Portrait : Marion Cotillard, the directors’ muse

from French Cinema London / by Eva Dumontet

For his first and much expected movie in the French capital – Midnight in Paris, in theatre on October 7th – Woody Allen needed more than an actress. Who else than the quintessential French icon Marion Cotillard could possibly play the part of Picasso’s muse?

Midnight in Paris is probably the most dreamlike movie by the New York director. In this deliciously fantasized Paris he gathered along with Marion a one of a kind international cast featuring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Adrian Brody, Lea Seydoux, French comedian Gad Elmaleh and… First Lady Carla Bruni!

But Marion Cotillard has not always been the sought after international star she is now. Up until 2007 – and her triumphal part as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose – Marion Cotillard was mostly known in France. Her part as Samy Naceri’s girlfriend in the Taxi series (Luc Besson, 1998, 2000 and 2003) gave her the exposure she needed to move on to interpreting more challenging characters as in Virgine Despentes’ bestseller on screen adaptation, Les Jolies choses, where Marion interprets twin-sisters. She also met with actor, director and now companion Guillaume Canet on the set of Les Jeux d’Enfants in 2002. Last year she starred in Guillaume Canet’s second feature film (Little White lies) which was a huge success in France. In 2004, she wins the César for best second role actress in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A very long engagement, starring alongside another famous French actress : Audrey Tautou.

En route to Hollywood

Her international career started in 2003 when Tim Burton gave her a part in his movie Big Fish. It now seems as if she had simply been waiting; waiting for her part that would live up to her talent. And what greater part could an actress dream of than embodying the legendary Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose (Olivier Dahan, 2007) ? We all know what happened next. Marion Cotillard won – among many other awards – the Academy award and BAFTA award for best actress. She was also the first actress to receive a Golden Globe for a foreign performance.

Hollywood has a habit of giving French actors the villain parts. But Marion Cotillard has invented a new genre of character suitably designed for herself: the femme fatale heroic men devote themselves to. She is Billie Frechette in Public Enemies (2009), co-starring Johnny Depp, Mal Cobb in Inception (2010), along with Leonardo DiCaprio. Marion is now acting with the greatest actors of her generation. Nine (2010) is to that extent a consecration as she sings and dances along with Sophia Lauren, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judy Dench and Daniel Day Lewis. Marion has always said she would have become a singer if she couldn’t make it as an actress, and in that sense she has managed to succeed in both arts beautifully.

Born in an artistic family – her mother was an actress and her father a director and actor- the success of Marion Cotillard lies beyond her parts, in her iconic aura. In an era where stardom hardly lasts for more than fifteen minutes she seems to stand out as the last of the great ones. In the Pantheon of Hollywood actresses there is no doubt Marion Cotillard would find her place near Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. The thirty-six-year-old from Orleans has also become the fashion icon of one of the most prestigious French brands, Dior, in 2010. But what makes Marion Cotillard stand out as the French’s darling girl is the sense of proximity that emanates from her. Marion is the Hollywood star wearing an Yves Saint-Laurent mermaid dress at the Academy Award but she is also the outdoor environment-friendly girl who occasionally smokes pots and helps Greenpeace. She could be your next-door neighbour… if your neighbour happened to be friend with Leonardo DiCaprio.

What could possibly be added to this balanced model of success and happiness à la française? Well, the charming French actor Guillaume Canet as a partner and their baby boy Marcel. Evidemment.


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