Category: English Press

Marion Cotillard on Rust and Bone, Playing a Double Amputee, and Hating the Zoo

from Vulture / by Jada Yuan

You saw her in this summer’s very American blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises. But come fall, Marion Cotillard will be getting buzz for playing a double-­amputee killer-whale trainer (yes, a double-amputee killer-whale trainer) in Jacques Audiard’s très français drama Rust and Bone. Jada Yuan spoke to the actress for New York magazine’s “Fall Preview” issue. Vulture got its hands on the complete transcript; highlights, below.

I read that you do a lot of research for your movies. What did you do to get ready for your role in Rust and Bone?
Well, I did kind of technical research, because I just had to find the physicality of the body language of someone who’s lost her legs. I wanted to find the authenticity of what it feels like, even though I will never, never know how it feels. But then about this character … most of the time, I read a script and then I understand the character right away — not everything about the character, otherwise it would be boring, maybe. But sometimes you have right away kind of a … you understand a lot about a person, and you understand the soul of this person, and then you will have to meet this person to learn more. With the character I have in Rust and Bone, I read the script and then I thought, My God, I don’t really understand her. And so that’s what I told Jacques Audiard, and I was kind of scared he would freak out. But that was what I felt, so that was what I had to share with him after I read the script. I was anxious about his reaction, and he told me, “Well, you know, I don’t understand her either. But that’s a good thing. We will have to take the road together, you and me, and find her, find who she is.” So that was kind of an amazing experience I was really looking forward to.

Let’s talk about the physicality of it, because I think that’s really interesting. When you say you did technical research to sort of know how it would feel to be without legs, what did you do?
Well, I don’t know if it’s very interesting, but I watched videos of people with no legs. I mean, each time I have to enter into a character and give life to a character, I do my best to believe that I’m old, or that I’m, I don’t know, desperate.

Your character has an affair in the movie. How did you do the sex scenes?
Well, with my legs, obviously [laughs].

Do they wrap them in tape and then green screen them out? I loved the sex scenes. It’s something you don’t see with disabled people in movies very much.
Well, we didn’t really think about the technique, because Jacques Audiard is … I remember when he was preparing the movie, he was writing e-mails to me, and he was [saying], “I spent an hour with the special effects, and I don’t want to spend anything. I just want you guys to be there with me, and we’re going to just give life to those characters.” So the technical part — we were lucky to work with amazing, amazing technicians. But then it felt like something real. You have to have a certain position with your legs not to make shadows and everything, but it’s not what is very important about the work we did. The most important was the director’s poetry, the way he filled this in with poetry and his vision of those people.

You rarely see a double amputee played in such a sexy way. Do you know what I mean? She has this thriving sex life, and a man who falls in love with her. Was that important to you? Did you respond to that?
Yeah, well, because this is a movie about rust, bone, flesh, blood, and love. And they’re young, they’re lost, but they’re beautiful, and they’re coming back to life, and in a big way they’re really coming back to life. And life with surrender is beautiful.

The Marine World part was very interesting to me, because when you describe the movie to people and you talk about killer whales, immediately they start to have an idea of a different kind of movie than it might be. Why do you think the whales are so important to the story?
Well, it’s an element of life, and it’s her violent wake-up. I won’t say that whales are violent, because I don’t think they are, but how we treat them is more violent than the animal itself. I think it must be the strength.

So you actually were directing these whales, is that correct? You were making them do those movements?

How long did it take you to learn how to do that? Were you scared?
No, I was not scared. I mean, I’m very uncomfortable in a captivity area. I remember when I heard about Jacques’s movie very early on I thought, Oh, my God, I could never do such a movie. Because I would have to work with whales, and in a Sea Land, and it’s like the zoo. I never visit the zoo. I never go to the Sea Land, because to me it’s like a human being turning animals into monsters. Then I was there, and I had to work with them. Right away, the trainer was amazing. I had all those thoughts about who those people are, and then suddenly I just saw people who loved those animals — even though I will never go back again [laughs], and I really don’t like it. I have a very easy contact with animals, and the relationship with the whales was there right away. So I was not scared, and it was not very hard.

You’re basically the one French actress who’s managed to have a really blossoming Hollywood career, not just in independent movies but — you’re in Batman. I believe when Rust and Bone came out in Cannes, I thought there was a bit of an outcry among the French that it maybe didn’t seem French enough, or it was too commercial? Am I wrong?
I don’t know. Cannes is the taste of people … we were very happy that the movie did very well at the box office in France. That’s what is important. I don’t know if it’s too commercial. I don’t know. I never see the movies like that. My opinion on the movie I do is: Sometimes I like it, and sometimes I don’t. That happens sometimes. But I love the movie, and I’m very proud to be in it, and I’m so happy that people want to see the movie. That’s it.

Free Marion

from New York Magazine (US) / by Jada Yuan

Neither Steven Soderbergh nor Batman could take the french out of Marion Cotillard.

Marion Cotillard could easily forsake French cinema. Since getting an Oscar for her tragic portrayal of Edith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie en Rose, she’s won over a string of powerful American directors, from Steven Soderbergh (Contagion) to Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris). Christopher Nolan, who cast her as Leonardo ­DiCaprio’s dream-invading dead wife in Inception, wanted her to be in The Dark Knight Rises so badly that he re­arranged the shooting schedule to accommodate the birth of Cotillard’s son, with actor-director Guillaume Canet.

So it’s notable that days after wrapping Dark Knight, she was on the beaches of Antibes, playing a double-­amputee killer-whale trainer (yes, a ­double-amputee killer-whale trainer) in Jacques Audiard’s très français drama Rust & Bone.

Cotillard’s Stéphanie is an orca handler at Marineland who loses her legs when a routine she’s conducting to Katy Perry’s “Firework” goes horribly wrong. Bitter and broken, she eventually finds renewal in a steamy affair with a semi-homeless bad dad and aspiring street fighter (sensitive brute Matthias Schoenaerts). She also eventually becomes his manager.

Because of Batman-related commitments, Cotillard had a scant few days to master hand-signal commands and build a relationship with her aquatic co-stars. “I mean, I gave them some fish, and when you give them some fish they will do whatever you want them to do, basically.” Yet she vows never to return to Marineland, out of discomfort with seeing animals in captivity.

She decided not to prepare for what happened after the accident. “Stéphanie doesn’t know how it will feel to have no legs,” she says, “so I learned with her.” That meant swimming in the strong currents of the Mediterranean using only her arms. For the many sex scenes, she just acted naturalistically and trusted Audiard to remove her legs in postproduction.

She’s telling me this from the southwest of France, where she’s come to indulge in “the simplicity of living” after doing so many movies that she felt “like I was a chain worker.” Most recently, she was in New York shooting a movie about two brothers (Billy Crudup and Clive Owen) fighting across the lines of organized crime in seventies-era Brooklyn. It’s the second time Cotillard has been directed by Canet, “my man,” following Little White Lies. She describes what she’s seeing: “The sun is going to bed, and it’s all pink now. We’re on a peninsula. On one side there is the ocean, and on the other the bay. We have our feet in the water. It smells of pine trees and oysters. I can see myself being wrinkled and old here … I’m in Heaven. Basically I’m calling you from Heaven.”

Rust & Bone
Directed by Jacques Audiard.
Sony Pictures Classics. Nov. 16.

Double Vision

Double Vision

from Vogue / by Tom Shone

Starring in Christopher Nolan’s superhero blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises and partner Guillaume Canet’s ensemble piece, Little White Lies, Marion Cotillard proves she’s that rare creature – a French siren with Hollywood appeal.

There are two Marion Cotillards. Talk to those who have worked with her and they will testify to her laserlike determination, her relentless drive in pursuit of a role – the four months of singing lessons she took to get her lip-synching exactly right for her Oscar-winning performance as Edith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie en Rose, or the nights she spent trawling Chicago’s strip clubs to research her role as Billie Frechette, the moll who steals Johnny Depp’s heart in 2009’s Public Enemies. “She’s totally immersed in what she’s doing,” says that film’s director, Michael Mann. He remembers the first time she came to his office: “No makeup, hair kind of messy. If I had put my hand over her eyes and said, ‘Marion, quickly, what are you wearing?’ I don’t think she could have told me. She’s just there. She dives in the deep end of the pool.”

Talk to her friends and they will give you a slightly different Cotillard: the free spirit and nature-lover who campaigns for Greenpeace; the gypsyish performer who plays bass and sings for the band Yodélice; the nomad-artise ho shuttles between New York and an apartment in Paris stuffed with hats and awards. *She’s kind of a bohemian in the best way,” says filmmaker James Gray. “She’ll leave a 25-minute message on your voice mail. Usually I hate that, but for some reason I love it with her. One time she left me this voice mail where she said, ‘I have to keep speaking because now I’m doing the dishes and my hands have all this soap on them and the phone is between my cheek and my shoulder, so I’m just going to talk to you until I can get the soap off…’ It was extremely funny. She’s just a character.”

The Marion Cotillard who turns up for a hike on Shawangunk Ridge in upstate New York – small and pretty in a North Face jacket, jeans, and hiking boots, with big eyes, flawless skin, and features that appear in permanent soft focus – seems a little bashful, or maybe it’s the forty wins she grabbed in the car. “I just woke up,” she says, blinking as she emerges in the late-morning light. Just over a year ago she gave birth to her son with French actor-director boyfriend Guillaume Canet. Now Marcel is almost walking but still keeping her up at nights.

“I haven’t slept in a year,” she says as we start our walk. A forest of chestnut oaks and pines stretches up to Lake Minnewaska, our eventual destination, cloaked in mist. “I basically quit. But I’m lucky, I can sleep anywhere – except maybe in a garbage bin. I can sleep on a chair. I can almost sleep standing.” (It turns out her assistant has an art project in progress consisting of photographs taken of the actress while asleep in various locations: open-mouthed in the back of cars, dozing off in a pile of coats, curled up against a wall.)

Those photographs speak volumes about the kind of “crazy, crazy” year Cotillard has had, starting with the birth of her son in May 2011 and quickly followed by three movies, shot back-to-back, in the course of which she learned how to heal broken superheroes for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, swim without the use of her legs for Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone, and speak Polish with a perfect Upper Silesian accent for Gray’s latest movie, still untitled.

Not that she didn’t take time off. Her Christmas vacation was a fifteen-day cooking marathon during which she prepared turkey, couscous, and chapon for various sittings of friends and family, plus seperate meals for little Marcel “because he only eats what I cook him,” she says. “I spent my vacation in the kitchen, and I loved it. The kitchen is one of the most important places in the house.”

Cotillard seems not just OK but entirely at ease when operating at full stretch like this. “I’ve never been more exhausted,” she tells me. “But I’ve never had so much energy. This is the paradox of being happy. That’s where it comes from.”

She flashes an infectious full-beam smile from under the hood of her jacket and pushes deeper into the forest.

It says a lot about how much Hollywood wants Marion Cotillard that when she called up the director of this year’s biggest summer blockbuster to tell him she would be due to give birth at the same time that shooting started, he was willing to rearrange his $250 million production schedule around her hospital dates. “I said, ‘Well, let’s put the dates on the table and see if we can’t figure it out,'” says Christopher Nolan, who, after working with the actress on the 2010 mind-bender Inception, badly wanted Cotillard for the role of Miranda Tate, the ecologically driven businesswoman who draws a grief-stricken Batman out of his Batcave in The Dark Knight Rises. “She’s perfect because she has this terrific warmth,” he says. So he shunted most of her scenes back a month and made room on set for Canet, Cotillard’s mother, and a nanny. “It was really down to her and how soon she was going to come back to work,” says Nolan. “It was amazing to see. She gave birth and was back on set almost immediately. She’s Superwoman.”

It also tells you a lot about how much Cotillard wants Hollywood tha she made it work. The third French actress, afte Claudette Colbert and Simone Signoret, to win a Best Actress Oscar, Cotillard is the first to have an American career as vibrant as her French one, an achievement that has escaped even Isabelle Adjani and Juliette Binoche. In part, this is generational. Cotillard came of age in the globalized nineties. Her childhood was spent watching American films. Her boyfriend, Canet, is part of the wave of audience-friendly French cinema that is currently pushing westward like a warm front. Out this month is their latest film together, Little White Lies, a Big Chill-style movie that he directed, about friends on a rosé-soaked vacation in Cap Ferret, that took the French box office by storm in 2010. Also featuring Jean Dujardin and François Cluzet, it stars Cotillard as Marie, a footloose bohemian who leaves confusion, both male and female, in her wake as she tries to unknot her heart.

Cotillard always watches her films, to look for adjustments she can make, but watching this one was “incredibly uncomfortable,” she says, because “it was the closest to who I am.” She goes on, “The problem is that Marie is very, very uncomfortable in her life, even though she hides it. On the outside she’s very free, she’s happy and a good friend, she loves life, she has an amazing job. But inside it’s a disaster; she’s totally lonely, she’s totally lost.” When she watched the film, it all came flooding back: the crippling shyness of her teenage years, until she discovered acting as a way of communication with people; then the more unbridled hedonism of her 20s, as she tried to figure out who she was in the hall of mirrors that is young romance.

“I used to be like that for sure,” she says, but now, at 36, “I’m much more connected to myself than I used to be.” At least one clue to the source of this contentment is provided when she stops in front of a large pitch pine that appears to have grown right through a giant boulder, its roots encircling it, like fingers around a stone. “There is a tree just like this on the corner of Twenty-second Street. It looks like it just melted through the railings. We go past it every days on the way to the park, and every time my son stops to touch it. Like this. He loves trees. I remember the first time I took him to Central Park, he went crazy. He screamed with joy for half an hour with all the trees around him. He wants to touch the trunks, he wants to eat the leaves. He’s at the age where he wants to eat everything.”

“My little Zen Master” is what she calls Marcel. She recently bought him a child’s guitar, which they play together; she picks out the chords while he strums. The other day he hummed his first tune. “Penélope Cruz told me that childbirth is like a revolution,” she says as we resume our path beneath a dense canopy of trees. “It’s totally a revolution. Everything everybody says about it is actually true. Suddenly everything makes sense.”

The more time that you spend with Cotillard, the more you realize that the two Marions are in fact two sides of the same coin. The same energy that propels her to spend four months perfecting an accent is the same thing that drives her to produce three Christmas dinners for her family. Whatever is in front of her commands her undivided attention, her eyes filling with wonder. She speaks in a soft, certain voice that seems unbothered by the task of persuasion or argument – it’s just for her. And it is this exact quality, a mixture of fine-anntennae receptivity to her immediate environment and straight, plumb-line anchorage to something deep inside of her, that makes her so riveting to watch on-screen. There’s a scene in the 2009 musical Nine in which Daniel Day-Lewis tends to Cotillard’s hair for a screen test and then disappears out of frame, leaving Cotillard alone in front of the movie camera, and the flicker of emotion on her face – like sunlight disappearing behind clouds – tells you two things: (1) that she loves him, and (2) that she will have her heart broken by him. Two entirely contrary emotions, at the same time, all without saying a word.

“Marion can mine something that most actresses can’t these days – that quiet vulnerability, that quiet truth,” says director Rob Marshall. “She really has almost see-through skin. You feel what she’s feeling. It’s those big, beautiful eyes; they’re so hypnotic. There’s truth in them. That comes not just from craft but who she is.” She was, he says, the first to audition for the part of Day-Lewis’s wife in Nine, right in the middle of all the hoopla for La Vie en Rose: endless interviews, Oscar speculation, flights back and forth from Paris. Someone asked if she wanted a glass of water. “I said something like, ‘This must be really difficult for you,'” remembers Marshall. “She said, ‘Are you kidding? Do you know how lucky I am that I can sit here and have someone fetch me a glass of water? Nobody try and tell me I have a hard life; I know what a hard life is.’ She comes from the Life Is Too Short school, no question.”

In the tower block in suburban Paris where Cotillard grew up, the elevators would often break down. She remembers having to trudge the eighteen flights of staris up to her family’s apartment with her two younger brothers, avoiding the discarded heroin needles as they went. “We were not poor, but we were not wealthy,” she says. Her mother Monique Theillaud, was an actress and her father, Jean-Claude, a mime. Their teater friends used to fascinate the young Cotillard. “All my friends, their parents had jobs that were very repetitive – they would do every day the same thing. But my parents’ friends would go to a little town in France, the next day they would be in Peru, the next day they could be in Hong Kong. They were artists. They had freedom.”

Her head was filled with American movies. She and her brothers would sit glued to videotapes of Poltergeist, The Exorcist, and Jaws, but also the films of Judy Garland, the Marx Brothers, and Charlie Chaplin. She would replay Singin’ in the Rain “over and over, trying to lear the songs, the choreography.” Later, when they moved to the region of La Beauce, near Orléans, and her father found success as a director with his own theater company, Cotillard woud enroll at the Conservatoire d’Art Dramatique, but her most important teacher was always her father. “He was, still is, a teacher of mime and expression corporelle – bodily expression. The body was something very important from the beginning. I’m one of the biggest fans of comedy, especially ‘dumb movies,’ as we call them in Franc. Will Ferrell is my hero: I would put Step Brothers in my top ten. Jonah Hill, I want to marry you!”

Everything that would make her a global star was there from the beginning: the love affair with Hollywood; the discipline; the physicality; the intensity of the teacher-pupil relationship with her father, which Cotillard has essentially replicated with her directors. “The first person for me in a movie, the person I will give everything to, is the director,” she says. “If I work with someone I don’t respect, or I don’t like, then I am very, very bad. The director is everything.”

To a large extent her career as depended on her ability to play muse to the world’s foremost directors: Along with Mann and Nolan, there’s Woody Allen, Steven Soderbergh, Tim Burton. “I found myself looking at Marion at dinner, watching her, thinking of what I could do with her,” says James Gray, who wrote his forthcoming film as a vehicle for the actress. She plays a Polish immigrant at sea in 1920s New York who first falls under the spell of a shady, Fagin-like figure played by Joaquin Phoenix and then finds a potential white knight in the form of a magician played by Jeremy Renner. A surprising number of her roles have been tailor-make for her this way, including those in La Vie en Rose and The Dark Knight Rises. “The word challenging is thrown around as some kind of pejorative to mean an actor who’s difficult,” says Nolan. “But Marion is challenging in the true sense of the word. She’s so good you don’t want to waste that talent. You want to hold up your end.”

“Oh, wow,” says Cotillard as we reach the summit of our hike: the top of Shawangunk Ridge, 2,000 feet above sea leel, Lake Minnewaska stretching out below us. We are standing on one of the oldest rock faces in North America. Cotillard kneels down and touches the rock with her hand. “I went to Machu Picchu for my birthday,” she says. “And there’s this sacred stone that is supposed to be very powerful. I went there with my best friend very early in the morning. You have to put your hand, not on the stone but close enough to feel it.” She raises her hand an inch above the rock. “It’s one of the strongest things I’ve ever felt. We stayed there for an hour.”

On the walk back down, I ask her whether she’s ever felt that connected to a role and she responds immediately: Piaf. “I was in a very, very special state the whole shoot and even after,” she says, describing an immersion so great that it affected her relationship at the time, with French directror Stéphan Guérin-Tillié. “I was not inside my life, so I couldn’t entirely be with my boyfriend,” she says. “My friends, they understood, but a boyfriend is different. And it really affected the relationship.”

Figuring out how to combine her pedal-to-metal devotion to her work with romantic happiness has taken time. She and Canet were friends before appearing together in the 2003 French romantic drama Love Me If You Dare. He was married to Diane Kruger at the time, but after their divorce in 2006, he and Cotillard started dating, much to the joy of the Parisian press, which reports on their every kiss and hand-squeeze with an ardor befitting their status as French cinema’s leading couple – a kind of Gallic Brangelina.

“Don’t make me talk about him,” pleads Cotillard when I bring up Canet, as we are walking beneath the shade of some pine trees. But there is a squeak of excitement in her voice, and when I ask her what made her feel ready for motherhood, she answers in that calm, unshakable way of hers, “Love tells you that you’re ready. The right person tells you that you’re ready.”

Two weeks later, at lunch at Manhattan’s NoMad Hotel, Cotillard is in a more expansive mood. Recently returned from Cannes, where she braved a couple of red carpets (“Why I don’t know, it was hooorrrr-ibble,” she says, drawing out the words like a spilled drink), she is wearing a summery, candy-striped House of Holland dress. She apologizes for being a little late: First she had to drop Marcel off at the park with friends – “He would not be carried” – and before that an Italian lesson for her role in Canet’s new film, the 1970s Brooklyn crime drama Blood Ties. “He is one of the best directors I have ever worked with,” says Cotillard, “and I am not just saying that because I am madly in love with him and because he is the father of my child.”

She orders a bone-marrow-crusted fillet of beef with parsnips and some herbal tea. “I wanted to learn Italian for Nine,” she says, “but I didn’t have any words besides ‘buon giorno.’ This time I have lines in Italian. So I work every day.” She still gets the bite of anxietey in her stomach that tells her she is going to fall flat on her face in a role: “Most of the time, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it,” she says, pausing. “At the same time, there is a part of me that knows I can.” These days, acting is less a sublimation of self, and more like traveling in a foreign country: “You are still yourself, but you can discover something about yourself that you didn’t know. I’ve always been fascinated by people who discover the world. One of my dreams would be to take a year when my son is older and go around the world with my family. I hope I’ll do it.”

Her next project is with director Asghar Farhadi, who won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for A Separation. But first, some Breton cake. “My country!” she says when she spots it on the dessert cart. And afterward: an afternoon with friends. “I need to rest. I really do need it. I shot three movies in a year, that’s crazy. With a baby. That is too much.” She spoons some Breton cake into her mouth. “But all the things I did were irresistible.”

She's Happy

from Elle (South Africa) / by Anne Diatkine

Marion Cotillard shines in an unusual new cinematic love story – and in a life filled with a calm contentment

A fresh breeze blows through the streets of New York. Hats are bought and blown away, scarves are tied and sweaters layered to perfection as we drive through Broadway in Manhattan to meet Oscar-winning actress [as Edith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie en Rose], Marion Cotillard.

The famous actress is barely visible behind the small crowd fussing around her in the makeshift make-up room, walked off by a rail of Dior dresses, of course. ‘No, no, no,’ sings Amy Winehouse. I wait with a copy of Craig Davidson’s Rust and Bone on my lap. Some of the short stories in this book served as the guiding principle for Jacques Audiard’s new work that was a strong contended for the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year and is one of the year’s most moving and absorbing love stories.

In Rust and Bone Marion stars opposite the exceptional Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, and plays a woman who lost her legs but remains sensual and in touch with her emotions, even though she’s wheelchair-bound. The role is also in stark contrast with that of Piaf: the actress’s skin is nude, her face is as bare as possible… in other words, we see her.

The success of her performance as Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, further ties in Marion’s ability not toportray her character as a victim. Playing an ordinary beauty in the beginning, sh increasingly shines as the story develops.

Back in the studio we are interrupted when the most beautifuly baby in the world makes his way towards his mother’s arms. Everyone drops their books, cellphones, pens, laptops and Marion stands up to dance with her boy. He laughs. He’s adorable and this is a role in which Marion does not have to act; she is truly herself, deeply fascinated by her one-ear-old (with director Guillaume Canet), Marcel. ‘He has inparted me with his peacefulness,’ she says. ‘Whith him, I am finally calm and happy.’

Pierre Perret, the French cabaret maestro, takes over from Amy Winhouse with his hit La Cage Aux Oiseaux as the shoot gets underway. ‘If you see some little birds imprisoned in cages, open the door and let them be free,’ he sings, a line that is very apt when it comes to Marion. For the shoot she is dressed in skinny jeans, stilettos and a fuchsia blouse but in real life, Marion, despite being at home on the red carpet and despite having several big awards to her name – in addition to her Oscar she has received a BAFTA, César (the French Oscars) and a Golden Globe – is more at home in something more comfortable, ballerina shoes and no make-up.

ELLE: What does Stephanie, your character in Rust and Bone, represent?
MC: She’s a woman who has allowed herself to become hard, dealing with her situation alone; until an unexpected encounter helps her to discover, and reveal, her emotions. At the beginning of the film, she has surrounded herself with boundaries but then she meets the unsophisticated Ali. At first glance he is not made for her, but they prove to be the perfect match for each other. Ultimately, the film is about the strength of love.

ELLE: Some of your costars in the film, are killer whales. What was it like working with them?
MD: Their power is incredible. However, playing the role of their trainer was difficult, since I do not tolerate the practice of keeping animals in captivity. I never to to a zoo or visit an aquarium. Although I knew that I’d be working with them and that I would have to face up to it, I did have to go against my beliefs in the beginning.

ELLE: was it very difficult for you then?
MC: We had very little time to practice before we began shooting. I had just finished shooting an American movie and was completely jet-lagged and in a fragile state of mind, so I was afraid that I would not meet expectations. I arrived at the shoot at Marineland right on show-time. Seeing these creatures being so disciplined and performing made me burst into tears. As Katia, their trainer, turned to me, I could not refrain from telling her how horrifying I found the animal’s immprisonement.

ELLE: Have you changed your opinion?
MC: My main concern was that Katia might think that I was disrespecting her job. By the time we finished filming we had become good friends although we both recently admitted that, looking back at the first day, neither of us thought it would happen.

ELLE: Stephanie loses her legs in the film. How did you go about playing a disabled woman?
MC: First of all, I couldn’t move. That helped! But the absence of limbs is not only physical. Before the accident, Stephanie was going through a stage where she was not conscious of much. The accident enables her to love, to be admired and to generate desire, something that touches her deeply and profoundly. To have or not to have a pair of legs at that point becomes almost anecdotal.

ELLE: In one of her books the novelist Olivia Rosenthal asked various people which movie changed their lives. What yould you have said?
MC: Beyond Rangoon, directed by John Boorman, that deals with the Burnese democratic movement led by pacifist Aung San Suu Jyi and the country’s fate. I watched it when it was first released back in 1995 and it made me understand that we who live in a democracy don’t have the right not to inform and educate ourselves. To ignore the facts when one has all the means of getting information is like supporting a dictatorship. That was when I began to read newspapers daily.

ELLE: You recently filmed Low Life, in which you play a Polish prostitute, whith director James Gray in New York. You are also about to act in [your partner] Guillaume Canet’s next movie, Blood Ties, which is also set in New York. Would you like to settle in the city with Guillaume and Marcel?
MC: I love the city; it has been of extreme importance in my professional life. It is there that I filmed [the 2010 hit musical] Nine, it is there that I started my race to the Oscars and it is also where I came when I was younger to learn English. But I have no doubts whatsoever: I [would] miss France.

ELLE: Is it ture that by speaking a foreign language you feel more free?
MC: Yes, in a way I feel more free to express myself. I am much more straightforward because my vocabulary is more limited. Oddly, some castings do not stress me out if they are in English. While I am still scared of French television, being interviewed in English by an American channel is almost amusing.

ELLE: Do you read on set?
MC: No, unfortunately I can’t concentrate on any other history but my own. But at night, in my hotel room, I do read. I always read more than one book at a time. Right now, I am busy with No Et Moi (No and Me) by [best-selling French novelist] Delphine de Vigan and a book on meditation. And Christian Dior’s biography. Beyond the pride that comes with working for this fashion house, I have discovered a man who stands out for his incredible kindness.

ELLE: Do you practice meditation?
MC: I would love to, but I haven’t managed to start just yet. Even yoga bores me.

ELLE: So is there a form of exercise that does not bore you?
MC: Ballet. It is the most playful type of movement and for someone like me, who has an aversion to talking, it represents a delightful form of communication.

'I've Finally Made Peace With Myself'

from Marie Claire (UK) / by Harvey Marcus

Overcoming a childhood racked with insecurities, Marion Cotillard has grown into one of the most celebrated actresses on the planet. What changed? She fell in love

Without mentioning names, there are certain actresses whose success only serves to prompt more questions about how they actually came about their stardom. During interviews they’ll explain away their careers by vacantly punching at familiar pre-programmed settings marked ‘precocious’ and ‘outsider’, through to ‘deep’ (as in, there’s always been something deep inside of me), before finally landing at ‘lucky break’. By the end, you may not be any the wiser but, if nothing else, you are left with a greater understanding as to why, given the fragile foundations underpining their fame, so many actresses self-implode when the spotlight begins to dim.

Not so Marion Cotillard. She’ll tell you how, as a child, she inhabited ‘her own world and was not very happy’. That for much of her life she’s been involved in a search to explain away those feelings. That when she acts she tries ‘to create a way of talking, laughing and crying – a body language that is not mine’. The result of this introspection and experiment is there for all to see in the performances she gives to camera. For Mario, acting seems less a calling and more a necessity. Her star has not arrived by chance.

We’re sitting in a spartan New York office space, post-Marie Claire shoot. It’s unseasonably chilly for the start of the summer so Marion, hair pulled back and stripped of make-up, wears jeans and a navy sweater adorned with a cute sailing boat motif. An exquisitely fashioned marionette, not quite free of her strings, she’s 36 now but you imagine her appearance – pretty, boyish – has changed little since she was young, growing up in a tower block on the outskirts of Paris, and later in a village outside Orléans. It feels like she’s been around for ever, but it’s still just over four years since she ran up on stage at the Kodak Theatre to claim Best Actress for La Vie en Rose, only the second time the Oscar – the first went to Sophia Loren – has been awarded for a non-English speaking role. Back then she yelled to the world, ‘Thank you life, thank you love,’ in broken English, charming the auditorium and many a studio exec.

Today her English, occasionally stilted yet fluent, has an accent that sits somewhere between West Hollywood and the Parisian home she shares with her partner, the acclaimed French actor and director Guillaume Canet, and their one-year-old son, Marcel.

Until La Vie en Rose, her CV promised much – she would argue that A Very Long Engagement, alongside Audrey Tautou, was her first true breakthrough role – but it was her portrayal of the legendary chanteuse Edith Piaf that mesmerised audiences. It was also the first time the world came to hear of the extraordinary lengths the actress was willing to go to in order to do justice to the characters she takes on.

Her performance in La Vie en Rose, went beyond the cosmetic. Having mastered Piaf’s raspy voice, developed a stoop, then shaved her hairline and eyebrows, Marion’s performance was so all-consuming that it’s almost become cinematic folklore that, months after filming, she still found it hard to rid herself of the French icon’s tortured personality and mannerisms.

While she acknowledges the debt she owes to La Vie en Rose for transforming her career, she’s quick to dismiss any postulation on my part that the insecurities and demons she so successfully channeled belonged as much to her as the did Piaf. ‘I never really tried to identify relations between her and me. If there are some similarities it’s okay, but most of the time I try to create someone who is really not me.’ A truer reflection of her own character, she says, can be found in a small and much-underrated French film that enjoyed limited release last year. Penned and directed by Canet, Little White Lies features an ensemble cast of France’s finest acting talent, including The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin, and centres around the unspoken truths and concealed feelings of a group of seemingly carefree Parisian friends who, each year, migrate to a beach house for a summer vacation. ‘It’s very hard for me to see this movie because for most of it, it is me,’ she says of her character Marie, a young thirtysomething whose blithe insouciance belies the worries of a woman who is no longer a girl.

‘She is not comfortable in her life. On the surface she’s got a great bunch of friends but inside she is very insecure – so I see myself on the big screen. It was unbearable and I couldn’t watch it.’ Marion breaks into a smile, eager to place on record that not everything in the film is her, assuring me that, unlike Marie, ‘I’ve never slept with the entire city like she does – boys, girls. I mean, I had my experiences but not like, “Whoo hoo! Party! Sex time!”‘ Then, thinking back: ‘No, it was so weird. It was like, “Oh my god, this is me. That’s what I feel.” And you don’t want to see yourself [feeling genuinely] uncomfortable. It was kind of hard.’

That awkwardness with the world, those insecurities, have been a part of Marion’s life since she can remember. Growing up, her actor parents, Jean-Claude and Niseema, supplemented their income with teaching jobs. Together with her younger twin brothers, Quentin and Guillaume, she enjoyed a liberal upbringing in which children were encouraged to express themselves. The way she describes it, their tower block, being surrounded by actors, was a little piece of bohemia of their very own, full of theatre and art and parties – almost idyllic. Like sharing a house with a hundred people, as she puts it. Yet still, Marion couldn’t shrug off this sense of isolation and loneliness.

‘I had my own world and it wasn’t very happy,’ she recalls. ‘I was not a very sociable kid. That was my personality. I didn’t really know what to do with myself when I was young.’ As young as pre-school, she underlines, maybe since she was four years old. ‘Part of myself was happy and part of myself was so dark. For me relationships between people were very hard to get. I know a lot of people were jealous of my family because we had so much freedom. Our apartment was a space of creativity. We were allowed to draw on every wall of the house. I was confronted by jealousy very, very early on, and when you’re a kid it’s hard to be different. I was very sensitive.’ As a consequence, Marion would retreat into her own world. ‘A private world,’ she reiterates.

Those dark shadows have pursued her throughout much of her life; only in recent years has she been able to find some kind of accord with the anxieties she’s harboured. ‘I’ve finally made peace with myself,’ she reveals. ‘I’ve met amazing people who gave me the keys to make peace with myself.’

The catalyst for change almost certainly came in form of Guillaume Canet, one of the leading lights of French cinema who enjoyes heart-throb status in his homeland. Their friendship dates back to 2003, when they worked together on the film Love Me If You Dare, but it wasn’t until 2007, a year after Canet divorced actress Diane Kruger, that the couple got together. Their son, Marcel, celebrated his first birthday days before our interview and, accompanied by Marion’s mother, makes a visit to today’s shoot – a little billingual dynamo with the chicest of grandmothers.

Marion is typically guarded about her private life but can’t help revealing the positive effect Canet has had on her life and the depth of feeling they shere. When, while attempting to tease out the inner workings of her mind, I enquire whether she has ever had an out-of-body experience, she replies: ‘Not really,’ before correcting herself. ‘Halfway. Well, I think that when you’re in the state of extreme love you can travel with more than your body.’

Then there’s one of the books that changed her life: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – a new-age self-help text based on ancient Toltec philosophies (a precursor of the Aztec culture, based in Mexico), which found fame after being featured on The Oprah Show. The four agreements are: Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. Marion confides how it has become central to her own way of thinking, before confiding: ‘My boyfriend gave me that book four years ago.’

Those past four years have coincided with the most productive period in the actress’s career. The Oscar effect has seen her star in films ranging from Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio to Public Enemies alongside Johnny Depp. This month she takes on one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises with the latest Batman movie release, The Dark Knight Rises, the details of which remain a closey guarded secret: ‘The superhero I’ve always been most obsessed with,’ is all she’ll say. Her schedule can only be described as hectic. A few days before we meet, she was in Cannes for the premiere of Rust and Bone, a French movie already touted as Oscar material. From there Marion flew back to New York, where she and Canet are currently shooting Blood Ties (he directs, she stars along with Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana and Clive Owen). ‘Working with the man you live with? she jokes later. ‘One day I’ll write a book!’ And I’ve not even mentioned her side project as occasional member of the French rock outfit Yodelice, making sporadic guest appearances in the guise of her alter ego, Simone.

It’s evident that, for Marin, work has therapeutic benefits, allowing her to explore psychological depths she might otherwise prefer to steer clear of. While warm and charming during the interview, and quick with humour – when asked whether she’s ever considered directing she responds, ‘Maybe in a few years, but by then I’ll have 35 kids of my own!’ – she thinks long and hard before delivering her answers. It’s a habit undoubtedly exaggerated by her endeavours to master a foreign language but is also a reflection of her desire to decipher her own thoughts. You get the sense those big existential questions about why we we are here and what we are doing are a constant torment, that her search for contentment is an ongoing project.

Marion’s hero is the late Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, who became the first African woman recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She’s also an active and passionate supporter of Greenpeace.

When I enquire if she’s surprised at the power and responsibility of celebrity, it’s apparent this isn’t the first time she’s examined a subject that has transparently been the cause of much soul-searching. ‘Lately,’ she says, ‘I’ve thought a lot about whether it really changes something if I speak for a cause or an organisation. Does it help? Is it worth it? Wangari Maathai, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mandela – they change things. But actors and celebrities, I don’t know. Maybe…’ Then, arguing with herself: ‘Maybe it’s because I don’t give enough time to people I support. Sometimes I feel like I should choose between the life I have and supporting a cause that needs all the time we have.’

I wonder what would have become of Marion Cotillard had she not succeeded in becoming the actress she is today. ‘If it never happened?’ she replies. ‘Wow! I would have been…’ And her voice falls silent. There’s a lenghty pause, part of her lost in the unthinkable. ‘I don’t know,’ she says eventually. ‘I believe that you are where you should be and I believe that things that happen to you happen for a reason. So if it had never happened it would have been because I was meant to do something else.’

The Dark Knight Rises opens in cinemas nationwide on 20 July

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