Month: June 2009

Marion Cotillard is ready for her close-ups

from / by Chris Hewitt

She’s just not aware of the camera

CHICAGO — The night after a screening of “Public Enemies,” Marion Cotillard is fascinated by a question because it also occurred to her while she watched it: How did she not bump into the camera that was practically stuck up her nostril for most of the film?

“It’s a good question,” says Cotillard, rearranging her little black dress and offering me some cranberry juice in a hotel room high atop Chicago. “But the funny thing is that, the whole time I’ve been making movies, I’ve never known where the camera is. It’s just there and I don’t even realize it. But I want to direct some day, so I’m going to have to become more aware of it.”

What makes Cotillard’s camera-unawareness astonishing is that “Public Enemies,” which opens today, features some of the closest close-ups you’ll ever see in a movie. But it must be her absorption in the emotions of her characters that makes Cotillard’s performance as John Dillinger girlfriend Billie Frechette — and her Oscar-winning Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose” — so memorable.

Writer/director Michael Mann approached Cotillard about playing the French/American Indian Frechette shortly after seeing her in “La Vie en Rose.” He gave the actress — who speaks English with a light French lilt in real life and no trace of accent in the movie — music, film clips and newspaper articles to help her understand Frechette. And Cotillard, who refers to all the research material as “informations,” immediately fell in love with Billie.

“Her life was so tough, but she was a very, very nice person,” says Cotillard. “Maybe it came from her Indian roots or from having to survive so much. She was in a boarding school where she learned how not to be an Indian anymore. It’s hard to imagine how awful it would be not to be allowed to talk your own language and live your own culture, but I think it made her into a person who was used to violence.”

Cotillard has never visited the St. Paul haunts of Dillinger and Frechette. She had barely even heard of Dillinger before being offered “Public Enemies,” but she learned about her character on a trip to Green Bay, Wis.

“It’s the first thing I did after I came to Chicago to make the movie,” says Cotillard. “I went to the reservation and met with Michael Chapman, the chairman of the Menominee reservation, and all these women who shared with me their lives. I met with the relatives of Billie and I went to school with the children, who were learning their language, Algonquin.”

Cotillard was intimidated at first.

“I was scared they’d hear me talking with my French accent and wonder what Michael Mann was thinking, but they were so good to me,” she says, grinning widely and pulling her knees up under her on her chair. “Afterwards, a woman came up to me and said, ‘Do a good Billie,’ and I was just overwhelmed by her trust.”

The actress also met with wives of convicts, who helped her understand that, when you’re never sure how much time you have with your man, every moment becomes an adventure. Then, in much the same way that she forgets about the camera, Cotillard put aside that research.

“The preparation is very, very important to Michael Mann, but you also want to leave blank spaces that will be filled in by you, living the moments of these lives,” says Cotillard. “The evolution of the characters never stops until the movie is done. No, I’m wrong. Not then. Because even after that, the characters keep living in the audiences’ minds.”

As Cotillard and I have chatted, I’ve half-watched the sky darken dramatically behind her as a huge storm rolls into Chicago. The room has gone from morning sun to eerie darkness in the space of 30 minutes, but the spell is broken when a publicist enters the room and asks, “Why are you guys sitting in the dark?”

I had noticed how dim it was getting because I could barely see the notes I was taking. But the intensely focused Cotillard had a different — and perhaps predictable — response.

“Oh, is it dark in here?” she asks brightly. “I didn’t even notice.”

'Public Enemies' Premiere – London

The European ‘Public Enemies‘ Premiere took place earlier today in London. Stephen Graham joined Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard and Michael Mann. Marion looked lovely in a red Vivienne Westwood dress – which unfortunately seems to have ripped after signing autographs and walking the red carpet.

119 ‘Public Enemies’ Premiere – London

'Public Enemies' Official World Premiere

Last week, ‘Public Enemies‘ had its “official” world premiere during the Los Angeles Film Festival. Marion Cotillard together with Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Michael Mann – along with many of the other stars of the movie – attended the premiere. Finally, I’ve added the pictures. Enjoy!

176 2009 LA Film Festival – ‘Public Enemies’ Premiere
021 2009 LA Film Festival – ‘Public Enemies’ Premiere – After Party

Accent on experience, as Cotillard prepared to play Dillinger's girl

from Chicago Tribune (US) / by Michael Phillips

I had never before interviewed an actress in her trailer. Utter cliche. But Marion Cotillard is the sort of actress (Oscar-winning, French, glam, pleasant) a fella doesn’t mind for his first time.

The 33-year-old Cotillard received an Academy Award for her portrayal of singer/perpetual tragedian Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.” In “Public Enemies” she plays Evelyn “Billie” Frechette, John Dillinger’s lover for a time. Born to a French-Canadian father and a Menominee Indian mother, Frechette kicked around Wisconsin and South Dakota before making her way down to Chicago at 18. She served a two-year prison sentence for harboring a criminal and was behind bars when Dillinger was killed.

Before they met, Frechette ran with anonymous low-lifes and Chicago underworld denizens as she worked as a coat-check tootsie, a dice thrower, a dance hall hostess. After Dillinger’s death — and this part, like so many parts, didn’t make director Michael Mann’s film — Frechette toured in a late-vaudeville-era traveling show called “Crime Doesn’t Pay,” telling her story, fielding questions from a gangster-obsessed audience.

A rich character, says Cotillard. Her trailer is one of four parked outside Chicago’s Union Station, where various interviews for the North American “Public Enemies” press junket are being conducted. If you’re shooting a 1930s gangster picture or a 1930s love story — the movie is both — and you want classy period architecture or need a shot of a train pulling into a station, Union’s your station. (One of “Public Enemies'” highlights is a brief, beautiful shot of a train bearing G-men arriving in Chicago, met by Christian Bale’s Melvin Purvis.)

Mann threw tons of research at his leading lady. In northern Wisconsin, she met with relatives of Frechette’s. “I really wanted to know about her childhood. I remember with Edith Piaf, there were things about her I didn’t understand, and it’s really hard to be someone 100 percent when you don’t understand the person. I found all my answers in her childhood.”

Frechette attended a Catholic missionary school followed by a strict boarding school. “Not being allowed to speak your own language, not allowed to live your own culture … it creates a new personality,” says Cotillard. “I think she distrusted authority. And she had that in common with Dillinger, among other things.”

Mann’s onscreen worlds are ruled by men, yet Cotillard asserts that “in each of his movies there’s a very strong female character. That’s one of the things I love about his movies. I love ‘Collateral.’ Jada Pinkett Smith has a real part to play, even if it’s small. She really has something to defend. Gong Li in ‘Miami Vice’ — such an interesting role.”

The research relating to Frechette, she says, took her down some unexpected paths. “Michael feeds you the information that will bring out of you the emotion he wants,” she says. She met with convicts’ wives. She met with strippers. “I thought, ‘Why am I meeting with strippers?’ [In Las Vegas, no less.] I wasn’t sure why, since Billie Frechette was not a stripper. But Michael told me he wanted me to meet them because they know who has the money. Women in that profession know it’s not always the obvious guy with the good suit buying bottles and bottles of champagne.” In real life and in Mann’s film, Dillinger moved in fast and claimed Frechette as his own; Cotillard believes the seduction was mutual, and that it really was love.

The real homework, she says, related to Billie’s dialect. Cotillard has worked in English-language films before — her first was Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” — but here she tackled a French-Canadian-Menominee-Wisconsin-Chicago amalgam.

“It was kind of … hard,” she says, deliberately, making sure to hit the “h” in “hard” distinctly. Billie’s not supposed to have a French accent. Fortunately she had French blood, so it works with my touch of French accent. But I knew it would never be as I wanted it to be. I started to learn English too late [at 11] to be able to have a perfect American accent. I’m working on it. I love the language, so that helps. But it was hard. It might be the hardest thing I’ve had to do, really.”

She smiles. “Playing Piaf, an old lady on drugs, that was easier.”

Stormy role's French twist

from Journal Sentinel (US) / by Duane Dudek

Parisian actress shines as Wisconsin-born Dillinger girlfriend

Chicago — Wherever Marion Cotillard goes, she always takes the weather with her.

As she prepared to film her scenes in “Public Enemies” on Milwaukee’s east side last year, her trailer started “shaking and shaking” when “a huge storm” blew off Lake Michigan.

“And I said to the security guy who was telling us what to do, ‘Can we just go to the basement you were talking about? Because I’m getting scared now.’ ”

Coincidentally, as Cotillard told this story, she was oblivious to the lightning streaking across the downtown Chicago skyline, seen through the hotel window behind her, and the crack of thunder that followed.

She does have reason to fear strong winds, because to call her gamine is an understatement. She was swallowed by the armchair she was sitting in during a recent interview. And her eyes may be her biggest feature.

But on-screen, she is a force of nature herself. Her incandescent performance in “La Vie en Rose,” about the tumultuous life of singer Edith Piaf, won her an Oscar. And in “Public Enemies” – as Billie Frechette, the girlfriend of gangster John Dillinger, played by Johnny Depp – her penetrating eyes and angelic face impart a desperate and almost elemental sense of longing.

Fluent in acting

Cotillard, 33, who was born and raised in Paris, went into the family business. Both her parents are stage actors and directors, and her mother is a writer.

To see them on stage as a child “was amazing. My parents earn their life telling people stories,” she said in fractured English-as-second-language syntax.

“I was fascinated by that.”

She began acting as a child at her parents’ theater, and in the 1990s, she scored small roles in films, including Luc Besson’s “Taxi” and Jean Pierre-Jeunet’s “A Very Long Engagement.” And she began appearing in English-language films including Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” and Ridley Scott’s “A Good Year.”

Cotillard said she “doesn’t have to think about it” when she acts in French, but for English-speaking roles, “you really have to know your lines. And how you stress words.

“I love the English language. And it gets easier when you love it. But I wouldn’t say it’s harder to do. It’s just a different preparation.”

The character she plays in “Public Enemies” was half French and lived on a Menomonee Indian reservation near Green Bay until she was 13, when she moved to Milwaukee. With Cotillard playing her, the character has a French accent, although Frechette did not have one in real life, the actress admitted.

Cotillard visited the reservation, where the residents shared “their culture and stories” with her.

“It’s always so touching when someone is there for you and shares things for you to make a good job,” she said.

Cotillard, who just completed a role in the film of the stage musical “Nine,” said she makes her home wherever she finds herself working – she lived in Chicago while filming “Public Enemies” – and is returning to France to make a film.

She is a citizen of the world when it comes to movies as well, and does not feel there is much difference between French and American cinema.

“We also have big blockbusters,” she said, and smaller films like “Milk.” “But we have less big, huge, easy-laughing movies.”

Not surprisingly, as a native of a country that worships Jerry Lewis, she loves the broad comedy of Jim Carrey (“he’s amazing”), Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell.

“One of my favorite movies is when they are ice skaters. Oh, what’s the name of this movie? I loved it,” she said of Ferrell’s “Blades of Glory.”

“Or what’s her name. I love her. She makes me laugh so loud. The one who was in ‘Speed,’ ” she said of “The Proposal” star Sandra Bullock.

Cotillard just loves all films.

“What I love about movies is stories,” she said. “Moving stories, love stories, scary stories. I go see a movie and I’m moved by a good story. It might be the simplest story. But it’s not just about the subject. It’s how you tell the story.

“You can tell the same story over and over again, with different people. And it will always be a different story.”

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