Day: May 14, 2014

Marion Cotillard, sa vraie vie

Marion Cotillard, sa vraie vie

Palme en vue : Marion Cotillard revient à Cannes en ouvrière combative dans « Deux jours, une nuit », des frères Dardenne. Un rôle dans lequel l’égérie Dior s’est glissée corps et âme. Rencontre passionnée.

Quarante minutes. Voilà ce que la production du film des frères Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne « Deux jours, une nuit » nous offre royalement. Quarante minutes d’entretien avec son actrice principale, Marion Cotillard. Alors, obsédé par le timing et quand on sait que le sujet du film en sélection officielle au Festival de Cannes est le combat mené par des ouvriers d’une usine de Belgique pour conserver une prime de 1 000 euros, on se pose la question. Combien de temps faut-il à Marion Cotillard pour gagner 1 000 euros ? Trois heures ? Plus, moins ? Et en quarante minutes, que gagne-t-elle ? La question posée d’entrée de jeu à l’une des actrices les mieux payées du cinéma français, couverte de récompenses et encensée par les spectateurs, ne la choque pas. Elle sait qu’interpréter une ouvrière menacée par le chômage tient du paradoxe. « Mais la vie d’une actrice, dit-elle, n’est faite que de paradoxes. » A l’écouter, à la voir se saisir à bras-le-corps des questions qu’on lui pose, on comprend que les frères Dardenne soient venus la chercher. La futilité, les minauderies ne sont pas son registre. C’est une bosseuse à la fois cérébrale et physique et, si son sourire est désarmant, son visage porte, dans le film, le poids d’un désespoir qui bouleverse.

Propulsée une fois de plus dans la compétition cannoise, Marion Cotillard retrouve en partie un rôle de fille du peuple qu’elle a déjà endossé. Dans « La Môme », d’Olivier Dahan, elle était Piaf née à Ménilmontant, dans « The Immigrant », de James Gray, elle était une Polonaise engluée dans les bas-fonds de New York. Cette fois, elle campe un personnage écorché, lancé dans un combat où mendicité et dignité se parasitent. Réussira-t-elle à convaincre ses collègues de renoncer à leur prime, ce qui lui permettrait de conserver son travail ? Affrontements, désillusions, bons et mauvais sentiments, renoncements, petitesse et grandeur d’âme font du film un road movie social dans les corons. « C’est un rôle tout en déséquilibre, dit-elle, dans lequel Sandra, mon personnage, finit par trouver sa place. Ce n’était pas seulement sa peur du chômage que je devais interpréter mais aussi son état dépressif. Or, je ne suis pas dépressive. Je n’ai jamais pris de Xanax de ma vie, mais j’en ai bien étudié les effets. » Personnage « sous médocs », Sandra vacille de scène en scène. « Je ne peux pas dire que j’ai découvert le milieu ouvrier avec ce film, car je suis née dans une famille sans fortune. Et si j’ai aujourd’hui un train de vie hors normes, si je ne connais pas beaucoup de gens qui gagnent aussi bien leur vie que moi dans mon entourage, j’ai quantité d’amis qui comptent leurs sous. Je ne suis pas coupée du monde. Je lis la presse, je m’intéresse aux crises sociales. La grande différence entre Sandra et moi, c’est que je fais ce que j’aime. Sandra rêvait-elle, enfant, de travailler en usine ? »

Bien que vêtue ce jour-là d’un beau pull Issey Miyake bleu turquoise mettant en valeur sa peau diaphane et ses beaux yeux, c’est en Dior – on le parie sans risque – qu’elle montera les marches cannoises. « Je n’ai pas eu à faire de différence entre le monde du cinéma et celui de la mode pour lequel je prête mon corps et mon visage. Grâce à Dior, j’ai continué à faire du cinéma. Nous avons tourné des films, enregistré un morceau de musique avec Franz Ferdinand, tourné des clips, développé une créativité tous azimuts. Mon aventure avec Dior, ce n’est pas qu’une histoire d’égérie, c’est une aventure pleine d’aventures, comme les poupées russes. Quand je leur ai dit que je souhaitais tourner avec David Lynch, je n’y croyais pas moi-même. Et ils ont accepté. Idem quand j’ai voulu jouer avec mon idole absolue, John Cameron Mitchell. Dior, c’est un terrain de jeux formidable. » Et quand on s’interroge sur l’étrangeté de la voir monter les marches en Dior pour défendre à Cannes un film sur la classe ouvrière, elle répond avec justesse : « Pose-t-on la question à un cinéaste de film d’horreur ? » Et puis, ajoute-t-elle : « Je n’ai pas interprété beaucoup de rôles hyper glamour… D’ailleurs qu’est-ce que j’ai fait comme rôles glamour ? Avec des belles robes, le genre de personnage qui ne ferait pas tache sur le red carpet? Peut-être dans “Batman” ? Mais Sandra en débardeur sur le tapis rouge, ça ferait désordre. »

Du haut de sa filmographie impressionnante et des récompenses qui ont salué son talent, Marion Cotillard reste lucide. « Je me bats avec moi-même. Chacun a ses démons. Cela ne se voit pas toujours, mais j’ai peur de beaucoup de choses, et je me dis qu’un jour, enfin, je saurai précisément de quoi. J’ai toujours eu peur des gens par exemple. Adolescente, je ne comprenais pas très bien ce qui m’entourait. La société elle-même, comment elle fonctionnait. Avec mes parents, les rapports ont toujours été extraordinairement sains, on pouvait tout se dire. Je n’avais pas vécu de désordres relationnels dans ma famille. Je les ai affrontés en en sortant. Quand je suis arrivée à la maternelle, le choc a été rude. Le monde me terrorisait. Je me revois dans la cour de l’école, solitaire, effrayée. » Pour cette raison peut-être, elle reconnaît que parfois, arrimée à des films par trop tragiques, endossant des rôles très noirs, il lui arrive de protéger son propre fils en s’éloignant de lui, le temps d’un tournage. « Je veux lui éviter d’être atteint par ricochet par les mauvaises ondes d’un film, celles que je porte avec le personnage que j’interprète. J’ai été très heureuse sur le film des frères Dardenne, bien que j’aie dû y passer mes journées en petite forme. Au retour, comme je suis maman, je devais gérer cet état. Faire face. Alors, quand c’est devenu trop dur, je me suis mise à distance. Jouer une dépressive, cela vous rend dépressive tout le temps, et, avec mon dernier rôle, sur le tournage de “Macbeth”, ça n’était pas mieux. »

Sans être fataliste, Marion Cotillard estime « que les choses vous arrivent quand elles doivent vous arriver. Heureusement, j’ai la capacité de prendre du recul ». Et s’il est une chose qu’elle ne craint pas, c’est la chute. « Les résultats, les récompenses, tout cela c’est du passé. Aujourd’hui, ce qui me met en joie, c’est d’être à Cannes à nouveau. J’ai vraiment découvert ce festival il y a deux ans. Quand on est une petite actrice avec pas trop de choses à y faire, on souffre à Cannes, c’est une trop grosse machine. Mais quand on y vient pour défendre un film, c’est extraordinaire. » Les frères Dardenne sont bien partis. Leur film est bon et ils ont, pour le défendre, une sacrée comédienne.

Marion Cotillard’s Pursuit of Happiness

Marion Cotillard’s Pursuit of Happiness

The French star of ‘The Immigrant’ channels old-world America and pushes herself to exciting new places

In the opening moments of The Immigrant, James Gray’s operatic epic set in 1920s New York, two women stand in line at Ellis Island after an arduous transatlantic journey. They converse in Polish, keeping each other’s spirits up by imagining happier times ahead. Their skin is pale and plain, their drab clothes nearly indistinguishable from darkness of the room. It’s really only when one of the women breaks into a smile, her round face alighting just so, that you realize you’re watching Marion Cotillard.

It’s strange to call an Oscar-winner underrated, but somehow that description still fits Cotillard. Yes, she’s an international star, a muse for both Christopher Nolan and Woody Allen, and the red carpet representative for Christian Dior. Her portrayal of the iconic chanteuse Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose (2007) practically made her a national treasure in her native country (she’s one of the highest paid actresses in France) and nabbed her that year’s Best Actress Oscar. But when it comes to the work itself, people are still apt to rhapsodize about her beauty over her chops; even her Academy-ignored portrayal of a paraplegic in Rust and Bone (2012) drew more mentions of her nude scenes than actual praise for her performance.

In a perfect world, however, The Immigrant would change the conversation about Cotillard in a profound way. The Gallic star doesn’t just nail an accent; she goes the full-on Streep route, speaking fluent Polish, immersing herself in the role of an early-20th-century heroine and supporting the emotional weight of the whole movie, not to mention that of generations of self-sacrificing émigrés, in her brim-full saucer eyes.

“I like when I say yes to a project and don’t know if I’m going to be able to do a good job,” Cotillard says. One among the poor huddled masses, her Ewa Cybulska might have been a cliché in the hands of other actresses: a “fallen” woman who is taken in by a shady theater manager (Joaquin Phoenix) and forced to resort to extreme means in order to survive. But Cotillard doesn’t play a symbol. She’s fully alive on screen — resourceful and responsive, damaged and defiant, loving and feral. “Acting is an intelligence,” director James Gray says. “I don’t mean intelligence in that they can talk to you about the Manhattan Project or something; I’m talking about an emotional awareness, an understanding of human beings and human behavior. Marion certainly has that.”

And then there’s matter of the dialogue. If Gray’s script included just a few lines in a foreign tongue, perhaps she could have handled it phonetically. But try 20 pages of Polish dialogue, and only two months in which to learn the language. “I could have learned Chinese — it would have been the same thing,” Cotillard says. “There were, like, three words that sounded or looked like English or French. The rest of it was like, pfft…I couldn’t believe it. But I needed to understand everything I said. Even the two letter words — I needed to know what they were. It was super stressful.”

“She was miserable,” Gray confirms. “And she did it brilliantly.” In the film, you never get the sense that she’s merely remembering her lines, or that she’s flaunting her achievement for our amazement. She’s inside the language, and in the moment. “It’s not a stunt,” said Gray. “She’s acting it.”

The language issue may have presented an extreme case, but Cotillard said she’s always drawn toward uncharted territory — both metaphorically and literally.”I’m really happy to have the freedom to explore different cultures. But this freedom has a price,” she said. “The price is that on set I’m not as free as I would be in French. Or even in English.” It’s also resulted in her being a bit of an outsider everywhere she works, and has likely contributed to her work being less celebrated than if she were the belle of one particular ball.

These days she pursues as many projects overseas as she does at home. But though she’s appeared in major American films like The Dark Knight Rises, Midnight in Paris, and Public Enemies, she’s still very selective about her work in Hollywood. That her first starring role in a U.S. film involves speaking 40% of her dialogue in Polish should tell you all you need to know. “I really need to have a big jump between projects,” she said. “”I want that people wouldn’t recognize me in the next movie. I want to be different all the time. I don’t think I would do a good job if I was doing the same thing.”

Cotillard uses words like “job” and “work” so often that they start to sound like what they mean. As if it’s all part of the discipline required for her to be as great as she expects herself to be. “The thing is, I know some actors, no matter what happens, they’re going to be good. If they don’t work, they’re going to save their ass,” she said, pushing a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m not this kind of person. If I don’t work, I’m just a super bad actress. So I need to work.”

Like fellow countrywoman Juliette Binoche — a hero of hers since childhood — Cotillard says she keeps a list of directors she’d like to work with. But rather than reveal other names on the list, she talks instead about one that isn’t. “There was one director that I got rid of on my list after meeting him,” Cotillard says coyly. “And he’s one of my favorite directors — the top of the list. But I was a little disappointed. There was a disconnection that was kind of painful for me.” But if she’s proven anything over the year, it’s that she has an her ability to make even seemingly impossible things work. “I might put him back on the list. He’s still in the back of my mind.”

Interview: Marion Cotillard

Interview: Marion Cotillard

When I enter Marion Cotillard’s suite at New York’s Trump SoHo hotel, she’s gazing out a window, across the Hudson toward New Jersey. “What’s that?” she asks, gesturing to a small building that’s just offshore and part of an inlet, of sorts. Unfortunately, I can’t help Cotillard with an answer, but I also can’t help but notice that she’s perfectly set the scene for an interview pegged around The Immigrant, director James Gray’s latest—and greatest—drama, in which Cotillard stars as a Polish woman, Ewa, whose arrival at Ellis Island in 1921 is followed by a turbulent succession of hardships and glints of hope. If the American dream is more than a myth, a notion that Gray’s film actively explores with an air of bittersweet mystery, then Cotillard has most certainly achieved it, following her budding career in France with an Oscar for La Vie en Rose and a virtually ceaseless output of prestige projects. As Cotillard recalls her early goals and ambitions, her memories mirror the themes of The Immigrant itself, with talk of being aware of possibility and opportunity, but never quite thinking it was actually in the cards. It’s a humble reflection from a bona fide superstar, who, even now, has vivid thoughts of what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land.

It seems that so many people identify you as having broken through with La Vie en Rose, but you’d already had nearly 15 years of work behind you before the film was released. What was the biggest moment of your career prior to playing Edith Piaf?

Well, there were different steps. I did three French blockbusters, which allowed me to connect with the audience, but not the industry. For the industry, those movies were not considered very serious movies, and I wasn’t considered a very serious actress. But then I did A Very Long Engagement, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s movie, and that changed a lot of things for me in the industry, in France. And I became a serious actress! [Laughs] Someone who could do something else besides just comedies. But even in France, where I had been around before, the big breakthrough was La Vie en Rose. It was a big thing for me.

So you did a lot of comedies?

I did three comedies.

I’d like to see you in some more comedies. Can we make that happen?

[Laughs] I don’t know. I must have been very bad. I will never watch those movies again. And I think I would have much more work doing a comedy than a drama. All actors know that it’s very hard, when you’re not Will Ferrell or Tina Fey, to be good in a comedy. It’s really, really hard.

It’s very unpredictable what will become of an actor’s career once they win an Oscar. For some, they get this one big role that’s rewarded, but then things don’t necessarily work out as they might have hoped. You’ve had anything but that experience, and it seems to partly stem from the directors and projects you’ve chosen. Are you chasing down the directors you work with or do they typically come calling?

I suppose it’s a mix of both. The only director I chased [laughs] was a Danish director, Thomas Vinterberg, and I never worked with him. This was a long time ago, when I was…nothing. I really wanted to work with him, and I started to learn Danish to work with him, but it didn’t work out. And then years later, when I was promoting La Vie en Rose around the world, I went to Denmark, and as a surprise, the distributors arranged a meeting for me and Thomas. And I was so shy. It was kind of crazy.

Why him?

Because Festen was a shock. And I loved their process—the Dogme process. And I thought what they could do with this, this Dogme, was so cinematographic, and so amazing, that I really wanted to work with him. I loved [Festen]—the way it’s shot, how he is with the characters, his camera, the story. For me, everything was perfect. But I wanted to work with him in a Danish movie, not an English one. Back then, all my friends said, “You’re so stupid. You should be improving your English because he’s going to go to Hollywood, and he’s going to make American movies.” But for me, it was like…I just wanted to do a Danish movie with him.

Well you’ve certainly proven that you can tackle a lot of different languages for different roles. Is that something you were always doing when you were aspiring to be an actor—practicing different languages and dialects?

No. No, I’m actually not very good at it.

Well, you’re convincing, for sure. You’ve convinced me many times.

It’s a lot of work. Like, if you asked me to do a Canadian accent, I won’t be able to do it. I will have to work a lot. Some of my friends—not even actors—are able to nail a Canadian, or African, or Swiss, or even American accent. But I’m not very good at that. Well, it’s not that I’m not very good at it, it’s just not natural. I can’t just pick something up and nail it. I really need to work. But it wasn’t something that I practiced in my past. And, first of all, I never thought I’d do American movies. I never thought I would have the amazing experience of exploring different worlds and cultures.

Why not?

The thing is, I didn’t think that I would do that, but I didn’t think that I wouldn’t do it. You know what I mean? I had no boundaries. I didn’t think that I would do movies in America, but I didn’t think it was not possible. I just didn’t think about it. Maybe, if I had put up boundaries like that, it would not have happened. By not putting up boundaries like that, you don’t have to cross them because they’re not there. I didn’t really imagine anything. I just knew I wanted amazing journeys. And my dream, which came true, was that from one movie to another, I’d have the opportunity to be a totally different person. The people I admired the most when I was a kid, and wanted to be an actress, were Sir Laurence Olivier and Peter Sellers. From a movie to another, you cannot recognize them. That was a total fantasy, and today, I can go from playing Edith Piaf at the end of her life to doing the Dardenne brothers movie I just did [Two Days, One Night]. It’s a big jump, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

So how did learning to speak Polish for The Immigrant compare to, say, learning to speak Italian for Nine, or even learning to speak English, for that matter?

Well, learning English was different because I really wanted to speak English. So I worked to learn English. Learning Polish wasn’t really learning Polish; it was learning the 20 pages of Polish that I had in the movie. I don’t know how to speak Polish today. I don’t even remember my lines. That’s another thing: I erase all the information, which is kind of a shame. Almost everything goes away as soon as I’m finished with a movie. As for Italian, it was the same thing. When I choose to do a movie, I don’t think what I will have to work on. I read the movie, it gets into my blood, or not. But when it gets into my blood, I don’t think about what will be required. And when I said “yes” to James Gray, I didn’t realize how Polish was in the movie, first of all because all of the Polish dialogue was written in English in the original script. It was only mentioned that there would be Polish. It was only when I started to realize that it was massive, and that I only had two months to prepare—which isn’t much, especially because Polish sounds nothing like English or French—that I started to think, “My god, you’re crazy.” But then, after that, I have no choice, because I’m working, working. And again, I don’t think anymore. I just do. So I can be free, and learn, and go as far as I can. I just try not to suck. Because being Polish with a French accent sucks. And being Italian with a French accent sucks.

My ears pricked up when you said the word “blood” because my next question involves blood. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Ewa, while imprisoned at Ellis Island, pricks her finger and uses the blood as lipstick, after she’s told that she should make herself look healthy and attractive. There’s something very powerful in the notion that she has to literally use her own blood to make herself appealing in this new place. I’d love to hear anything you’d like to share about doing that scene.

All those people who came to Ellis Island—and their pictures are all documented—tried to look their best. They needed to look their best so they could enter this country. Doing that scene, I remembered that when I was a kid, and we didn’t have any makeup, we would bite our lips as hard as we could, to have the blood come into the lips and make them redder. I thought that might have been something that Ewa did with her sister back at home—when she wanted to have red lipstick on, but didn’t have any, she would use blood.

So that was your idea?

No, no—that was James’s idea, but the thought that she’d done this before, and that she did it in her childhood, was something that I liked. I imagined that she’d done this before with her sister—trying to look good.

Since you’re someone who isn’t originally from this country, to what degree did that relation help you to connect to this character, or perhaps influence your decision to take part in the project?

When you’re in another country, with another culture, with a language that you don’t speak that well, part of your personality changes, in a way. It’s like you go back to kind of a childhood state. You don’t feel as strong as you could feel in your own language, in the way you express yourself, because you don’t know all the words. I remember when I did my first movie in America—it was Big Fish. I think I was 22 or 23, but I felt like a teenager, because sometimes I didn’t understand what people were saying. And I really felt like I could express myself on a subject in French, and I could be super comfortable talking about serious things, whatever. But there I was lost. I couldn’t express myself as a grown-up. I was like a child. And it’s a weird feeling because you can see that the way people see you is not exactly the way you are. If they would have had the ability to understand French suddenly, and see me in a French context, they’d have had a totally different image, or perception, of who I am.