on 1 Jan, 1970
from Telegraph (UK) / by John Hiscock
Having won an Oscar for her phenomenal portrayal of Edith Piaf in ‘La Vie En Rose’, Marion Cotillard is embarking on an even darker screen journey.
Marion Cotillard is a dreamer. She not only remembers almost every dream she’s had, she says, but can control them, too. “I have busy nights,” she says. “If I wake up during a dream I can usually go back to sleep and finish the story.”
The Oscar-winning French actress is clearly a little uncomfortable talking about her nocturnal habits, but the conversation somehow strayed into such intimate territory while discussing her latest role. The new mega-budget movie from British director Christopher Nolan, Inception is a highly complex science-fiction adventure about dream thieves set within the architecture of the human mind.
Cotillard stars, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, as a mysterious femme fatale. At least, I think that’s her role; she says that when she first read the script by Nolan, who had directed both Memento and The Dark Knight, even she did not fully understand her character or the story.
“I had never read a script like it before,” says Cotillard, her expressive 34-year-old eyes widening. “It is so emotionally complex I had to read it a second time. But I was touched by the different layers of the story and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Over the past few years, as her international career has taken off, Cotillard has studied English with serious devotion and although she still speaks rather slowly, taking her time to select the right word, her language is almost flawless. She now splits her year between Paris, where she lives with her boyfriend, the actor and director Guillaume Canet, and California, where we meet. She is clearly adjusting well to the American lifestyle.
“I’ve spent a lot of time here over the past few years and I’m happy to come back because although Paris is my country and I love being there, this is the first time I’ve been not homesick, but US-sick? Can I say that?”
She had been a star for almost a decade in her native France before her role as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose earned her an Oscar, making her the first ever winner for a performance in the French language. She credits the late singer herself with helping her to capture her essence and fragility by visiting her in her dreams. “We had some night meetings,” she says, mysteriously.
“The movie and the Oscar changed my life in a very good way. It put me in a different universe,” she says. “When I was in Los Angeles during the campaign process for the Academy Awards, I kept telling myself that it was not real life, it was something else. I was having an amazing time and really enjoying the fantasy of it all and then I thought I should stop saying it wasn’t real because it WAS real.”
The glow of her Oscar win was tainted when an interview she had given a year earlier surfaced in which she suggested that the 9/11 attacks on New York may have been a conspiracy and questioned how two buildings the size of the Twin Towers could collapse. She immediately issued abject apologies and her career did not suffer any permanent American backlash.
By the time international fame arrived, she was well prepared for it, having grown up in an artistic household in Orléans, the daughter of an actor-director father and actress mother. She began her professional acting career at the 16 in the television series Highlander, before making her feature film debut in Luc Besson’s action comedy Taxi. She appeared in several high-profile French films, winning a Cesar award for her role in Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement). In 2003 she made her US film debut in Tim Burton’s Big Fish.
For her first post-Piaf role, Cotillard starred opposite Johnny Depp in Public Enemies as Billie Frechette, living in Louisiana to perfect the character’s accent. She then spent four months learning to dance for her role in the musical Nine. Next up is another action thriller, Contagion, which she will start shooting shortly for Steven Soderbergh in San Francisco.
If she had not been an actress she believes she would have been a musician – she occasionally sings and plays bass and keyboard for a French band called Yodelice. But while she can take her pick of scripts, she claims she has no long-term acting ambitions. “I don’t have a goal,” she says. “I want to live the life I’m living right now. As an actress I just want to tell beautiful stories.”
Inception (12A) is released on Friday