Day: February 1, 2008

Voice Lesson

from Men’s Vogue / by Damian Fowler

Marion Cotillard goes beyond beauty to conjure the mythic Edith Piaf – and it just might land her an Oscar.

Don’t bother trying to sum up Marion Cotillard. That’s the lesson I recently learned when, in my desire to understand the essence of the 32-year-old French actress, I stooped to the following: What color are your eyes? “Blue-gray” came her playful response in gentle, articulate English. “It depends on the weather. When it’s like this — rainy — my eyes are gray. But when the sun is shining, then my eyes are blue.” I should have known better than to bottle a rainbow.

The iridescent Cotillard secured an Oscar nomination for her remarkable transformation into the iconic French chanteuse Edith Piaf in last year’s “La Vie En Rose.” Critics have used terms like “impassioned,” “spellbinding,” and (of course) “tour de force” to describe her achievement. At 5-foot-7, the long-limbed, vivacious actress managed to transmogrify herself into the petite, birdlike but volatile Piaf. Deploying rag-doll body language and a rasping delivery — neither of which is manifest at our table at Nello on Madison Avenue — Cotillard captured the physicality of Piaf, from her early days as a street-singing soubrette to her later years as the grande dame of French music, crippled by arthritis and addicted to morphine. The actress had to shave her hairline and her eyebrows to become La Môme Piaf — “the kid sparrow.” Thankfully, it’s all grown back. Her beauty is intact.

Although Cotillard has been acting for more than 14 years (including a recent turn as Russell Crowe’s love interest in “A Good Year”), the accolades she received for her performance in “La Vie En Rose” have changed everything. She’s just flown in from Los Angeles: Hollywood is calling.

Cotillard takes a sip of fresh orange juice and reflects on the singer who inspired this life-changing performance. “My desire was not to try to imitate her technically,” she says of Piaf, who died of cancer in 1963 at age 47. “I wanted to understand what was inside that woman, what was inside her heart and soul.” To do so, Cotillard front-loaded her brain with all things Piaf until she was brimming with her ineffable essence. She also befriended the singer’s old friend Ginou Richer, who revealed that Piaf wasn’t such a tragic figure after all. “She loved life, she loved to be happy, and she was funny,” Cotillard says.

As for the singing, director Olivier Dahan knew it would be impossible for anyone to re-create Piaf’s voice. Instead, Cotillard lip-synced, an intricate process that required learning to breathe precisely like the late singer. Even before she got her Oscar-worthy role, the actress would create playlists of Piaf’s songs for various movies she worked on. “I use the music,” she tells me. “It helps me to go into certain emotions. But I don’t use my job as therapy. I feel more like an anthropologist of the inside of the human being, a speleologist!” she says with a glint of mischief in her — suddenly — blue eyes. Say what?

I nod in agreement, and when I get home, I look up speleologist: someone who visits caves. Of course.

Oscars: Class of 2008 Portraits

from Entertainment’s Weekly / by Missy Schwartz

BEST ACTRESS: MARION COTILLARD

La Vie en Rose

Age 32 Role Legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf. Karaoke Dreamin’ As a teenager in Orléans, France, Cotillard used to lip-synch to Madonna’s ”Material Girl.” ”With my microphone, I was the pop star of my bedroom!” she laughs. That clowning turned out to be good practice for her uncanny performance in La Vie, which she approached with scientific precision: ”I took all the songs and I calculated the length of the notes, of the silences, and how she would breathe. Then I did it again and again and again.” Up Next She sings — for real this time — in Rob Marshall’s Nine, based on the Broadway musical adapted from Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2.

The Oscars: Marion Cotillard’s Secret Weapon

from Vanity Fair Daily / by S.T. VanAirsdale

Over at his blog And the Winner Is…, Oscar prognosticator Scott Feinberg lays out an interesting case for La Vie en Rose star Marion Cotillard as a serious contender in this year’s Best Actress race. Not that anyone has written her off (God knows we haven’t), but let’s face it: Among Academy voters, a performance for the ages is often no match for sentimental favorites (Julie Christie, Away From Her) or precociousness (Ellen Page, Juno). Roll back the star power a few notches, add a foreign language, and just like that, you’re an also-ran.

Except for Cotillard, whose turn as Edith Piaf spans about 30 years and just as many pounds of wigs and makeup as the iconic singer careens toward heartbreak, illness, revival, and death. As Feinberg notes, the Academy loves this kind of cultivated ugliness—almost as much as it loves actresses around Cotillard’s age (32), singer biopics (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Walk the Line) and winners of other seasonal hardware (she did claim a Golden Globe). Apparently even Oprah is rooting for her, an endorsement that may have more influence on DVD sales than Oscar votes but nevertheless represents an important populist bellwether.

I’ll add a less obvious X-factor to Feinberg’s analysis, however: Look out for Bob Berney, the Picturehouse boss whose company distributed La Vie en Rose and who, as the president of Newmarket Films, almost single-handedly guided Charlize Theron to Golden Globe and Oscar wins in 2003 for her feral, fearless performance as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. He also coaxed a nod that year for 13-year-old Whale Rider star Keisha Castle Hughes, making her the youngest Best Actress nominee in Oscar history. Berney is a genius with this stuff, a grass-roots guy whose acumen behind the scenes may not be infallible (Picturehouse’s 2006 foreign-language nominee Pan’s Labyrinth was arguably the year’s biggest surprise loser) but is hardly worth betting against.

His method is not entirely dissimilar to that of Fox Searchlight, which pushed Juno to its four nominations on the basis of a phenomenon as opposed to the all-inclusive technical merits of films like No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood. In fact, La Vie en Rose is a thoroughly unremarkable film with only Cotillard’s work to recommend it; like Monster and the recent Best Actress winners Monster’s Ball and Walk the Line before it, it has merely been seasoned with Oscar bait, not made from it. Which, as this category’s history indicates, may be all it needs to win.

Bob Berney hardly invented this paradigm, but his selectivity, taste, and—this is important—campaign moderation make Cotillard both a front-runner and backlash-proof. For further evidence look to Away From Her distributor Lionsgate, which is cribbing Berney’s strategy in its push on Christie’s behalf. Its advantage: The industry loves this woman, who is edging toward retirement. Its disadvantage: It loves her so much that she’s already won an Oscar. So count me among the Cotillard true believers; there’s a higher power than hype at work here.

‘Virtuoso’ actors discuss Oscars, strike

from The Associated Press / by Michael Cidoni

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – All of hot young Hollywood is not in this room, but it sure feels that way. Posing for photos on an antique sofa are Casey Affleck, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Amy Ryan, and James McAvoy: four first-time Oscar-nominated actors, and the leading man of an Oscar-nominated Best Picture contender.

They gathered here Wednesday night for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s first-annual celebration of “Virtuosos,” these rising stars of “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (Affleck), “La Vie en rose” (Cotillard), “Juno” (Page), “Gone Baby Gone” (Ryan) and “Atonement” (McAvoy).

In an exclusive sit-down interview, AP Television spoke with the five before they received their fest honors.

AP: So, what was your first reaction when they said, ‘You’re one of The Virtuosos! Come to Santa Barbara?’

(Laughter…)

Affleck: I said, ‘Where’s Santa Barbara?’

McAvoy: Like the soap opera? Excellent! I wondered, ‘Can there only be five (virtuosos) in the entire world? Wow, that’s incredible.’ (Turning to Ryan) How did you feel?

Ryan: I was very excited, too. I was very excited by the other four virtuosos, as well. Very good company.

AP: You all seem quite familiar with each other. Do you hang? (More laughter from all.)

McAvoy: We all go WAY back, don’t we? (Laughs.) It’s kind of like The Brat Pack that never was.

Page: We met in October. Octoberish.

Ryan: Marion and I met on the airplane from Chicago. Casey? Just met.

(More laughs, as the two starred together in “Gone Baby Gone.”)

AP: How has the writers strike affected your take on awards season? Has it taken the edge off?

Ryan: It’s added to the excitement. It’s still a nail-biter, if it’s gonna happen or not. But it’s also put it in perspective for me. I feel like, at the end of the day, people’s livelihoods are more important than dressing up, or maybe or maybe not getting an award. So, I just hope it settles and the writers get their due, and we all get to enjoy a big night. So, I kind of want it both ways. Is that too bad?

Page: And like you said the other night, you were like, ‘Yeah. A lot of people get nominated for Oscars, but a lot of Oscars you kind of forget. But we’ll always be THAT year.’

Ryan: Right. We’re in the year where it almost didn’t happen. Or it didn’t happen.

AP: What’s the worst part of working the awards circuit?

McAvoy: I was speaking to an actor who has been though this entire thing this year … he said that when you make films that you’re proud of, like, I think, everybody here, at the moment. And you have an incredible experience. You have an adventure. And you come away with all these incredible stories. But at the end of (awards season), it seems the only reason you had those adventure was so you were able to tell the stories in situations like this. And it just cancels the whole point. It feels like you have reversed the whole point of doing it.

AP: Now, c’mon. Isn’t anyone loving getting dressed up and having their picture taken? Ellen?

Page: If I had say what my top five favorite things are in the world to do, (walking the carpet) might … it may just miss out on the list. But just by a little. (Laughs from the other four actors.) So, but, I understand that that’s a part of it, that it’s a part of being a part of this, and it’s a huge gift to be a part of this. And it’s something that people really strive for. And we’ve all really gotten a role that has lead to, basically, this moment.

AP: And what do you think you’ll most remember about this time of your life?

Cotillard: I would say all the people I’ve met, and all the people I’ve talked with to share that work you’re talking about. In France, we’re not used to meeting so many people because there’s not such a sha-bah-dah about this.

Page: I’ve gotta say, it’s kind of the same (for me). It’s extremely humbling to find yourself in situations where it’s run of the mill to see Daniel Day-Lewis, you know? What’s going on in your life when THAT happens?

Ryan: I would also add, one thing about the awards circuit is that you’re kept so busy there’s not really a chance to take a breath, and really take it in and wonder how you do feel. So I’ve been enjoying watching my family for the first time, take it in. It’s the first time that, you know … they’ve celebrated things for my career. But this is as much for the home team.

Affleck: (It’s all made me) feel a little more part of a group of people, more connected to everyone who’s in the same industry. It can be so alienating when you’re just in your house and with the people you know and you don’t get to meet all these people.