Oscar winner Marion Cotillard talks directors, CGI and why she’s suspicious of big studio movies
Marion Cotillard won an Oscar before she became a star.
The actor now familiar to Christopher Nolan fans as Mal in Inception and Miranda Tate in The Dark Knight Rises grabbed the Academy’s best actress prize for her full-throttle performance in La Vie En Rose (among a select few to do so for a foreign-language performance).
Having graduated to A-list status, Cotillard’s back in the Oscar conversation again, this time for her wrenching turn in Rust And Bone. She plays Stéphanie, an orca trainer who loses her legs in an accident and goes on to redefine her life, stripped of limbs, makeup and vanity.
During an interview at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, Cotillard shrugs off the physical challenge of playing an amputee. She credits CGI wizardry for that part of her performance. The bigger challenge was getting to know her character.
“Stéphanie was totally mysterious to me,” she says in gently accented English. When she told co-writer/director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) that she didn’t understand her character, he claimed not to understand her either.
“So we took the road to meet her,” says Cotillard, recognizing that comfort with the enigmatic is part of Audiard’s genius. “I realized that part of Stéphanie would stay a mystery, and that’s okay.”
Cotillard stresses the importance of a solid director to lean on, whether in a French art house film or a big-budget extravaganza.
“The first person I do my job for is the director,” she says. Which is probably why her resumé is full of auteurs like Michael Mann, Steven Soderbergh and Woody Allen.
Dark Knight Rises director Nolan has “the spirit of an independent,” says Cotillard. He’s actively involved in every stage of the filmmaking process. On the other hand, she’s uneasy about studio movies – or at least those that seem so to her.
“One day I was offered a dream role in a huge, big American movie,” she says, explaining how her excitement for the project quickly evaporated when she met the director, who came off as a studio tool.
“I felt I had nothing to do in the project,” she says. “And he didn’t know anything about actors because it wasn’t his movie. It was a studio movie. He was there to direct. Direct what? I don’t know, but not me.”
She turned down the role (she won’t reveal the film’s title), even though friends called her crazy. When it turned out to be a massive box office success, Cotillard went to check out what she’d missed.
“It was so bad,” she says, laughing. “Even actors who were good in other movies were so bad [in this]. And I had the explanation: they had no director.”
France entered The Intouchables as its entry in the foreign-language category, but don’t count out Marion Cotillard to score a best actress nod. Sure, she’s got an Oscar on her mantle already, but the Academy loves actors playing characters with disabilities.