Category: English Press

Marion Cotillard pushes boundaries as actress, crosses them as a star

Marion Cotillard pushes boundaries as actress, crosses them as a star

French-born Marion Cotillard has staked out an enviable international career, with a leading lady’s glamour and the versatility of a character actress. Following her breakthrough, Oscar-winning performance in “La Vie en Rose,” she has appeared in art house favorites such as “Rust and Bone” and “Midnight in Paris” along with popular successes such as “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”.

In James Gray’s “The Immigrant,” opening Friday, she turns in a performance of deep emotional force as Ewa Cybulski, who arrives from Poland to New York in 1921. Desperate to get her quarantined sister off Ellis Island, Ewa finds herself trapped in a world of prostitution and promises, torn between Joaquin Phoenix’s unpredictable hustler Bruno and Jeremy Renner’s charming magician Orlando. She will also soon be seen in “Two Days, One Night,” premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, and opposite Michael Fassbender in an adaptation of “Macbeth.”

James Gray tells a story of the two of you meeting for the first time at a dinner, disagreeing about another actor and you throwing something at him. Do you remember it like that?

Oh, yeah. First of all, I have to say I never play with food. But there was nothing I could say that would be strong enough to make him change his mind. So I just lost it. So I threw bread at his face.

He has a really infectious energy, and a pretty straightforward conversation with him can get really spirited — I’m trying to say it wasn’t your fault.

It was not my fault. His opinion is unacceptable about this actor we were talking about. I cannot even give his name because it would be too awkward for James that people would know what he thinks about this amazing actor. But James has this very contagious energy. He’s passionate about what he does, what he talks about, what he thinks, everything. He has this energy that you can really feel. And I think that is part of why he’s an amazing director.

“The Immigrant” is deeply moving, at times almost unbearably sad.

Well, it’s sad, but at the same time there is a light inside each of the characters, even the darkest character has a light inside of him. If Bruno doesn’t see the light inside of himself, Ewa has the ability to see the good inside of people. And so I didn’t see it as a sad movie. It’s an intense story, and what Ewa goes through is sometimes sad but also very powerful. And I love the fact that her sister’s life is more important than anything, and it gives her the energy and the strength to do what she does.

Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner seem like two very different types of actor. Was it a challenge to work with them?

We had two weeks of rehearsal, which was amazing to get to know Joaquin, first of all, and enter this very special relationship he has with James. I was very welcome in this old couple system. And that was very interesting, working with Joaquin and James. And Jeremy arrived when we had already started shooting, and he really arrived in the process of the movie as his character arrives in the story. It kind of made sense, and the different energy of him as an actor arriving in the project as Orlando arrives in the story was kind of inspired.

Ever since the film first premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, people have tried to connect “The Immigrant” somehow to the contemporary debates over immigration policy, which is a big issue both in America and in France. Do you see some connection?

Now it’s really different, and it’s really hard to compare, even if it’s the same process of people trying to escape their situation to have a better life for them and their families. But you know, America was the land of hope, and I think it still is.

Working on bigger commercial films and also smaller productions, do you see yourself as having a career in France and a separate international career, or is it all one thing?

To me it’s one thing. And I feel really lucky to live my dream. My dream when I was a kid who wanted to be an actress was to explore, jump from one world to another and be totally different each time. I was a big fan of Peter Sellers and Sir Laurence Olivier and to me that was acting, being different in each movie, and sometimes people wouldn’t even recognize you.

You’re going to be returning to Cannes this year in “Two Days, One Night,” directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, who have won many prizes there.

That was one of my best experiences. They offered me everything I had always wanted in a relationship between an actress and a director — well, two directors in that case. They work a lot, and I love to work a lot. Their level of demand is the highest I’ve ever encountered in my career, and that’s what I’m looking for. They pushed me as far as I could go and maybe beyond. I would have done anything they asked me.

And then, of course, there was your cameo role in “Anchorman 2.” You’re a very serious actress; how did that happen?

I’m a big fan of America comedies, especially Will Ferrell and all his team. And they have known that I was a fan, so they asked me if I would be a part of it, and of course I said yes right away. But I never question how people could see me. And I don’t see myself as a very serious person. In terms of my work, I love to work hard, but I’m not an intellectual person. I can be, but I’m not only that.

Marion Cotillard Flirts With the Dark Side

Marion Cotillard Flirts With the Dark Side

The French actress on her role choices, learning Polish and love scenes with Johnny Depp.

In “The Immigrant,” a drama set in 1921, French actress Marion Cotillard plays a Polish woman who lands at Ellis Island, then immediately falls into a dangerous limbo of indigence and prostitution.

It’s a characteristically intense role for the 38-year-old actress, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the gifted but doomed singer Edith Piaf in 2007’s “La Vie en Rose.” That film accelerated a career already humming in France, and the newly minted Hollywood star didn’t retreat from the wounded characters that were her specialty. In the Batman blockbuster “The Dark Knight Rises,” she played a villain hiding in plain sight. In “Rust and Bone,” her character lost her legs to a killer whale she trained. In last year’s “Blood Ties,” directed by her boyfriend, Guillaume Canet, her character sells her body to keep her family afloat. Releases on the way include Australian director Justin Kurzel’s “Macbeth” (as the famously tormented wife of Michael Fassbender’s tragic hero). In the French “Two Days, One Night,” competing at the Cannes Film Festival this month and directed by brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Ms. Cotillard plays a worker who has a weekend to convince colleagues to forego bonuses so she can keep her job.

Set for release May 16, “The Immigrant” was directed and co-written by James Gray, who has worked with Ms. Cotillard’s co-star, Joaquin Phoenix, on several films. Here he plays Bruno, a New Yorker who swoops in on Ms. Cotillard’s Ewa after her sister is quarantined on Ellis Island. Jeremy Renner stars as a magician and potential ally to Ewa. In a recent interview in lower Manhattan, not far from where the period drama is set, Ms. Cotillard sat in a chair with her bare feet tucked under her. The pair of high heels next to her matched her navy blue dress. She discussed heavy characters, learning Polish and love scenes. Edited from an interview:

Even though she’s educated and speaks English, your character, Ewa, is reduced to nothing when she arrives in the U.S.

She didn’t have to use English when she was in Poland in order to survive, as she does in New York. The way you express yourself in a language that is not yours makes you different. That was a thing that I could relate to. When you don’t have the freedom to express yourself with all the words and the subtleties of the language, you don’t feel the same. I remember when I first came [to the U.S.] and I started to work, I felt sometimes like a little girl because I didn’t know to express myself exactly as I wanted to.

You only had about a month to learn your Polish dialogue?

Two months. First of all, I never have enough time when I work on a language or an accent. But when you know you don’t have enough time, you stop thinking. You just work as much as you can, and that is okay when you have to shoot the scene.

After preparing on your own for a role, how do you adjust to another actor, such as Joaquin Phoenix, who has prepared for the same production in his own way?

Even though we didn’t have enough time, because it was a very low budget, we had the chance to rehearse for two weeks. And Joaquin needs to understand everything, deeply, so he needs to talk a lot.

What did you talk about?

They are very complex characters, the three of them, including Jeremy Renner’s character. She has the ability to see good things in each person, even the darkest person, like Bruno. He’s making those women do things that they might not want to do, so he is evil. But at the same time he respects those women in his own way, and he loves them. They need each other more than they think. That’s what we talked about, their relationship. Because they don’t talk that much to each other. They don’t have a big scene where they open their hearts. At a certain point in the movie, it’s almost like an old couple, who have never really spoken and will never really speak. They just need each other, and they start to respect each other.

There’s a deep pain in many of the characters you play. Is that what draws you to those roles?

It’s not a conscious decision, but I have done a lot of painful characters. I love when you can explore the bright and the dark side at the same time. And I think it’s where I can understand the human soul.

Why did you wince when I asked that question?

Lately, all the characters I have lived with were heavy. When I decided to do Lady Macbeth, for example, my boyfriend laughed at me. He was like, “God, how far do you want to go into pain?” I don’t really know. Each role I take, I feel it was meant to be. The Dardenne brothers’ movie made sense, because I’d had a deep questioning about a similar subject: In France, there was a company where people started to kill themselves, and one of them left a letter about feeling useless.

In your last two films you play a prostitute.

It’s about how a woman survives in a tough world when she has to survive for someone else. In “The Immigrant,” her sister is more important than her. In “Blood Ties,” she uses her body to feed her kids. That’s what’s left when there is nothing left.

Did you talk to James Gray about how those scenes would be shot and how far they would go?

That was clear in the script. What she goes through in terms of humiliation, you can see it without seeing flesh. It would have been too much. We have a word for that in French: “miserablisme.” Sometimes you don’t need to push the horror too far to feel it.

Is a disturbing sex scene harder to shoot than a romantic sex scene?

It depends. I was always so reluctant to shoot love scenes. On those days, I’m not very friendly. I want it to be done and then start the movie again. But in “Rust and Bone,” we had very naked love scenes, and it was totally different. I was very happy. Not because [co-star] Matthias Schoenaerts is superhot, absolutely not, because I had experience with Johnny Depp before [in 2009’s “Public Enemies”] and it was also really hard for me. I was just very happy for my character. The whole day I was naked on set and I was totally fine with it.

Does the exploration of the soul sometimes feel at odds being on the cover of magazines that describe you with phrases like “classic Hollywood beauty”?

It’s part of the job and now I find pleasure in doing it. You have to find your comfort zone in a world that is not acting, but is still part of acting.

“The Immigrant” is apparently the first period film to be shot on Ellis Island. Was it your first visit?

Yes. We spent I think three nights there. It was very special because a lot of people in the extras and on the film crew had stories to share about their family members who went through. There are gigantic pictures on the walls of people, immigrants trying to look their best, and with this fear and hope in their eyes. I had family members come here later, but through San Francisco.

You mentioned the movie’s tight budget. Did you ever look around on set and wonder if it would feel real on screen?

No. The question I have in mind is how can we shoot everything in a short amount of time. Which is impossible. We worked crazy hours. I didn’t sleep for two months. One day on set I felt something was wrong with James, and he said, “I won’t be able to make this scene in my mind a reality because I don’t have time to shoot it the right way.” I didn’t like that. On the last movie I did, “Macbeth,” the first question I asked the director was, “How will you shoot a period movie, with battles, in eight weeks?” This is insane. He had to cut scenes out.

Do you feel like you’re maintaining two careers at once, one in France and one in the U.S.?

The question is not about doing movies in two different places, the question is doing movies with different directors. There’s as much difference between the Dardenne brothers and Jacques Audiard as Woody Allen and Michael Mann.

Marion Cotillard

Marion Cotillard

In some ways Marion Cotillard seems like a movie star out of another era, as sultry and soft-lit as a 1940s George Hurrell portrait. Maybe that’s because—at least for American audiences—she appeared fully formed in her wrenching and accomplished performance as Edith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie en Rose (for which she won an Academy Award). She arrived, in other words, not as Girl No. 1 or even Cute Female Lead, but as a fully fledged artist and star. In her increasingly varied and ambitious roles since Piaf, Cotillard has maintained that elegant allure. The characters she inhabits are adults, very often haunted by the lives they’ve lived (as the crippled whale trainer in 2012’s Rust and Bone and the gangster moll in 2009’s Public Enemies), or even by lives merely imagined (as with her tragic dreamer in 2011’s Midnight in Paris, or the purgatory-bound wraith in 2010’s Inception). Often, Cotillard’s ability to open up wounds can be almost unbearable to watch.

Fitting, then, that the 38-year-old Parisian actress should attempt literature’s most haunted heroine, Lady Macbeth, in a forthcoming Justin Kurzel-directed film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Scottish Play. Moreover, in both of her movies arriving this spring, Cotillard plays prostitutes (it’s actually the third time in a year she’s taken on the world’s oldest profession if you count her role in the music video for David Bowie’s “The Next Day”). In James Gray’s The Immigrant, out this month, Cotillard steps off a boat from Poland into 1921 New York, where she is immediately forced into the sex trade by Joaquin Phoenix’s cruelty incarnate; and in Blood Ties, opening next month, a ’70s crime saga co-written by Gray and directed by Cotillard’s boyfriend, Guillaume Canet, Cotillard plays an addict who turns tricks to support her children.

A new mother herself (Marcel, her son with Canet, is 2), Cotillard spends her time off-set as the face of Dior and a supporter of Greenpeace. Writer and performer John Cameron Mitchell directed Cotillard in the Dior fashion films Lady Grey London (2010) and L.A.dy Dior (2011). The two became fast friends, and this past January, spoke by phone while Cotillard was in London preparing to get her hands dirty.

MARION COTILLARD: First of all, I’m so happy to talk to you.

JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL: It’s been a while. You’re in Paris right now?

COTILLARD: No, I’m in London.

MITCHELL: You’re doing Macbeth?

COTILLARD: I’m preparing it. We haven’t had the shooting yet. And, well, this is a lot of work.

MITCHELL: Yeah!

COTILLARD: Because this is something where you cannot just learn your lines and show up on set. It would be a disaster. So, yeah, we’re in the flesh. Not shooting yet, but we’re in the flesh. And where are you?

MITCHELL: I’m in New York, just getting ready for my Hedwig sequel. I’m standing over [composer] Stephen Trask and making him write. And he’s coming up with some beautiful songs.

COTILLARD: My god! You know how crazy I am about Hedwig. I’m, like, jumping on my bed right now.

MITCHELL: [both laugh] Well, it’s making me very happy. It’s been a rough time because of some family things going on, but it’s making me feel good.

COTILLARD: I know, yeah.

MITCHELL: It’s a lot of the things that happen to you in middle age. Your parents start declining; you have to think about where life goes. And that’s what the second part of Hedwig is about—the second part of your life. Do you have a special coach for the language of Shakespeare?

COTILLARD: Oh, yeah. And, it is really tough. It’s tough already for someone who speaks English. But we really tried to stick to the original text, which is inspiring because he wrote the words, but also because there is a rhythm and an energy that fits with the emotion and the purpose of what he says. But, of course, I couldn’t do it by myself. I need someone to work with; they want to keep a flavor of my French accent, because when they offered me the part, I told [director Justin Kurzel] … Well, he knew—

MITCHELL: You’re not going to be Scottish.

COTILLARD: [laughs] Yes. [Kurzel] thought it was interesting to have, like, an exotic flavor to the accent. So I asked, “Do you really think it’s interesting? Or do you think I will never be able to totally erase my French accent and be totally Scottish?” [Mitchell laughs] And he said, “No, no, no, we really think it’s interesting.” I don’t know if it was true, but I’m doing it, so …

MITCHELL: Well, you know they talk about the Vieille Alliance, the old alliance between the Scottish and the French.

COTILLARD: At that time, the accents and the way of speaking were totally different.

MITCHELL: Very different for everybody, yeah.

COTILLARD: So it’s not like it doesn’t make sense that I would have a weird accent. If it were set today, and we knew about my family line and everything, it would not be believable, but back then, without all the information about where she comes from, we’re going to make it work. Oh, I have to.

MITCHELL: You’re going to be great in that role; it’s such a powerful role. I always want to play the female roles in Shakespeare. And in Beckett. I’m of Scottish descent, but I want to play Lady Macbeth, not Macbeth.

COTILLARD: You could totally play Lady Macbeth.

MITCHELL: Someday.

COTILLARD: You’re one of my favorite women characters.

MITCHELL: Oh, my god! Winnie is the other female role I want to do. You know, from Beckett’s Happy Days?

COTILLARD: Of course.

MITCHELL: But Beckett doesn’t allow that.

COTILLARD: He’s gone! [laughs]

MITCHELL: I know, but his estate is very controlling. I did meet him in Paris, in 1988, before he died. I had coffee with him. It changed my life, but I was too scared to ask him if I could play his female character. He didn’t seem to like change.

COTILLARD: Yeah, but, you know, he wrote theater for people to take those characters and make those people their own.

MITCHELL: I feel like Shakespeare would have been fine, obviously, because wasn’t it originally a man who played Lady Macbeth? It was always boys that played the girl.

COTILLARD: Yeah, in France, it was totally the boys playing the girls.

MITCHELL: Oh, my god, so weird.

COTILLARD: But I always wanted to play a man.

MITCHELL: You haven’t yet?

COTILLARD: No, I haven’t. I mean, I wanted to play Hedwig.

MITCHELL: I know.

COTILLARD: Remember? I started to train, to have, like, muscles on my legs. It was right after I did Piaf, La Vie en Rose. I started to take singing lessons and finding where I could go. I wanted so much to do it, but after being this little old lady and, by the end, totally fucked up, the time was wrong. Piaf really took a lot of me. And then to jump right away into something that was that hard, physically. You know, I gave up because it was bad timing. It was too much to go from something super-demanding to something super-demanding.

MITCHELL: You’re always doing light, frothy roles. [laughs]

COTILLARD: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly what I told myself when I took Lady Macbeth.

MITCHELL: You can’t help it. You love a great, strong role, right?

COTILLARD: Yeah, I think. But sometimes I wonder if I should choose, I don’t know, something that will not put me under very high stress.

MITCHELL: You must have been born with stress because all of your characters are so intense—they’re cooking, they’re under heat. [Cotillard laughs] You can’t help but make a big meal. You don’t want to make a dessert. But we had fun doing the Dior thing. That was like a dessert.

COTILLARD: I want a party!

MITCHELL: You want a rock-‘n’-roll party. Well, you’re always welcome to play Hedwig if I have anything to say. You know we’re about to do it on Broadway.

COTILLARD: Yeah, I heard about that.

MITCHELL: Yeah, it’s Neil Patrick Harris, who’s very ready. We’re thrilled about him. It’s his first gigantic role on Broadway. And he’s finishing his TV show [How I Met Your Mother] after nine years and coming to do Hedwig. But we’re hoping some day we can do it with you when you feel ready. And I suppose before I get too old I have to do it one more time. I’ll do the sequel, but I probably should perform the original again.

COTILLARD: You have to do it. We have to see you in Hedwig.

MITCHELL: Oh, god, I’m feeling so old. Maybe, yeah, I don’t know. But the sequel is where my heart is right now, and it’s much stranger than the original Hedwig. So tell me, how can you be playing two prostitutes this year, Marion?

COTILLARD: Um … Yeah, that’s a question that I didn’t really ask myself. [laughs] I don’t know why this year was all about that. Because even the video that I did for—

MITCHELL: For David Bowie.

COTILLARD: Yeah—was a prostitute.

MITCHELL: [laughs] Marion!

COTILLARD: I mean, it must be the planets.

MITCHELL: The prostitution planets are aligning.

COTILLARD: Three prostitute roles in my life this year and last. I don’t know why … Not that I don’t want to do it, because why not?

MITCHELL: Yeah, why the hell not? I mean, they obviously were great scripts. You don’t turn away a great script.

COTILLARD: No, you don’t turn away a great director. And I always wanted to work with James [Gray] without thinking it was possible. And then I met him and we became friends, and, weirdly enough, when you become friends with someone you wanted to work with, it’s not that the desire disappears, but the perspective is … It’s like, when he asked me if I wanted to be part of his next movie, I was very, very surprised.

MITCHELL: You thought because you were friends you wouldn’t work together?

COTILLARD: Yeah. When I first met him, it was in Cannes in 2009. He was a member of the jury and friends with Guillaume [Canet], my boyfriend. He stopped by our hotel room and was very friendly, and I was super-impressed. I mean, it was James Gray in my hotel room. I was like, “Oh, my god, I would love to work with him.” But then we met again to have dinner and became friends, and then suddenly I didn’t think that it would be possible to work together anymore. I don’t know exactly why.

MITCHELL: It’s like having sex. You become friends and you’re like, “Oh, well, we won’t have sex anymore, probably.”

COTILLARD: It’s like, when he asked me, I had totally forgotten that it would be possible that we would work together.

MITCHELL: And what an amazing group: Jeremy Renner—so many great people, right?

COTILLARD: Yeah. Working with Joaquin [Phoenix] was something very special. He is a special actor and a very special human being. His instinct is like the instinct of an animal. There’s a pureness about him. We lost this animal instinct that we used to have. We use a very low percentage of our instinct.

MITCHELL: He uses higher percentages of it.

COTILLARD: Yeah, he’s an animal. That’s how I describe him. To be in the same area with him, I took it as a privilege. A privilege to see someone who struggles with this instinct, who doesn’t always want to trust it when it’s always right. I remember when we started rehearsing, he was about to say something, his instinct wanted to say something, but most of the time he was like, “No, no, no, this is shit.” And James would always go for what he said. I was impressed. So I started to do it as well. When he didn’t want to say something, I was like, “Please, Joaquin, say what you wanted to say.” I felt so lucky that I could work with him. And he’s very funny, too.

MITCHELL: He’s so brilliant in Her.

COTILLARD: Oh, my god, he is totally brilliant in Her. Everything he does is—

MITCHELL: Real.

COTILLARD: He takes what he does very seriously, of course, but he’s very special when he thinks he’s not. And he truly thinks he’s not.

MITCHELL: Well, they’re always cuter when they don’t think they’re cute. How was the film you did with your boyfriend, Guillaume?

COTILLARD: It was actually right after that. I just did the James Gray movie. And then I went from Poland to Italy. [laughs]

MITCHELL: Not too far.

COTILLARD: It wasn’t too far. But I cannot speak Italian. I tried already, and that was my idea, actually, to have an Italian character. I thought it made sense for this woman to be Italian. So I told Guillaume, “Why wouldn’t she be Italian?” And he thought it was a good idea. Then my brain started to function and sent me the message: “You fucker, you know you cannot speak Italian; you tried already. You’ll just have to take another lesson, more dialect coaching.” Blah-blah. Like, my self loves difficulties, and when my brain comes into play, it’s like, Hello!

MITCHELL: Right, it’s just like the prostitute thing.

COTILLARD: [laughs] Yeah, maybe.

MITCHELL: Is this Guillaume’s first film in English?

COTILLARD: Yeah, it was. I loved working with him. It was actually one of my favorite characters. She really touched me. She does everything for her kids, even if she struggles with drugs. And then she loses it and goes back to the street because she’s using again. But this fight for her kids really moved me. And, of course, it’s because I became a mom myself.

MITCHELL: How is your baby doing?

COTILLARD: He’s really good.

MITCHELL: He’s not an actor yet, I hope.

COTILLARD: Ah, it’s an amazing job, but my parents never told me anything about how hard the job would be. My parents were actors too. I don’t even know if when I wanted to be an actress, they went, “Oh, shit.” [laughs] I must ask them. I mean, an actor has a huge failure in him. And this is not a weakness—this can make you strong. But it’s deep.

MITCHELL: What do you mean that they “have a failure”?

COTILLARD: Maybe failure is not the right word. Something deep inside which is broken.

MITCHELL: There’s a hole, or a wound. Something missing.

COTILLARD: Yeah. It might be missing. And most of the time I think if you don’t have this, you’re not a good actor. [laughs] So it’s kind of a struggle. I mean, if my son wants to be an actor, it’s fine.

MITCHELL: Is he telling you something’s missing?

COTILLARD: To be a great actor, you must have this. And I don’t want him to have it!

MITCHELL: But maybe every artist has a little something …

COTILLARD: Yeah, every artist. You’re right. And it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful thing to deal with this … Failure is a good word or not a good word?

MITCHELL: I think maybe not failure … I don’t know what it is. Something that’s missing.

COTILLARD: Translation in French would be fault.

MITCHELL: More like a fault in tectonics. Like an earthquake. Like a crack.

COTILLARD: Yeah. Something that is broken in some way. And it’s beautiful to deal with this broken insides through art. I think it’s one of the best ways.

MITCHELL: It’s funny, when I was a kid, I moved around a lot, and I had to change myself to fit it—change my accent, change my personality, and also being gay and hiding it. So I became an actor very young. And it wasn’t a surprise when it became a job. It wasn’t my first love, because my first love is writing. But acting was fun, and it was collaborative, and I could make a living. And I did it well because I learned it my whole life. But my goal was I wanted to be the same person everywhere. Same person with my mother as with my lover, as with my friend, as with my son. I wanted to be the same person, because I didn’t know how to do that, you know? That’s still my goal. Even though I don’t act as much, I want to try to be the same person when I’m dying as when I’m having an orgasm, as when I’m being interviewed. [both laugh] Which is, of course, a disaster for acting, but maybe good for the soul.

COTILLARD: Yeah, being interviewed, that’s one of my problems. Talking about myself to someone I don’t know, and knowing that most of the time they will interpret in a bad way what I’m saying, has turned me into a wild beast when it comes to press. I’ve noticed that it’s creating something kind of out of focus about myself. But, in a way, I don’t really care, even if sometimes I feel that the person being put out there is so far from who I am. As you said, being the same person everywhere, that’s something that I would love to feel, to achieve. But the thing is, I have a responsibility in creating this person who is not someone that I like at all. [laughs]

MITCHELL: Yeah.

COTILLARD: Two years ago I finally accepted that I was not an awful writer. I always thought that I was a terrible writer. And I started to write songs. And I started to like what I was writing. I think it’s a new way for me to express things that are closer to myself than when I play a role, because, of course, it’s really not me. I’m finding a new way. I don’t know what it’s going to be. But I know that I will need to give it to people one day.

MITCHELL: You’ve been performing with [French singer-songwriter] Yodelice lately?

COTILLARD: When I was on tour with him, yeah, I played a little bass guitar or drums or keyboard, and I would sing. But I’m not a real musician. If you give me a bass guitar and you ask me to improvise something, or even be with some musicians and follow them, I wouldn’t be able to do it. And I want to change that. I want to be able to be in a group and take my guitar and play with them, without someone showing me, “Okay, you’re going to do this and that,” because music has always been a big part of my life. I couldn’t live without music. I experienced things through music in different countries where you cannot speak the same language, but the music and the dance relates everything.

MITCHELL: So universal—music and sex.

COTILLARD: Yeah. Some friends sent me a link to this amazing lady—she was Jewish and was in a camp, and she was saved because she was a pianist. And there’s an interview with her. She’s, like, 104.

MITCHELL: Wow. Still alive?

COTILLARD: I don’t know, because I don’t know when the video was shot. She was about 40 when the Nazis took her. So I guess she’s gone now.

MITCHELL: She must be gone. Oh, is it Alice Herz-Sommer?

COTILLARD: Yes!

MITCHELL: I just looked her up online. I’m seeing her video.

COTILLARD: Before I heard her talk about music, I was still wondering if I would share my music, if I really would go into music. And then I saw this and was like, “Okay, yeah, this is a sign that I have to pursue it, that I have to just go for it.”

MITCHELL: She’s 110 years old. She’s so beautiful. Look at that smile!

COTILLARD: You should watch the videos of her just talking about music. Music literally saved her.

MITCHELL: Because she could play and they would allow her to live.

COTILLARD: Because she could play.

MITCHELL: Do you know, Marion, I had a lady living above me who was a Holocaust survivor, and she had her yellow star on her refrigerator with a magnet. You never want to be rude, but she was very funny and fun, and I would ask her about what happened. And she said, “I survived because I was beautiful, and I’m not proud of it. And I have to live with that guilt. Because it was nothing else but something that fades.” A lesbian woman helped her, hid her on a farm in France, and a guard let her get away in Germany. She separated from her boyfriend and got to New York after the war and met him and married him. Unbelievable. She didn’t want to talk about the war; she wanted to talk about the other Jewish ladies in our apartment building, who she hated. [Cotillard laughs] It was like, “I don’t want to talk about Lucille. She was a drunk and a whore, and she tried to get me thrown out of my apartment for having a black friend. And she hates me for remembering her sins!” I just wanted to document her, but she was tired of people interviewing her, just like you.

COTILLARD: Well, it’s not the same when it’s like that.

MITCHELL: I know, as when it’s their real life. Oh, honey. Well, I wish you the best with Lady Macbeth. Don’t let her make you crazy. Wash your hands every night after working. Get that blood out.

COTILLARD: I’ve been washing my hands 10 times a day.

MITCHELL: A modern Lady Macbeth washes her hands a lot but she also moisturizes.

COTILLARD: I do!

MITCHELL: Don’t forget to moisturize.

JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL IS A NEW YORK-BASED ACTOR, WRITER, AND DIRECTOR. HE IS CURRENTLY SUPERVISING A BROADWAY REVIVAL OF HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH DEBUTING THIS MONTH.

Alan Gilbert And The New York Philharmonic 2014–15 Season

New York Premiere Staging of HONEGGER’S JOAN OF ARC AT THE STAKE with MARION COTILLARD and Actors from the ComédieFrançaise Directed by Côme de Bellescize

Continuing the Philharmonic’s recent emphasis on staged productions of operatic and theatrical works, the Orchestra will present the New York Premiere of director Côme de Bellescize’s staging of Arthur Honegger’s dramatic oratorio Joan of Arc at the Stake in season-finale performances, June 10–13, 2015, conducted by Alan Gilbert. The cast will include Academy Award–winning actress Marion Cotillard as Joan; Comédie-Française members Éric Génovèse as Brother Dominique and Christian Gonon as the Narrator; soprano Simone Osborne as Marguerite; mezzo-soprano Faith Sherman as Catherine; and tenor Thomas Blondelle and bass Steven Humes in multiple roles. The ensemble of actors and soloists will all make their Philharmonic debuts in these performances.

The staging is inspired by a gothic cathedral square: Joan and her stake are positioned on a platform in the middle of the orchestra where, just before dying, she watches flashbacks of her life unfold around her on a platform that surrounds the orchestra. In his production notes, Mr. Bellescize writes: “Joan is in the heart of the orchestra, and when the stake ignites, it is the music which burns Joan’s body and transforms her into a figure of divine love.”

French actress Marion Cotillard has said that she has long felt a connection to Joan of Arc in this telling; her mother, actress Niseema Theillaud, also portrayed Joan in Honegger’s oratorio. Ms. Cotillard has appeared as Honegger’s Joan twice before, both in concert versions: with the Orléans Orchestra in 2005 and the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra in 2012.

Alan Gilbert said: “Marion Cotillard is one of my heroes and a brilliant actress. Joan of Arc is probably Honegger’s greatest work: it’s a dramatic and piercing telling of this most serious of stories. It’s such a pleasure to hear these scores played by the New York Philharmonic. There’s a lot to learn by having to tell a story through music, with the drama primary and forward rather than underpinning: it’s what we should be doing all the time.”

Côme de Bellescize said: “Honegger wrote this oratorio just before the Second World War, when it could have been a nationalistic opera: ‘We will resist! We will fight!’ But it’s really the opposite: it is about going out of the darkness and trying to find the light with the power of love. I am so happy to have the great chance to work with the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert. The whole world meets together in New York, and I think there is something universal to say with this production. It’s a great pleasure and honor to have the opportunity to work with Marion, especially for a play that has such meaning for her.”

Marion Cotillard said: “It is a great joy for me to be part of this tremendous adventure of Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher staged by the inspired Côme de Bellescize. Sharing this experience with the New York Philharmonic and the great actors Éric Génovèse and Christian Gonon will be an amazing journey. I want to warmly thank Alan Gilbert and Matthew VanBesien for offering us such a great opportunity. I feel so lucky and I am looking forward to sharing this work, which is, at this point, one of my greatest experiences as an actress.”

Mr. Bellescize first created this production of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake for Japan’s Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto in 2012. The project was initiated by festival director Seiji Ozawa (whom Alan Gilbert considers a mentor) and actress Isabel Karajan, who performed the title role in the 2012 production, as a tribute to her father, the late conductor Herbert von Karajan. Mr. Génovèse, Mr. Gonon, Ms. Osborne, and Mr. Blondelle also appeared in the 2012 production, and will reprise their roles in New York.

Arthur Honegger (1892–1955) joined the French Resistance during World War II, and although the Nazis allowed him to continue composing, he became depressed by the war and composed some of his most emotional works during and after. Originally commissioned by actress Ida Rubenstein in 1935, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) utilizes a libretto by French poet and playwright Paul Claudel.

The Philharmonic performed the U.S. Premiere of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake in 1948 at Carnegie Hall, conducted by Charles Munch. Subsequent performances took place in 1958, led by Leonard Bernstein; in 1967, led by Seiji Ozawa, as part of the Orchestra’s 125th Anniversary celebrations and the Lincoln Center Festival; and in 1994, conducted by then Music Director Kurt Masur.

Marion Cotillard Interview

Marion Cotillard Interview

Even after becoming the most popular French actress in Hollywood, after an Academy Award (La vie en rose, 2008) and several international successes (The Dark Knight Rises, Midnight in Paris, Contagion, Inception, Nine), Marion Cotillard appears surprisingly shy and low profile. She is most discreet, not to say dumb, about her life with Guillaume Canet, actor-director who has been her partner for seven years and is the father of her son Marcel (2 years and a half).

She is the image of Lady Dior campaign, too, but she says: “I have never seen myself as a beauty. And I feel always a bit embarrassed when someone says so: I admire Monica Bellucci, she is really so beautiful and really so witty and smart in talking about that”. Marion speaks with a gentle, soft voice, so far from the high notes she reached singing in the Oscar-winning role of Edith Piaf. She hides her beautiful eyes behind sunglasses: she never took them off during this interview.

In films, everything changes. Strangely, her two new roles have something in common: in Blood Ties, where she is directed by her partner, she plays Monica, a hooker with Italian origins and accent, while in The Immigrant by James Gray (who also wrote the screenplay of Blood Ties) she is Ewa, a Polish girl who goes searching for a better life in America, in 1921, but is exploited as a prostitute and accepts anything to pay for the medicines her sister needs to stay alive.

James Gray wrote the film and the role for you. Do you feel a responsibility about that?

Yes, but I try not to think about it. I felt a lot of pressure when I was about to read the script, because I knew that he had me in mind, when he was writing it, and I thought: “Oh my God, what if I don’t like it? It would have been very painful to turn it down. As if the world was upside down: I should be the one to beg to work with him. But fortunately I liked the story.

How is to be directed by your partner, Guillaume Canet, for the second time after Little White Lies?

I was happy to get this opportunity and I guess he didn’t treat me differently from the rest of the cast…

In Blood Ties you play in English with an Italian accent, in The Immigrant a Polish one. Does your musical talent help you learning languages?

I help myself trying to know more about the culture that any language comes out of. I don’t repeat words by heart. I want to know the meaning. I try to learn as much as I can. The technique is very important but I realized that the more you know about the people, the better and faster you learn to speak their language. In any case, the most difficult thing for me was to speak Polish without any accent at all: I wanted to be perfect, but it’s a mission impossible, I guess.

The Immigrant is about the American dream: did it mean something special for yourself too?

The American cinema is part of my culture: as an actress I always wanted to do movies but I never dreamt about working in Hollywood, I never thought it might be possible. My dream was pretty simple, I just wanted to tell stories. This film is about miserable people’s American dream, people who want to escape their countries to have a better life. Very different from my own story and dreams…

How do you feel about immigrants?

What moves me is the way people put themselves in danger to seek for a better life. There is a mix of strength, courage, hope, unconsciousness in all of them, because they have no other choice. Hope drives them to dive in the unknown …

Sometimes they find hope in religion. Are you a believer?

I was not raised as a Catholic and I don’t have a good relationship with religion: there have been so many wars in the name of different gods! I don’t understand how you can kill someone just because he does not have the same belief as you.

How was shooting in Ellis Island?

It was an amazing experience. Most of the troupe and the extras had someone in their families who had gone through Ellis Island in the past. Therefore they talked and shared their stories. What I like most about Americans is that you can feel the solidarity and empathy when they talk about their lives. I heard lots of them. Included James Gray’s one: The Immigrant is a very personal film for him. At first, he didn’t get the permit to shoot at Ellis Island, but he fought to obtain it: without that, he didn’t want to start shooting it at all.

What was your own first step in the United States?

I was escaping a relationship that went bad. I was 20 and I went to New York with my best friend. It was kind of crazy: we landed and we went straight to the Empire State Building. We wandered around without knowing where to sleep. We ended up in a hostel. We walked and we were so excited… but after three days, I received a call from France and I had to go back immediately, to play in a film I wasn’t expecting to be chosen for. It was my first experience “in and out” the country.

You started working there 10 years ago with Tim Burton (Big Fish) and, after the Oscar for La vie en rose. Is Hollywood the greatest achievement for an actor?


It’s very personal. I remember being in Cannes with Melanie Thierry, one of the best French actresses. My American agent asked me to be introduced to her and Melanie didn’t want to: I was so surprised, I begged her, but she refused and I couldn’t believe it (editor’s note: later she has been directed by Terry Gilliam in The Zero Theorem). For me it’s different. Hollywood wasn’t my goal, it arrived unexpectedly when I just considered myself so lucky to do what I always desired to do.

Do you feel like an “immigrant” too, now that you live for long periods in Los Angeles?

No, I could totally live there. I have been spending years over there. I love Los Angeles, but I need my country too because I am deeply French.

You miss France, then.

No, it’s funny though: I never miss France when I am having interesting things to do somewhere else. From 2008 I spent almost four years in the US without problems. But strangely, when I came back to France I missed Los Feliz, the area where I live, and the life I created there in Los Angeles. It’s not for professional reasons, but for lifestyle: it’s a city in the middle of wildness, in front of the ocean. And now I miss my son whenever and wherever I go without him.

Do you regret a more discreet life you had in France?

Not anymore. Even home, I can’t go out jogging without seeing someone taking some picture as soon as he recognizes me.

You come from a creative family, your parents are actors. Is this the reason why you wished to act?

Yes, I think so. I grew up surrounded by storytellers and an atmosphere of great energy. That was fascinating. When I was a kid, I saw plays that were not for kids at all, but I have very vivid memories of those moments. It usually happened when the nanny was not available and my mother had to take us all, me and my twin brothers, to the theatre even when there was some ancient Greek tragedy on stage. Sometimes we would go crazy, and she would go crazy too… but it was awesome to watch actors I knew as my parents’ friends, who transformed themselves completely on the stage, sometimes they even became cats or dogs. That’s why I always wanted to be an actress.

Do you remember your first time on stage?

I was 4 or 5. My mother laid on the floor beside a big piano and the director asked me to do something I can’t remember well now. I was confused. I didn’t understand why they were saying crazy things to pretend that my mother was dead, while she was not dead at all!

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