Marion Cotillard, World Champion

Originally published in Madame Figaro (France), January 10-16, 2009

translated by Ioana

World champion in the leading actress category ! Last year, “La Mome” won all the awards, Oscar included. Since then, Hollywood rolls out the red carpet at her feet and she’s worked with Johnny Depp and Daniel Day-Lewis. During a short stay in Paris, our French star humbly opened her heart to “Madame Figaro”.

The windows of the suite no 101 at the Meurice Hotel overlook the entire Tuileries Gardens, frozen under the cold December sun. But the splendid view is barely worth a glance when, on the king-size bed carefully arranged, Marion Cotillard’s body arches, bends and straightens out under the scrutiny of a few people: “La Mome” is in the middle of a photo shoot.

In that moment, she’s a daring “pocket Venus”, armed with an uninhibited satiny body, that only wants to show its provocative and sophisticated sensuality. “The photo with the jacket and the panties is next?”, someone shouts. Shortly after, Marion Cotillard joins us in the next room, wearing a white robe, fluffy slippers and hair curlers. She shares her sushi, is tempted by a cigarette, reveals herself with touching modesty.

Last year belonged to her, the year of a great triumph: world champion among actresses, for her dazzling portrayal of Edith Piaf, heart-breaking little girl and destructive monster, in Olivier Dahan’s biopic. She won everything: the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, the Cesar and, of course, the Oscar, scepter of the stars, reputedly unattainable for a non-anglo-saxon performer.

Since that ultimate triumph, in February 2008, “La Mome” Cotillard rarely set foot in France. She shot two American films back-to-back:
Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies”, a gangster movie with Johnny Depp, then “Nine”, directed by Rob Marshall, a musical with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Day-Lewis. That is, the very best of Hollywood. Marion Cotillard has a busy career, she’s a star in demand. That’s why the day she dedicated to “Madame Figaro” was truly exceptional.

In this photo session, we discovered an unusually sexy side of you…

I didn’t expect it, but the photographer knew exactly what he wanted and I like that. I prefer to be guided. However, I’m not relaxed when I play a nude scene in a film. The truth is I’m not comfortable with my own body, although I give the opposite impression.

Will you finally be able to “tame” your body ?

This may sound hard to believe, but I didn’t notice it until I was 25. For a long time, I ignored that special relationship that every woman has with her body. Looking back, I think it’s something I never learned. But this refusal also had its advantages: not being aware of my body, I didn’t have any physical complex, because I didn’t look at myself.

And what about seduction ?

I was never a seductress. Besides, I know very well that you’re the most seductive when you’re not trying to seduce. But I don’t take advantage of that side.

An actress has to make herself liked, doesn’t she ?

I’m at ease when I pass an audition: it’s the actress who takes control. But when I have to talk about myself… This is really not for me. I don’t know how to sell myself, I’m not a gifted speaker. When I don’t feel comfortable in a situation, I can’t act naturally and my mind blocks. The worst is on television. I make great efforts, but it’s useless. The television frightens me, it’s an insurmountable obstacle. When I have to do a talk-show, I’m so scared, that I lose all my energy, I become lifeless. I feel more at ease speaking English, because the foreign language creates a distance. Besides, when I’m interviewed in America, I feel that people are very kind to me.

Success can make you feel stronger and more beautiful, right?

In a way. When I meet directors who love my work, I become instantly relaxed. Since “La Mome”, I’ve begun to feel more reassured, but not too much. For example, I’ve just finished working on two American films and I was terrified. I told myself that everybody was going to think I’m an imposter… But that’s the beauty of this profession: each film is a new adventure, a new character that you can make your own, a new challenge. You can never rest on your laurels.

Not even when you’ve gathered a heap of rewards ?

Last year was amazing, but the best months of my life were during the filming of “La Mome”. It was an unforgettable experience, as if Piaf’s life had transported me in another dimension.

What did you think when you received the Oscar ?

I was in shock, a wonderful shock. Then, there was a brief but intense moment when I needed to be alone. I thought about Olivier Dahan, the director, about Edith Piaf. I especially remember sharing that with the people I love, with my brothers who had come to Los Angeles. As for the glamour of it… I packed my suitcase and went to bed early. I took the plane to Chicago at 4 in the morning, because I was expected on the set of Michael Mann’s movie. On the plane, I was feeling a mixture of intense joy and exhaustion…

A few days after the Oscars, an old interview of yours resurfaced, about the 9/11 attacks, where you expressed some doubts regarding the official theory. Much ado about nothing ?

It was aggressive, quite vicious and totally misinterpreted. Thinking that different perspectives can shed light on an event doesn’t mean that you support a certain theory.

Do you have enemies in France ?

If there are people who dislike me, they don’t come and tell me that. Jealousy ? Sometimes, I might want for myself a great role already given to someone else. Actually, not really: I’m a fatalist. I believe that, when you don’t get a certain part, then it wasn’t meant for you. I don’t have negative feelings: you have to move forward. Besides, I was very spoiled with “La Mome”…

Have you finally let go of Edith Piaf ? You were finding it hard to leave her behind.

Yes, she’s gone… but it took a while. I was mad at me, I felt ashamed that I couldn’t become myself again immediately. But this cycle helped me to overcome certain fears. The most important thing is that I’ve identified the fear and I’m dealing with it. The root of the evil is, no doubt, the lack of confidence. It stops me in my tracks and drives me forward, at the same time.

Where is the origin of this lack of confidence ?

It hasn’t left me since my adolescence. I was a troubled teenager, I had too many questions without answers. I talked very little and isolated myself. The others can’t love you, when you don’t love yourself, it’s like a spiral. I thought about therapy… I’m attracted to knowledge, but sometimes I am too impatient or I don’t have enough will to finish the things I begin. It was the theatre that helped me open up to others.

What are you most proud of ?

I’m very harsh with myself. With Piaf, I went all the way, and I was pretty satisfied.

Some predict a Hollywood career for you…

I like American cinema, but I could never leave France ! I love my country. I need to be here, I need Paris, the countryside, the people I love.

How does your life look after the Oscar ?

I spent almost six months in Chicago, filming “Public Enemies”, and now I’m about to finish “Nine”, in London, with Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz, who are really lovely people. Nicole Kidman is very funny, very simple, I admire her a lot. And I feel very close to Penelope Cruz: we’re the same age and we’ve had similar careers, although her notoriety is huge. The three of us have a lot in common: we are women thrown into a world of images.

Are you well armed for this profession ?

Yes, because success didn’t come when I was 20. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with it at that age. It took time. Besides, I protect myself. For instance, I don’t read what people write about me anymore.

The press leaves you alone, although you’re dating a famous actor (Guillaume Canet)…

It’s not a secret, we’re seen together, but I think it’s indecent to talk about that. Speaking about the details of your personal life, saying “It’s great !” or “It was horrible”… what’s the point ? I don’t talk about that, I refuse to feed the voyeurism and, so far, I don’t feel harassed.

Today, on a movie set, do you feel like a princess ?

Not at all. I feel like a member of a team.

One final thing: there is talk about a music album in 2009…

I don’t feel legitimate quite yet, but I’m slowly getting rid of that fear.
I play the bass guitar, I try to compose, but I’m not very talented. Or I write stuff that doesn’t suit me… too hardcore. In music, I love women of character: Janis Joplin, Regina Spektor. Yet again, I have to find my place.


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