Piaf was ill. “I had a body prosthetic to make [the hunch in her back] a little bigger. And a prosthetic on the face and a lot of latex,” she says. “At the end I had that bald cap with the few orange hairs. But it’s–I really liked it. Even if sometimes I wanted to kill all those people around me, touching me, touching me! And all those smells!”
La Vie en Rose is full of Piaf’s songs, and most of the recordings Dahan used were Piaf’s own. “The only part I sing myself was because she was drunk and she sang like hell. And they decided, I don’t know why, to keep my voice!” Cotillard jokes.
For the most part, though, Cotillard lip synched the musical scenes. “The lip synch is a very, very difficult thing to do. It is very technical. You have to be very precise, very accurate. Everything counts. Your whole body, your whole body is involved in the process of doing a good lip sync,” she recounts. “It was important for us that make it this almost perfect, because if it’s not, the audience will just come out from the movie for that long. And you can’t do this.”
La Vie en Rose opens this Friday, June 8, 2007, in limited release.