Translation from Madame Figaro’s “Reine Marion”‘s article from their Septembre 30 issue. Scans here.
Nothing can stop the phenomenal Marion Cotillard. The most celebrated French actress in the world is the passionate heroin of Mal de Pierres, the new film by director Nicole Garcia. A vibrant drama about desire, in which Marion bares body and soul before partnering up with Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in two “made in Hollywood” blockbusters.
Suite 331 or Suite 336? That’s the question of the day at the Park Hyatt Vendome hotel in Paris, in the 11th arrondissement. This Friday, September 9, Marion Cotillard is doing press junkets. In other words, she’s speaking to journalists all day to promote the film Mal de Pierres, directed by Nicole Garcia. Suite 331 is cosy, a soft environment. Suite 336 is huge, bathed in light. Marion decides : she prefers the second one, where she’s been rehearsing since this morning. Political meeting in the antechamber: press journalists, the Studio Canal team, hairdresser, make up professionals, dressing assistants… We feel as if we might be witnessing the morning ritual of the queen. An admirer sighs: “ah Marion’s voice, incomparable to all others.” It’s true! The actress has a voice like cool water, not as in the beginning of the storm, more like a river. Here’s Marion, that greets without much ado, with a smile. She wears a large gray dress-shirt with a blue stripe (after this interview, she’s announced she’s expecting a second child with partner Guillaume Canet). And to put a twist to this modest look, high heeled boots. We compliment her on the ensemble, she lets out the magic word: “Dior”. Let’s not forget that she’s the face of the Lady Dior bag. Hair tucked behind the ear, peach coloured cheeks, blue eyes sparkling, she’s even prettier in real life than onscreen. Her posture is perfect, almost aristocratic, her back straight like a capital “I”. Delicately, she plays with a diamond around her ring finger, or cradles her face in her hands. Admired in France, she’s adored in America, where she’s part of the most sought after A list actresses. Already with a film out, Xavier Dolan’s Juste La Fin du Monde, she has three more coming out before the end of the year – a record. Mal de Pierres, Allied, by Robert Zemeckis and starring Brad Pitt, Justin Kurzel’s Assassin’s Creed, based on the successful game, and Rock n’Roll, directed by Guillaume Canet. She’s come a long way since the student in Comment je me suis disputé, by director Arnaud Desplechin, whom she’s working with again in the director’s new film, Les fantômes d’Ismael. Twenty years exactly, during which Marion has collected all awards, including the famous Graal (the best actress Academy Award for La Môme), and gone from shooting blockbusters to films d’auteur and back again. She’s a star. And we all know, having read Edgar Morin’s theory on the subject, that a star isn’t a pin-up or a showgirl, but something between the Gods and humans, divine and mortal.
MADAME FIGARO: 2016, what a year ! You’ve done film after film…
MARION COTILLARD: I’ve done a lot of films. This rhythm has to be an exception to the rule. For a year I’ve been submerged in the lives of others. A lot of things were irresistible. I loved the script of Assassin’s Creed. But what made me decide to participate in that film was the fact that it wasn’t a studio film. The director, Justin Kurzel, has a vision and a point of view about the story: this diving into violence and how to fight it. It’s one of the best directors of actors out there. After Macbeth, I really wanted to work with him again.
And in Guillaume Canet’s Rock n’Roll, what part do you play? Do you sing ?
No, I don’t do any singing. There’s Johnny Hallyday… the actors play themselves. It’s a comedy. I play an exaggerated version of myself. It can go as far as a caricature. What people imagine an actor to be like, what people imagine celebrities to be like. These ideas we can have that are sometimes very, very far from reality.
We’ve heard you no longer read what is written about you… Is that why?
It’s simply because that doesn’t interest me at all! I want to share what I discover about people through my films, through my work. I have put distance between me and the way people see me. Is it a self preservation thing? Without a doubt. At a certain point, we write me into something and someone that has nothing to do with me. I’ve been hurt, and especially scared of the way you can manipulate someone’s image.
Let’s talk about Gabrielle, your character in Mal de Pierres, based on the novel by Milena Angus. Would you say she follows her desire to madness?
She’s not mad at all. I think that if you stop someone from being what they are, from being free or different, we drive them to madness.
Did the nudity bother you?
It’s a very carnal character. There’s a mystery of the body that is necessary to the film. Technically speaking, they’re not my favourite scenes to shoot! When we read a script, we talk about the intimate moments, with the director, Nicole Garcia specifically. The important thing is the story, the incarnation of the character. I’ve refused roles before because I didn’t feel brave enough to do these kind of scenes.
Nicole Garcia said you wrote in a secret journal. Is it true?
It’s not a secret journal, but a collection of notes. Things that seem useful or essential to my character. I write a lot during preparation and also through the shooting. A scene might diffuse an idea for a following scene, etc.
We’re under the impression that work gives you structure. How do you make it work?
Playing a character is a job, even if it’s a strange one. It’s like being a traveler, or an archeologist. To understand someone and to become them, requires work. For example, Nicole had a very strong idea of what she wanted that didn’t correspond what I had imagined. I had to adapt to her will. Having said that, we cannot go to every aspect of a soul with someone else. It’s a very personal work.Diving into the personality of someone else is a vibrating connection. The expression itself has that mystery to it.
Do you read? Do you watch films? Gabrielle has a bit of Truffaut’s Adèle H…
That depends. For Gabrielle I drew my inspiration from encounters. With people who are different and don’t feel free to live those differences. An artist born to a non artistic family that don’t believe in his gift, a homosexual born into a family that does not accept his sexual orientation. Those things can hide a personality, cast a shadow over it.
You shoot in English and in French. What about you pleases the Americans so much?
I’m seen as someone who works a lot. And who can surprise, through that work. The Americans have this culture of the performance. And I love exploring new areas, be seen differently, put myself in danger.
You seem very calm. How do you deal with all the pressure? Do you meditate?
I can be less calm. I’ve gotten angry before, allowed negative feelings in. Working on living in harmony with yourself is the only way I found to deal. Finding a profound connection with the present moment through meditation. How do I explain this? Meditation can’t be explained in five minutes but at the same time can be summed up in one sentence. The way we take care of the way we look, it’s about taking care of us on the inside. It involves silence, which is fundamental in my life.
We know of your engagement with the environment. Where do you go to recharge your energies?
Cities are very turbulent. They’re places where negative energies are easily shared; not to mention the speed almost inhumane in which it plunges you. I need peace, regularly. Of the forest with its trees that block the noise, or the desert that has this silent quality. Humans adapt easily to their surroundings. But stress tires the body and the mind, brings disease. We all need the quiet to remove ourselves from the whirlwind, to connect to ourselves and the world that surrounds us.