Month: July 2009

Marion Cotillard on Public Enemies

from CanMag (Canada) / by Fred Topel

Marion Cotillard came to most people’s attention when she won the Oscar for Best Actress in La Vie En Rose in a surprise upset. Now she plays John Dillinger’s final love, Billie Frechette, in the summer true crime drama Public Enemies in a Hollywood adventure that continues to amaze her.

Marion Cotillard Falls in Love With Public Enemies

“I didn’t expect all this,” she said. “I might have dreamed of this but very deep, that I didn’t know I dreamt that big and that it’s actually happening. I have the opportunity to meet and work with amazing directors and actors. When I was a kid my favorite movies were all American and when I started to be an actress, the only think I wanted was to tell great stories. I mean, there were a lot of directors I wanted to work with but the most important thing for me was and is the story. So I think that having no limits, having no impossible things in my head led me here today and, and my Hollywood adventure has been, I don’t know what is the word strong enough to describe what I’m living right now. It’s bigger than a dream. It’s a reality and I’m still dreaming in this reality, it’s an amazing feeling.”

Cotillard is French, as she appeared in her Oscar winning film. She has worked in English language films like A Good Year and continues to grow more comfortable in the language. “It depends on which character, because for Public Enemies I really had to get a Midwestern accent. I knew from the beginning that how hard I would work. It would never be a hundred percent perfect, and it’s kind of frustrating that I really wanted to do my best. Fortunately Billie had some French blood, even if she’s not supposed to have a French accent, but also in the ‘30s there were many accents, still many accents from Dutch and British. You can even hear in most of the movies of the ‘30s, you have different kinds of accents, so it’s not totally out of context and especially a flavor of French because she had some French blood. So I have to say that it was really, really hard for me to think about the language and then the accent and to, at the same time, let it go to be able to give flesh and blood to Billie Frechette.”

At least in this way, language and accent become a tool of the character. “You really have to work hard to be able to give some aspects, many levels of feelings. You have to work hard because I’m more and more aware of the way Americans or English speak, but to understand all the aspects, I think it’s when you really want to understand all the little corners of language, you really have to work and work and work to, to be able to give all he aspects of something. There are many aspects on the same thing and if you really want to give the richness of the whole thing, you really have to work and work and work.”

Since English is the language most susceptible to misunderstanding with all the double meanings and grammatical constructions, Cotillard has her work cut out for her. “The English language is more into action because there is more stress, that the words aren’t really stressed. It’s like more singing, and so it’s really close to the action whereas the French is really not flat but flatter in a way. I love English language but it’s really, really rich and to be able to give all the richness of it, you’re going to have to work hard.”

Public Enemies is out in theaters now.

Lady Dior New York

Exciting news! Dior has posted the very first picture from the second part of the Lady Dior story, which takes place in New York. The pictures for the Print Ads are shot by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. Remember, for Paris it was Peter Lindbergh. Ultimately the print campaign will again be followed by a short video starring Marion Cotillard, this time entitled The Lady Red Affair.

Comparisons with Angelina a thorn as Marion blooms

from (Ireland) / by Evan Fanning

Racked by self-doubt, Marion Cotillard tells Evan Fanning she feels more secure by taking someone else’s voice

As I enter the room, Marion Cotillard is grappling with a book on Expressionism. She’s grappling in so far as she is attempting to remove it from within a pile of thick, heavy books, rather than struggling with its subject matter — on which, as a cultivated French woman, she has, I assume, a fair handle.

Expressionism is an appropriate theme when talking about Cotillard. The 33-year-old, who won the Best Actress Oscar in 2008 for her performance as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose, has quickly gained a reputation for the kind of all-encompassing roles which take everything she has to give, and more.

The American film critic Stephen Holden described her portrayal of French singer Piaf as “the most astonishing immersion of one performer into the body and soul of another that I have ever encountered in film”. It was a performance that made Cotillard not only the first French actress to win an Oscar for a performance in her native language, but also earned her a Bafta, a Golden Globe and a Cesar, France’s highest acting honour.

The latest of these demanding roles is in Public Enemies, Michael Mann’s tale of John Dillinger and the Depression-era bank robberies across America. Cotillard plays Evelyn “Billie” Frechette, girlfriend to Johnny Depp’s Dillinger. Frechette is more than just a gangster’s moll, however. The daughter of a French father and a Native American mother, she had been drifting through the seams of Thirties Chicago when Dillinger came along and promised to sweep her off her feet.

She insists that it was not just a case of a bored girl being seduced by the danger on offer with Dillinger and his gang. “It was the man,” she says emphatically. “He was the first man to take care of her. She was a young Indian girl in Chicago in the Thirties. It was really tough and she was by herself. Suddenly this man tells her that he will take care of her. There’s nothing like it.”

Cotillard admits she had never heard about Dillinger while growing up in Paris and then the French city of Orleans where she lived with her father (the stage actor Jean-Claude Cotillard), her mother Niseema Theillaud (also an actress) and her two younger brothers. “I didn’t even know his name,” she says with astonishment.

There was also the case of mastering Frechette’s curious French-Canadian-Wisconsin accent. Cotillard worked with a dialect coach every day for four months in order to get the accent as accurate as possible. “I knew that it wouldn’t be 100 per cent perfect,” she says modestly, admitting that it was one of the most difficult tasks of her career.

“It was really, really hard but interesting, though, because I like when I start a movie and I don’t know if I’m going to do a good job. If it’s really easy, it is fine, but when you really have to work on something in order to make it good and if you don’t work at it, your job will be really bad, I find it very interesting when you really have to do that.”

During the three-month shoot she spoke English almost exclusively for fear that she wouldn’t be able to regain the accent if she was to slip back into her native tongue. “I would speak English all the time. Even on the phone to my family in France. It was very funny because they had this French accent obviously, but they were very helpful with me. Even when I wanted to talk in French they were like ‘you know, yesterday when we spoke on the phone you said you were going to have to stick with the English because when you speak French it’s really hard to go back’. So my brothers, my boyfriend, my mother and my father, they would all speak to me in English.”

The boyfriend she speaks of is the French actor and director Guillaume Canet, director of Tell No One, whom she met when they starred together in Love Me If You Dare. They live together in Paris and are about to start shooting a film together again. The French media have attempted to dub them the “Brad and Angelina” of France, but Cotillard is adamant that they won’t be pursuing the same kinds of self-publicity as America’s favourite couple. In fact, in certain interviews she has avoided even saying his name when asked directly, only alluding to being in a relationship with a French actor.

“I don’t know how to talk about my private life and I don’t want to,” she says when I ask why she is so guarded. “I think you can talk about your private life when you know that it will bring something to people. For example, when Kylie Minogue found out that she had cancer and she shared this, this makes sense because it will help people in a way. Saying, ‘I’m in love and I’m very happy’. What’s the point?

“I do understand because we live in a world where you turn on the TV and there’s someone’s life on TV and then you turn to another channel and there’s someone else’s real life and we supply ourselves all the time. I know that because I live in this world, but I don’t want to add some water to this river. The more you forget about your life by watching all this, the more you send a weird energy to the world, and I don’t want any part of it.”

She says she would like children “at some point” and would be prepared to put these demanding roles to one side when that day arrives. Despite being raised in a loving, bohemian household, her own childhood had its difficulties. She claims to have been racked with self-doubt and anxiety throughout her teenage years and beyond.

I ask if she was sad as a child. “Not really sad, but yeah, I still wanted to know what I was doing here. But when you are very young this kind of question can be very disturbing. I didn’t know how to express myself. You just don’t feel comfortable at all with people. I struggled to talk to people.”

It seems odd that a charming, beautiful, stylish (she is the new face of Dior) and hugely successful actress could have a past where she felt so vulnerable. “When you are acting you’re not really yourself,” she says. “I mean, you’re yourself but you take someone else’s voice and attitude. I find it more secure.”

Despite this apparent lack of confidence, she has been performing since she was five when her parents’ friends put her on stage. She went to drama school at 15, subsequently appearing in numerous French television shows and films (including Luc Besson’s Taxi series) before Tim Burton cast her in his fantasy Big Fish in 2003. It was her first international role, but ironically it was La Vie En Rose, a truly French film, which made her an international star.

Following Public Enemies, her next appearance will be in Nine, where she once again pushed herself to her limits, singing and dancing alongside Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren in an all-star musical inspired by Fellini’s 8.

Surely, with this phenomenal run of success, all the anxieties of her childhood have long disappeared? Not entirely, it would seem. “I’ve always had a lack of confidence,” she replies. “But it is getting better.”

Public Enemies is in cinemas nationwide

Cotillard's Vie En Roles

from California Chronicle (US) / by Donald Clarke

For Marion Cotillard, subsuming herself into the exhausting role of Edith Piaf was simpler than mastering an American accent in her latest film

SO FEW French actors – or Germans or Italians for that matter – break through into English-language cinema that we feel able to put each of the odd rogue successes into one of half-a-dozen boxes. This one’s a lesser spotted Bardot. That one’s a great crested Depardieu. And so forth.

To date, Marion Cotillard has defied this moronic class of pseudo- ornithology. When she first nudged her head above water in French comedies such as Taxi and Love Me if You Dare, she appeared to be shaping into a less blonde Catherine Deneuve. Or was she a less surly Anna Karina? Not at all. Two years ago, in La Vie en Rose, she delivered a performance of such contorted defiance as Edith Piaf, the great nicotine-coated chanteuse, that all comparisons seemed absurd. She went on to become the first actor to win an Oscar for a performance in a French film. With apologies to Audrey Tautou, Marion, who turns up this week in Michael Mann’s barnstorming Public Enemies, might now be the leading French actress of her generation.

“It was a total surprise, winning the Oscar,” she says in her strong, only occasionally eccentric English. “I didn’t think about what might happen if I won. I just wanted to live in the present all the time, because it was so entertaining being in Hollywood for two months, meeting all the amazing people while I campaigned. Because it seemed so weird that I might win, there was no pressure.”

If she’d been 50 years old and looking at a potential fifth unsuccessful nomination, then she might have felt differently. “That’s exactly right. I was more nervous for the people I worked with than for myself.”

So where does she keep the statuette? “It is in my apartment in Paris. I have not put it in the middle of the room or anything, but it’s a small apartment so you can’t miss it.”

Dark, with wide, slightly restive eyes, Cotillard is, in person, more delicate than you would expect. Indeed, she is so thin that when her arms shoot out – as they do, from time to time – she takes on the character of a very well-dressed multiplication symbol. For somebody who, at 33, has been in the business for 15 years, Cotillard seems surprisingly nervous within her own skin. Her hands rub over one another and she never quite seems to get comfortable in her seat.

Perhaps she does not enjoy the promotional side of the business. Hawking your wares in the posh hotels of Mayfair can be a little undignified. “You know I love this movie, Public Enemies, so that makes everything easy. Sometimes you do movies and you don’t know what you are getting into. Then you have to go out there and you have to lie about it to the press. It’s true, I’m afraid. But I love this movie. So, I tell you that I do not have to lie today.”

Public Enemies, a defiantly grim addition to the gangster genre, stars Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, the most charismatic of the bank robbers who gained anti-hero status during America’s Great Depression.

Cotillard takes the modestly sized role of Billie Frechette, a singer of French and Native American blood who won the hoodlum’s heart, and makes something impressively nuanced out of it. Watch out for the annihilating look she gives the camera in the last scene.

“The offer came after I had finished La Vie en Rose, but before it took off in America,” she explains. “I did get a lot of offers, but the thing that won me over was to work with Michael Mann. This is more than a gangster film.”

Lauded for directing such glossily beautiful films as Heat, Last of the Mohicansand The Insider, Mann is famous (notorious, perhaps) for his fastidious attention to detail. Every shirt collar, every raised eyebrow, every hubcap is the way it is because Mann deems it so. Yet actors rarely complain about the atmosphere on his sets. He appears to impose his will with some delicacy.

“I love that he is so precise,” she says. “I love to work with a perfectionist. I feel his confidence and that confidence makes you confident. That’s very good for an actor.”

MARION COTILLARD was born into a theatrical family. Her father, Jean-Claude Cotillard, ran a theatre company that toured the world, and her mother, Niseema Theillaud, also acted and taught. Born in Paris and raised largely in Orleans, the young Marion must surely have been destined to live life on stage and in front of the camera. Not many folk escape that environment into a stable life as a gynaecologist, train driver or fitness instructor.

“I think I actually wanted to be all those things,” she laughs. “And the best way to have a lot of jobs was to be an actress. You get to be everything. But, yeah, you know when you are in school and have to answer questions about what you are going to do? I never had a problem answering that.”

Cotillard, whose early heroes were Greta Garbo and Louise Brooks, enjoyed a relatively steady ascent to her current enviable position. “To be honest, I never dreamt about Hollywood or anything. I went into acting because I like telling stories and it’s the stories that are important, not where I get to tell them.” Early roles were small, but regular, and, before she was 30, she had gained sufficient prominence to catch the eye of Tim Burton, who cast her in his peculiar fantasy Big Fish. It was, however, that eye- watering turn in La Vie en Rosethat truly kicked her into the big leagues. By the close of the film, as the singer succumbs to drugs and decrepitude, Cotillard has become so absorbed in the role that she is virtually unrecognisable. Yet, oddly, she views getting her accent right for Public Enemiesas a comparable challenge.

“I had to work every day to get that accent,” she says. “Even becoming somebody old and on drugs was easy in comparison to that. The difference is between a technical thing and an emotional thing. It takes longer to get a technical thing right.” Despite her slightly fragile demeanour, Coltillard is clearly a serious woman with significant reservoirs of determination. Eager to get that voice right, she spent weeks talking only in English. She claims that her romantic partner, the actor and director Guillaume Canet, and her other pals were happy to get the chance to improve their own English. Still, I find it hard to believe that the experience can have been as taxing as creating her version of Piaf.

“Well, of course, it was different because I was every day on the set of La Vie en Rose. I would go to bed very late and then go to the set very early. So, maybe, when I was sleeping, I was a little bit myself. But the rest of the time I was Edith Piaf. I was in every scene. I needed to stay with her, because it took a lot of time to get inside her.”

At any rate, the performance and the Oscar it generated have now caused her to be highly sought-after by smarter directors. She admits that although she rarely “dreamed of Hollywood” as a kid, she did occasionally imagine that she might appear in a big American musical and, sure enough, at the end of this year she turns up alongside another clutch of Oscar-winners in Rob Marshall’s Nine. A musical version of Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 , the film stars Daniel Day Lewis as a frustrated film director.

“Of course Daniel can sing,” she replies to my mischievous query. “He can do anything.” Yet the increased exposure has had its downside. As the Oscar campaign gathered speed, some bright spark dragged up an old television interview in which Cotillard appeared to question the official story on the collapse of the World Trade Center and wonder whether the moon landing was a hoax. A glance at the transcript clarifies that she was consciously firing out deliberately absurd theses. Listen to her speak for a moment and you realise that, although a little unfocused, she is no sort of fruitcake. Still, fame does bring this sort of unwanted attention. Does she ever regret that a window has now opened on her private life?

“When I hear questions like that I always remember that the world is full of people who do really hard jobs,” she says.

“Hey, if I am thirsty, somebody will bring me a glass of water. Okay, it is a hard job because you have to play with your emotions.” She smiles and ventures a very Gallic shrug. “But I cannot complain. It would be crazy to complain.”

Public Enemiesis on general release

The French Revolution

from The Herald Magazine (UK) /

Marion Cotillard captivated audiences as the iconic Parisian chanteuse Edith Piaf. Now she’s becoming a Hollywood moll – and the world awaits

Marion Cotillard is standing in a hotel suite in west London. As I enter the oak-panelled room, she walks to the fireplace and fiddles with a large, framed engraving. “I just wanted it to be straight,” says the 33-year-old actress with a smile, giving the engraving a final nudge with her forefinger. As we take our seats on the plump sofa, Cotillard’s large, smoky-blue eyes occasionally drift back towards the engraving. “I like things to be right,” she says. “If that picture was wonky it would bug me all afternoon.” It appears Cotillard, the Parisian actress who won an Oscar last year for her role in La Vie en Rose and who stars in the new Michael Mann film Public Enemies, is something of a perfectionist.

“I’ll tell you who is a perfectionist,” she says. “Michael Mann. Working with Michael, seeing him recreate the world as he does, he really does strive for perfection.” Like much of his previous work, from Heat through Collateral and Miami Vice, Public Enemies unfolds in the realm of the hard-nosed criminal. This time, however, he has plumped for reallife events. The movie focuses on one of the main instigators of the crime wave that swept through Depression-era America, John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp), who in the early 1930s embarked upon a 14-month crime spree, outwitting law enforcers and winning the hearts of everyday Americans across the country. Cotillard plays Billie Frechette, Dillinger’s lover and a truly beguiling gangster’s moll.
The film draws from the book of the same name by Bryan Burrough, who describes Cotillard’s character as has having had “tranquil eyes and high cheekbones” (both of which the actress possesses) before noting that “like most of the women who found their way into the beds of criminals like Dillinger, she was a refugee from hard times, forced from poor rural upbringings to an uncertain life in the big city”. The city was Chicago. Frechette, who was half Native American, was raised on the Menominee reservation in Wisconsin, the daughter of what Burrough describes as “French-Canadian half-breeds”. Cotillard smiles. “That meant I had to learn her accent.”

Such was the actress’s desire to meet Mann’s famously high standards that she spent months training herself to speak only in English, even among family and friends, while sculpting and refining Frechette’s distinctive brogue. “It’s strange,” explains Cotillard. “I had to do this odd midwestern accent and I was really into the technique all the time, even when I was doing the scenes, because I wanted it to be perfect. I knew it wouldn’t be 100% perfect, so that was frustrating, but then it was Michael who taught me to let go. I would focus too much on the accent, and at some point he told me to forget about the technique otherwise the audience will notice I’m not 100% there.

“He is a perfectionist and I wanted to give him some kind of perfection, but he came to me and said he just wanted heart and soul. I learned that perfection is a technique thing. It’s in the details, and then when you set up this perfection you have to let it go. That’s when heart and soul happen.”

The film is positively bursting with heart and soul, Dillinger and Frechette’s doomed love story pulsing through it as the wisecracking gangster heads towards an inevitable end. After the chilled tones of Collateral and Miami Vice, Mann appears more in tune with his first major success, Last of the Mohicans, in 1994. His cast certainly does him justice, the likes of Christian Bale, Billy Crudup and Stephen Dorff all shining in supporting roles, while Cotillard and Depp conjure a fizzing alchemy, the latter, in particular, bringing an enigmatic charm that belies the typical movie gangster. “What’s great about Johnny is that as an actor he can do so many things,” says Cotillard. “He has this ability to be authentic and different each time. He’s also kind and generous – he cares, he’s genuine. He’s a movie star but also a normal person and his passion for his work comes through.”

This is not mere hyperbole. Depp is one of Hollywood’s gentlemen, and Cotillard should go on to be one of its leading ladies. She has been well known in France since 1998, when she played Lilly Bertineau in Taxi (a role she reprised in two sequels), written and produced by Luc Besson, although it was her Oscar-winning performance as the French singer Edith Piaf in Olivier Dahan’s biopic La Vie en Rose that forged her into an international star. In person, Cotillard is alternately effusive and coy. “I’m afraid to give the wrong image of myself,” she explains, “to say the wrong thing and for it to be misunderstood.”

She is willing to talk about almost any subject, though, with one or two exceptions. The first is her relationship. Cotillard is dating the French actor-director Guillaume Canet, with whom she starred in the 2003 film Jeux d’Enfants. The pairing has led to them being described as the French equivalent of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, although their potential celebrity monikers – Guillion or Marionaume – lack the catchiness of Brangelina. Cotillard is reluctant to discuss the romance. “I can try and talk fashion,” she says, batting back my enquiries, “but I’m not very good at it.”

At first, this doesn’t ring true. Cotillard’s svelte 5ft 6in form is wrapped in a dark green Christian Dior dress. “Honestly,” she whispers, “fashion is not a big thing for me, but I have all these people I’m working with who know about clothes. I’m particularly bad with fashion talk – I just don’t know how to do it. I know what I like, and what I don’t like, but if I don’t have someone who picks out the dresses, I’ll just be in jeans and a T-shirt. Obviously, I like to wear nice clothes, [but] it’s just not a passion for me.”

This could change. Earlier this year, Cotillard was selected as the face of Dior and recently brought the character Lady Noire – created by fashion designer John Galliano – to life in an online short film by Olivier Dahan, the director of La Vie en Rose. Meeting Galliano has had an impact. “He’s so creative, making men and women look beautiul and confident because they feel good,” she says. “These great designers are artists, like a chef is also an artist.” She smiles. “You can put art in a lot of places – I learned that growing up.”

Cotillard’s formative years were a hotbed of creativity. She was born in Paris and grew up around Orleans. Her father, Jean-Claude Cotillard, and mother, Niseema Theillaud, worked as actors and drama teachers. “I lived in a big tower block in the suburbs,” recalls Cotillard. “We weren’t poor, but it’s not like living here, for example.” She points to the multi-million-pound properties lining the road outside the window. “My twin brothers and I were always painting and drawing. As kids, the walls of the house were ours.” I raise an eyebrow and explain that when I was young I had to argue for weeks just to get Blu-Tack on my bedroom walls. “I know,” says Cotillard. “I think many parents are stricter than ours were. We were lucky. All our friends used to come over and draw on the walls too, because they weren’t allowed to at home. It was very creative for my brothers and me. It opened the door of creativity for all three of us. We could do anything.”

It should come as no great suprise, then, that her brothers chose artistic pursuits for their professions, Quentin becoming a painter and sculptor, and Guillaume a writer. Presumably Cotillard thought she was destined to be an artist. “Oh yes,” she affirms, simply. Her childhood environment certainly doesn’t sound like it would have produced a brood of bank managers. “No, of course not,” she says, “although people do sometimes want to get away from the atmosphere of what their parents to. They don’t want the same job. But I had a lot of admiration for my parents.” Is that why she chose acting, rather than sculpting or writing like her brothers? “Yes, to a degree, but there’s more to it than that, I think.” Her parents introduced her to the trade at an early age, and she appeared in a play directed by her father.

“I did movies when I was very young, but I was not really aware of it all,” she explains. “It was from this that I wanted to be an actress, for sure, but had a normal life, too. I was not what you might regard as a ‘child actor’. What got me excited was when I started to do some theatre and take lessons in that world – that was when I found a way to express myself. I felt acting was my thing. I was not comfortable with expressing myself but, through someone else who was inside me, I could express myself. That’s what was most important for me.”

She claims she was neither a good nor a bad student. “I was in the middle when I was at school,” she says, “but I didn’t understand the system, how you force someone to learn something. I think when you arrive here on earth you want to learn, and then you go to school and it becomes something you don’t want to do. So, I became a good student when I left school. I love to learn things.”

Cotillard’s professional education began whith a spell at Conservatoire d’Art Dramatique in Orleans. She made her feature film debut in her teens, appearing in 1994’s L’Histoire du Garcon qui Voulait qu’on l’Embrasse (The Story of the Boy who Wanted to be Kissed) before taking small roles in films like Lisa, alongside French heavyweight Jeanne Moreau, and the fantasy film Furia. After establishing her name in France on the back of Besson’s Taxi trilogy, Cotillard landed her first American movie, taking the role of Billy Crudup’s wife in the 2003 fantasy Big Fish. Before she signed on for the film, she says, she was growing frustrated with her career in France, and wanted “more than what I had”. Then one of her favourite directors called.

“Tim Burton was searching for a French actress,” says Cotillard. “I wasn’t searching for an American film but it was amazing for me because he’s one of my favourite directors. I got the part, but I’d have been in heaven just with the first meeting. When they told me I got the role, it was huge because I had never thought about doing an American movie before.”

She excelled in her next two performances, playing her real-life partner’s on-screen lover in Jeux d’Enfants – a major success in France – before a memorable performance as the murderous Tina Lombardi in the 2004 film A Very Long Engagement, starring Audrey Tautou, for which Cotillard won the César award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. In 2006, she furthered her Hollywood career, starring opposite Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott’s A Good Year.

It was the following year that everything changed when Dahan chose Cotillard to play Piaf in La Vie en Rose. The story goes that he made his choice before he had even met the actress, saying he’d noticed a similarity in the women’s eyes. Whatever his motivation, it was an inspired choice that laid the foundation for an inspired performance. The celebrated theatre director Sir Trevor Nunn described Cotillard’s portrayal of Piaf as “one of the greatest performances on film ever”, and she went on to win a Bafta, a Cesar and a Golden Globe. In 2008, she became only the second French actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, and the first to win for a performance in the French language. In the movie she plays Piaf from the age of 17 through to her death from cancer at 47.

“The film has changed my career, of course,” she says, “but what affected me most was the performance. Sometimes it was hard, because you go deep inside yourself and pull out something you didn’t necessarily know was there. I didn’t know I could go to such places, but when you do, and you discover new things, it opens things inside you that might have stayed closed.”

Like what? “It’s hard to say, but there were a lot of things in my life that I wasn’t comfortable with, like relationships that weren’t clear, things that happened and I wanted to forget about. And you do forget, but it’s still somewhere inside you. After the movie, I needed to face a lot of thinkgs I had put aside and tried to forget.”

Does she think piaf was a once-in-a-lifetime part? “Of course, it is an amazing role, but working with Michael Mann, and the character of Billie Frechette – I love her,” says Cotillard. “It’s totally different, but inside me it’s the same. for me, this job is all about trying to understand someone, so you can be that person. And to understand people like Billie, or Luisa Contini in Nine, or the French movie I just did… I love this experience of trying to understand someone, real or not real.”

The French movie she is referring to is Le Dernie Vol de Lancaster (The Last Flight of the Lancaster), in which she appears again alongside Canet, while in Rob Marshall’s star-studded musical Nine she plays the wife of Daniel Day-Lewis’s character. “This job always brings me the same joy, even though it’s not the same experience,” she says. “I’m young. I will grow old and there will be different roles, with the same intensity.”

What ambitions remain for Cotillard outside of acting? “I want to have babies, and a part of my life is dedicated to sharing what I know about this world, and learning how to care for it,” she replies. Cotillard has proved herself a dedicated environmentalist, working as a spokesperson for Greenpeace.

“It’s important for me,” she says. “And in a way I am doing it…” She pauses, her mouth half-forming a word then stopping. “I could never do that,” she says firmly. What exactly could she never do? “Be a politician, or something like that,” she says.

“If I could do anything in this world, I’d do something to free [Myanmar’s detained pro-democracy leader] Aung San Suu Kyi. If there was a way, I would quit my job and dedicate my life to this woman. She is my hero. That, for me, would be perfect.”

Public Enemies is in cinemas now

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