Postcard from Toronto: Rubbing Elbows with Marion Cotillard

from (US) / by John Powers

After spending all that time undercover, I needed a drink, so I moseyed over to Moët & Chandon’s dinner for Rust and Bone, a satisfying new French melodrama by one of my favorite directors, Jacques Audiard, whose work is an almost perfect blend of French realism and Hollywood mythology. This movie is all about the relationship between a marine-world trainer (Marion Cotillard) who loses her legs in an accident with an orca, and her lover, a thuggish, but sensitive single father, played by the Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, with a blend of toughness and virility that should make him an international star.

I’d barely finished my first glass of bubbly when I found myself eating prosciutto and figs next to Cotillard, who, dressed in black and white Christian Dior, proved even lovelier in person than she is on screen. She had just finished a long trip to Telluride for that Rocky Mountain film festival, a journey that involved four flights, including a scary one in a small plane from Los Angeles to Denver along with others including Laura Dern. “It was very bumpy,” she told me. “We were all so happy to see the ground.”

It is Cotillard’s destiny to be the reigning French star of her era, one equally at home in a Hollywood juggernaut like the The Dark Knight Rises or an edgy European art film. She’s one of those actresses who’s good in an ordinary role, but great when tackling a part that’s hard, like the one she plays in Rust and Bone, for which she’ll almost surely be given an Oscar nomination. When I mention this to her she just laughs. “The hardest roles are my favorites,” she says. That’s why she still works in Europe as well as Hollywood. Although she’s taking time off at the moment, she’s already agreed to be in the next film by Belgium’s Dardenne brothers, two-time Cannes winners who are the state of the art in realistic filmmaking. “I’m so excited that I have agreed to do it even without a script,” she says. “They’re geniuses. All their movies are good.”

We’re just talking about making Rust and Bone when we’re interrupted by the film’s publicists. It’s time for Cotillard, Schoenaerts, and Audiard to head off to that night’s screening. After the actress gives me a farewell pat on the arm, Audiard rounds the table and shakes my hand.

“Don’t drink too much champagne,” he says, having fun with the event’s sponsors. “It’s poison.”

Maybe he’s right—he is French, after all—but when the waiter comes by with another bottle of Moët, I find myself saying, “Why not?”


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