From PBS.org / Transcript of interview on the Tavis Smiley Show
While she’s been a familiar face in Europe since her ’93 debut, Marion Cotillard hit Hollywood’s limelight in ’06 with her first major English-language role in A Good Year. She’s since earned critical acclaim for her work, including a Golden Globe- and Oscar-winning performance in the French biopic La Vie En Rose and a Golden Globe nod for the film Nine. Born in France into a family of performers, Cotillard got her start in one of her father’s plays. She’s an environmental activist and has been a spokesperson for Greenpeace.
Tavis: Marion Cotillard is a talented actress who took home the Oscar for the best actress back in 2007, yes, for her much-talked-about performance in “La Vie En Rose.” She now stars in the Golden Globe-nominated film “Nine.” Here now a scene from “Nine.”
Tavis: Some of us are our own toughest critics. I was watching you as the clip was playing, and you would look and look away, look and look away, look and look away. Why?
Marion Cotillard: Well, it’s always weird to see yourself and usually I see the movies I’m in two times. The first time because the first time I just cannot see the movie. I don’t know; it’s very special to explain. Then the second time I can actually see it. I’m not focused on things and myself. And then that’s it.
Tavis: Then you don’t want to see it anymore, after two times.
Cotillard: No. (Laughter) Two times is a lot already, yeah.
Tavis: It’s tough; it’s a lot, yeah. Well, the studios have a whole different opinion about that. They want you to see “Nine” once, twice, three times, four times, but you only want to see it twice. I understand that. When you got a chance to see your work in “Nine,” what did you think?
Cotillard: Oh, it’s the toughest question. Well, it’s hard to talk about myself in that way. It’s always had.
Tavis: Were you happy with the work?
Cotillard: It’s even hard to answer this question. (Laughter)
Tavis: Why don’t I just shut up then and stop asking questions? How about that? (Laughter)
Cotillard: But talking about yourself, I can talk about the movie because I love the movie, but talking about what I think of what I’m doing in a movie, it’s always really, really, really hard. I can talk about the role, I can talk about the movie, about Nicole Kidman, about Penelope Cruz, about Daniel Day Lewis, but about myself, it’s – because it’s hard to – I’m very tough with me but I think I should.
I think it’s a good thing to be tough with yourself when you work, and so I wouldn’t be too tough here with me right now. (Laughs)
Tavis: Let me ask that question in a different – I hear your point and I respect that, although all the persons you’ve mentioned are your costars, they have said everywhere else that they thought you are brilliant in this. They think you did a wonderful job, so you’re modest and I get that.
But let me ask the question in a different way, though, Marion. I assume for each role that you play there’s a different kind of confidence you have to bring to the role. In this role you’re singing, so it’s not just the acting, it’s the voice as well. Tell me about the confidence you had to sum it up to believe that you could pull this off.
Cotillard: Well, I’m never confident when I start a project. I just know something about myself that helps me to go there. It’s that I love to work and I know that with work you can do a lot of things. You can manage to be someone who’s totally different from what you are, and that’s why I love to take risks, because I know that if I have enough time and if I have the good people to work with, I can actually do something.
Especially with “Nine,” we were all in the same state when we started the movie because we were all scared about a lot of things – dancing, singing, and this genre that is so special, the musical. So the energy was really interesting and amazing, actually, because we had those two months of rehearsals all together, all the women and Daniel and with Rob and the amazing team he works with.
Then they helped us to build this confidence that I think not a lot of actors are confident, and I think that might be a good thing because you have to rebuild your confidence each time, each movies.
Tavis: Speaking of your singing, there were a couple of – two or three new songs, a few songs written for, as you know, written for the movie “Nine,” and one of them written specifically for you. What’s it like to have a song written for you that you get to perform on film?
Cotillard: Well, I don’t see it that way, actually. It was written for Luisa, it was written for the character, and because in the original musical there is this beautiful song which is “Be On Your Own,” and Rob Marshall wanted something with more fierce, something more violent.
“Be On Your Own” is a very beautiful song but it has – something was missing for Rob, for the movie. So they wrote “Take it All,” which is a beautiful and powerful and very sad song too, and I was very happy to have the opportunity to show another aspect of Luisa’s person.
Tavis: For you, what’s the unique take-away when you get a chance to work with a cast like this? Everybody, of course – you can’t talk about “Nine” without talking about the cast. What’s the take-away for Marion of being able to be a part of that kind of ensemble?
Cotillard: I felt and I feel so fortunate to be part of this group of amazing actors, and I think the first thing is the joy. I love that job. I love being an actress and I love having those emotions and feeling this intensity, and all those actors all together, when you see someone like Nicole Kidman or Penelope Cruz, because I spent a lot of time with them, we had singing class together, dancing class together.
And to see those amazing actors, they have nothing to prove but they’re still there as if they have everything to learn, and it’s so beautiful to watch.
Tavis: Speaking of beautiful to watch, I was just thinking – pardon me, my mind just drifted for two seconds and I was thinking how I would have loved to have been the music coach teaching Marion and Penelope and Nicole. But I’m back now; I just left for about 30 seconds. (Laughter)
Cotillard: He was amazing, it was Paul Bogaev. He really –
Cotillard: Yeah, Paul Bogaev, he was amazing with us.
Tavis: Does your process, has your process changed for the kinds of roles that you want to play when you get on this side, as you are, of the acclaim, the academy, and Golden Globe nominations? Does any of that accolade change your process of choosing the kind of things you want to do at this point?
Tavis: Not at all?
Cotillard: No. No, I couldn’t – when I read a story and it goes into my blood, I know that I have to be part of a project. If it doesn’t go right away into my heart and my soul and my blood and I get obsessed with it right away, well, I know that I won’t be good so I have to stay away from another kind of decision to do a movie.
I can’t do that. I just – I love this job too much. It’s my real passion, and you can’t spoil your passion by doing something for the money or doing something because you have to be in a movie for your own – I don’t know how to explain that, but because it’s good to be in this movie because more people will see you. I can’t do that.
Tavis: I take that. I know all the talk these days is about “Nine,” but I thought you were brilliant in “Public Enemies.”
Cotillard: Thank you.
Tavis: I love that. I grew up in a place called Indiana, so as you know there’s some Indiana scenes in the movie, so I was so excited about that. But that was great movie and you were amazing in that as well.
Cotillard: Thank you very much. Well, it was – Michael Mann is one of the greatest directors I’ve worked with, and Johnny Depp is a great, great actor to work with too. It was very, very hard. This movie was actually harder to make for me than “La Vie En Rose” because of this accent, Midwestern accent I had to –
Tavis: (Laughter) Yeah, how did you learn that Midwestern accent?
Cotillard: Oh, my, it was four months – well, a little bit more, actually, but before I started the movie it was four months, every day, working on my tongue and jaws. (Laughter) Because you don’t use the same muscles in American that we – that the one we use in French, so you really have to not learn how to do an accent but learn how to speak. It was, ooh, it was really the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
Tavis: You pulled it off, you pulled it off, and being from the Midwest, I love the Midwest, but French is a whole lot sexier, so. (Laughter) Sounds a whole lot better than a Midwestern accent. Anyway, nice to have you on the program.
Cotillard: Oh, thank you.
Tavis: We’re glad to have you.
Cotillard: Thank you, thank you.
Tavis: Marion Cotillard, one of the stars of the film “Nine,” as if you didn’t know. Go check it out.