from Rotten Tomatoes / by Alex Vo
The French actress discusses her future plans, including movies and awards season.
There’s worse ways to achieve household name status than by acting out Edith Piaf’s life story. Marion Cotillard’s roles in A Very Long Engagement and Ridley Scott’s box office flop A Good Year gave her recognition in certain filmgoing circles, but its Cotillard’s total transformation in La Vie en Rose as the French singer, now out on DVD, that has drawn unanimous praise from critics and audiences alike, culminating with an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. We caught up with the actress in San Francisco, chatting about Edith Piaf’s impact on contemporary France, and Cotillard’s upcoming projects, including Nine, a remake of 8½ by Rob Marshall.
Previously, you’ve said that your roles in the Taxi movies made it difficult to be taken seriously as an actress. Does the Oscar and Cesar nominations for La Vie en Rose validate your efforts?
Marion Cotillard: I had my validation before this. Taxis are very big commercial movies and in France, in the business, they’re not so serious. So you have to prove that you’re an actor. I think “it” happened when I did the Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie, A Very Long Engagement. The role [was] fantastic. And they gave me a Cesar for nine minutes in the film. So that changed everything for me.
America has mostly recognized La Vie en Rose for your performance, while France is more recognizing the movie as a whole.
MC: I’m so happy that the movie was successful in France, that it was successful here, that it was successful almost everywhere we released it. That’s what is exciting. And it’s going to be exciting to have 11 Cesar nominations. Of course, also very exciting to have the Oscar nomination. You don’t expect to be at the Oscars for a French movie. Let’s say that having an Oscar nomination is very special and more unique than a Cesar.
Beyond the script, when did everyone know they had something big on their hands?
MC: When we finished the movie in May 2006 and showed 10 minutes in Cannes. The buzz was huge after those 10 minutes. And it never went down. That was five months before the movie was to be released so it was a very long time ago.
Even on the set we knew something was going on. There was something very special about the movie that we couldn’t share exactly. [We couldn't] say this at that time because you don’t want to break the spell.
Did that happen with previous movies?
MC: It’s hard to compare. It was the first time I’ve jumped and dived [into a role].
For La Vie en Rose, you didn’t do much rehearsing. Is that typical?
MC: It depends on the role. I don’t stick to special techniques, conscious techniques. I let myself instinctively go [and find the] best way to work. So it changes all the time.
Your family encouraged creativity and the arts. Did the instinctual process come from that upbringing?
MC: Yeah! Every story is different, every movie is different, every director is different. That’s what I like so I couldn’t work with the same technique all the time.
What kind of music do you listen to when you prepare to act?
MC: It depends on the character. When I have a character I have a playlist. I’ve used Piaf for three movies. It’s a little bit of classical music, it’s a little bit of Radiohead. Songs you couldn’t imagine that I would listen to. Songs that I loved as a teenager that moved me.
What influence does Edith Piaf have on contemporary French culture?
MC: We have the American Idols. And we have several shows on TV with young people who sing and every year they sing Piaf. I think that emotion and good stories can cross the times. And her songs probably cross the times.
You were recently cast in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies. What can you say about that?
MC: What I can tell you [is that] what I have to do in that movie makes La Vie en Rose seem like a piece of cake.
What’s the status on Nine? Was it shut down by the strike?
MC: I think they’ve gone back to work because they have a waiver. I hope we can shoot that at the end of the year.
Now that you have American movies coming out, what kind of roles are you searching for here?
MC: I’m looking for good stories. But I don’t have at the present time a specific desire. What I need is to do something totally different, each time. That’s what I love.
Which sort of directors are you looking to work with?
MC: A lot. But I can’t say names. [Laughs.]