from Hypable / by James Bean
Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard has become one of the most coveted names in Hollywood, due in part to her natural beauty and intrigue, but mostly because of her so-good-that-it’s-not-even-fair-to-other-actresses level of natural talent.
Cotillard has earned a reputation for choosing her roles carefully, so any project lucky enough to earn the right to plaster her name on the poster normally carries a certain amount of artistic merit, including but not limited to her beloved independent pieces as well as summer blockbusters like Inception and The Dark Knight Rises.
Her latest title, Rust and Bone saw a French release back in May and it will gain more screens in major American cities this month. The film follows a struggling father, Alain, as he falls into a kinda-sorta relationship with the recently injured (and very complicated) Stephanie (Marion Cotillard).
Cotillard acknowledged in a recent press event with Hypable that the enigma that is Stephanie was what drew her into the production in the first place. “When I read the script, even at the end, Stephanie was still a mystery,” said Cotillard.
For those unfamiliar with Stephanie’s tragedy, early on in the film she loses both of her legs to a terrible orca incident. The challenge of internalizing the trauma of losing limbs proved to be less about the physical and more the emotional impact. “I cannot compare my personal struggle to someone who has lost their legs,” said Cotillard.
Instead of making Stephanie’s struggle about how to physically carry on without legs, Cotillard chose instead to rely on her parent’s wisdom to help her come to understand what Stephanie could be going through. “The value my parents gave me is this: I trust existence.”
Marion began her process by setting out to understand Stephanie, who after her accident adorns her thighs with tattoos that read “love” and “hate”.
“I need to know who this person is entirely,” said Cotillard. “I never really see a challenge, it’s the exploration of the story.” After days and days of exploring the labyrinth of Stephanie’s mind, her director, Jacques Audiard, suggested that she was some kind of cowboy.
“I loved that,” said Cotillard. “She’s a cowboy. She turned anger into power. That’s a cowboy thing, right?”
Interestingly enough, replicating the anguish suffered by someone who has just lost their legs wasn’t the most difficult part of the filming of Rust and Bone for Marion Cotillard.
“The most difficult for me was in Marineland,” said Cotillard. “I didn’t feel comfortable. I needed to see the animal as an animal, not as a clown.”
Cotillard has long been an advocate of not identifying orcas as “killer whales”, and more recently, coming forward to express her disgust for holding whales in captivity and making them perform tricks.
During the press event, Cotillard noted that it’s very strange for her to see films like Finding Nemo, the message of which protests the idea of removing marine-life from their natural environment, only to see sales of clownfish skyrocket in the following weeks.
Audiard, who decided to use actual show-whales for the film, has a very different outlook on how the whales are mistreated in their staged environment.
“Katy Perry is the actual music of the show,” said Audiard, referring to the whale show that functions as the catalyst for Stephanie’s accident. “And the whales had to listen to Katy Perry over and over again all day. It was cruel.”
Fans of the original Rust and Bone short story will be hard-pressed to find Cotillard’s character, mainly because she doesn’t make an appearance in the film’s ink and paper twin. “What came first was the desire to tell a love story,” said Audiard. “It was only after that I read the short story; we piled the desire to tell a love story on top of it.”
Being an avid lover of the ocean, Cotillard’s character discovers a yearning to return to the water after her accident. This gave the production the legitimate challenge of making Cotillard really seem legless, even in a watery environment.
Although trying to swim without using her legs proved to be a very technical process, it wasn’t what halted filming.
The problem had more to do with the post-production lackeys and how Audiard’s would handle the filming, not how Cotillard inhabited the character. “The fact that I have legs never got in the way, said Cotillard. “I wore green socks and they took my legs away.”
The movie-magic aspect of removing her legs wasn’t what posed a challenge, it was filming the scene and keeping Cotillard in the water for long periods of time that gave the production crew their biggest problem.
“The water was freezing. It was November. A jellyfish bit me and the camera wasn’t working. So I stayed in the water with the jellyfish. It burned! I did not let anyone pee on me.”
Although Marion Cotillard doesn’t typically discuss her family life, she did reveal that she brought her newborn son to film with her in order to remain close. Marcel doesn’t make a cameo appearance in the film, and it’s probably for the best since Rust and Bone tackles how family ties are stretched, or even broken.
“The hardest moment is when he [Alain] beats his child. It was very hard,” said Audiard. “The child started crying, because he had developed a relationship with Matthias.”
Rust and Bone explores virtually every type of relationship that a person can experience, and how different people react when tragedy is thrust upon them. More than anything, it highlights the need to protect, the will to provide for, and the desire to love people that we consider family. It’s not a feel-good film by any stretch, but it is a feel-something film.
Rust and Bone will hit American theaters later this month and will continue to add screens through the end of the year.