Day: April 1, 2011

"I admired Greta Garbo, but I wanted to be Peter Sellers"

from Empire (UK) / by Damon Wise

“I’m happy,” says Marion Cotillard, “when I know that I’m where I should be.” It’s a cold December day in Paris, just before a white blanket descends upon Britain and parts of France, disrupting Eurostar service in the run-up to Christmas. Though Paris is her home city – she was born there, before moving to the countryside at the age of two – Cotillard nevertheless has the feeling of a woman in transit. By her own admission, she is something of a restless artiste, and in the flesh she has a beauty that’s hard to place, thanks to a series of roles that have conspired to keep her out of the present day.

Recently, Cotillard completed her first contemporary role in quite some time – not including Christopher Nolan’s Inception, because she insists, that was “timeless” – taking a small role in an ensemble drama, Little White Lies, directed by her partner, Guillaume Canet. The film is a very French and very personal affair, dealing with the lives of a group of Parisian friends who go on holiday together to a seaside resort after one of their number has been seriously injured in a crash.

“It was a great time, really,” she smiles. “We really had to work hard on the movie, because most of us are friends in real life and the locaion is the place where we go for our summer vacation. So it was very strange to suddenly be in the same places, with some of the same people, wearing kind of the same clothes and having kind of the same interactions – but with different names and different pasts. For the film we had to create entirely new relationships for ourselves.”

Coming from Canet, it’s certainly a surprise; his last film, Tell No One, was a gripping murder mystery. Little White Lies also reveals an unfamiliar side of Cotillard, who plays a freewheeling spirit with a bohemian dimension much closer to her own (although, to the best of Empire’s knowledge, the actress is not bisexual and does not smoke marijuana). Such freedom, she says, was what drew her to the project. “This film was different for me because it had been a long time since I had played a contemporary role,” she explains. “I’ve travelled back in time to the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and when you work on a movie that takes place in those times, the way you speak, the way you behave, the way you think, even, is different. So it was great for me to get back to 2010.”

At 35, Cotillard is now one of the biggest names in French cinema. Her parents were both actors, and though they didn’t push their daughter into the trade, they encouraged her to be creative. “We didn’t have TV before I was eight,” she recalls, “and I will always be grateful to my parents for that, because we developed our imaginations by creating our own stories.” As a youngster she watched a lot of movies, especially American ones, but it wasn’t the screen divas that caught her eye – it was the Tinseltown clowns. “I admired Greta Garbo but I didn’t want to be her,” she laughs. “I wanted to be Charlie Chaplin. And I wanted to be Peter Sellers.”

But for a while, she didn’t want to be an actress at all. “When I was around 20,” she muses, “I was like, ‘Do I really wanna do this?’ I wasn’t very happy with what I had. Which was, at that time, not really a lot. I wanted more. That was a fact, and I couldn’t fight it. So I went to see my agent and told him that I wanted to…” She pauses. “Not quit forever… But I didn’t want to be frustrated in my later life, and I was thinking of doing something else. And before I could say this, he told me, ‘Marion, you’re gonna meet Tim Burton…’ Now, Tim Burton was my idol. And so I told myself, ‘Wow… This is exactly what I want. This is even more than what I want! So if I get this, it means that I really have a place in this business. If not, I’ll do something else.”

Fortunately for world cinema, Burton cast Cotillard in his 2003 father-son fantasy Big Fish, re-igniting her enthusiasm for the craft. More small but significant roles followed, in Jean-Pierre Jenuet’s A Very Long Engagement and Ridley Scott’s A Good Year, but the watershed was 2007, when Olivier Dahan cast her as chanteuse Edith Piaf in the biopic La Vie En Rose, the role that brought her a milestone Academy award – the first ever awarded to a non-English performance.

“One day my agent called,” she rememberes, “and he said, ‘Olivier is writing a script for you based on the life of Edith Piaf,’ so I sad, ‘Well, okay…'” She shrugs. “But the script wasn’t written at that time, so I didn’t think much of it. To be honest, I didn’t know many things about Piaf, except that she had this amazing voice. So I listened to some of her songs, and then, about a year later, the script was written and Olivier gave it to me.”

Because it covered the whole of Piaf’s life, Cotillard was confused at first as to which part she would be playing. “And my agent said, ‘From when she’s 19 to the end'” She laughs. “I was like, ‘Excuse me? I’m 30! How’s he gonna make that work?!'”

Though Piaf is a major figure in French cultural history, Cotillard claims not to have felt any pressure. “I didn’t think about it,” she says casually, “because it would have taken me away from being inside this woman. I just wanted to understand the human being she was.” This she did through a process of research that she says changes with every project. “Sometimes it can be music that helps me find a character, sometimes it will be a picture, something that I write, or write as the character. It can have many, many forms.”

Empire wonders what form Cotillard’s research took for Inception (a movie which, of course, samples Piaf), in which she plays the dreamworld incarnation of the hero’s late wife, Mal? “Oh, that was totally different,” she enthuses. “Let’s say you’ve been to India, England, Russia and Argentina – but then suddenly you’re on the moon. It’s always different when you go to a place for the first time, but you always know what to expect there. But when you go to the moon, it’s a completely different planet.”

Cotillard refers to Nolan, half-jokingly, as “The Captain” of this intoxicating trip-slash-space mission. “And it was amazing, because The Captain is brilliant,” she marvels. “The Captain’s imagination is a mix of mysteries and answers.”

Cotillard says that the character of Mal was a collaboration, not between herself and Nolan but with her co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio. This kind of exploration, she says, is what keeps the job fresh. “It’s a fascination,” she decides. “When Michael Mann cast me in Public Enemies, I didn’t know anything about American history. I mean, not anything!”

So is she happy now? “Yeah.” Cotillard smiles. “I live as a girl who had big dreams and who is lucky enough to live those dreams while continuing to dream – while at the same time living a real life.”

A real life? What does that mean? “It means I don’t want to be someone else,” she says, emphatically, “and I’m not going to let my job take me away from myself.”

She smiles. “I’m not going to be haunted or disturbed.”

Marion Cotillard

from Dazed & Confused / by Carmen Gray

The Oscar-winner on the French Riviera drama directed by her partner

The sudden global fame of winning an Academy Award for her raw portrayal of French singer Edith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie En Rose, the first Oscar ever awarded for a French-language role, was bound to cause upheaval for Marion Cotillard. The subsequent self-examination and house-cleaning of her life that role prompted is echoed in her new film Little White Lies, an intimate project written and directed by her partner Guillaume Canet, and made with a bunch of their friends. In it, the relationships of a group of friends are sorely tested when they go ahead with their annual beach holiday despite a traumatic event, and are forced to face up to some uncomfortable truths.

DAZED & CONFUSED: Little White Lies is an ensemble film, with eight characters sharing the focus – did it feel very different to working on La Vie En Rose?
Each role, small or big, has its own life and its own mystery to discover. Piaf was unique – I played her whole life. But when you’re part of an ensemble, and the dynamic of the group is the centre of the movie, you have to find your place in the group. What was very, very different from La Vie En Rose was that the era of the film is the era I live in. I didn’t have to study that world because I watch it, I live it every day.

Did that make it easier to identify with this character?
When I prepare to play a character that exists in another era I create a structure related to the way I speak. In a world that’s your world it’s relaxing, in a way, not having to think you cannot talk like you normally talk because it will not fit with the era. At the same time, something of you escapes more easily, and it’s kind of scary. The first time I saw the movie it was horrible to watch, and even though it’s a character – it’s not me – there are things of myself that I can see, and I hated it.

Your partner Guillaume Canet was directing – how was it to work together?
We are close to most of the actors in the movie, and what was weird is that this place in the south of France is a place where almost all of us go for vacation, because we’re friends. We know these places with those people, and suddenly, you have a different name, you have a different past, you have different behaviour, but then again this behaviour contains parts of yourself. It was kind of weird sometimes, but it created a dynamic which is so interesting.

The film is about the lies people tell each other. Did it cause you to re-examine your own life?
I had had this experience with myself before this movie. When I played Piaf I got myself in a very, very deep place and when I came back there were little lies that I couldn’t live with anymore. There was a big cleaning. What was driving me was much stronger than even the fear of being abandoned by some friends or that some relationships could be destroyed. Eventually, you find out that it doesn’t destroy anything: it’s the opposite. There’s no bullshit any more. It’s a genuine love. Sometimes you have to take the risk.

The characters are accused in the film of being very selfabsorbed – is this a problem specific to our generation?
I don’t really know if it’s being selfinterested because you sometimes need to face your own problems and understand what’s going on inside of you. I think sometimes you think you have time. You think that you’ll do this later because you’re afraid of doing it now. You put it aside with a tissue over it but it creates parasites. It won’t disappear and if you leave it too long what you really have to deal with and face can dramatically change, and sometimes it’s harder.

LITLE WHITE LIES is out on April 15

Why we love Marion Cotillard

from GQ (UK) / by Stuart McGurk

Here’s Marion Cotillard – Oscar-winning actress, Dior model and activist – on, well… you decide: “We live on earth, have jobs and interact in society,” she said recently. “But we exist because there is a moon rotating around us and a sun we rotate around. We connect when we accept that the mystery takes place on the ground.” Yes, Marion Cotillard is very French.

Described by Nicole Kidman as “otherworldly”, the 35-year-old Cotillard looks set to continue in 2011 where she left off last year – nicking the roles the rest of Hollywood wanted. After starring in Inception, this year sees her complete a hat-trick. First up, French drama, Little White Lies, directed by husband Guillaume Canet. Then, Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Contagion. And finally, Midnight In Paris – a Woody Allen romcom (of course). In fact, only her pregnancy has restricted you seeing more of Cotillard, ruling her out of the race to play Catwoman in upcoming Batman (a role nabbed by Anne Hathaway). Cotillard’s joy, it seems, is the rest of Hollywood’s gain.

Little White Lies is out on 15 April. Contagion is out on 21 October.