Category: English Press

Somewhere beyond la vie

Somewhere beyond la vie

Her turn as Piaf made her, but get ready for more defining roles from Marion Cotillard, writes Kaleem Aftab

“It was a dream come true,” says Marion Cotillard, describing the job she has just completed with the Dardenne brothers, the two-time Cannes Palme d’Or winners. But the statement could apply equally to everything she does. The actress will soon be in England, fulfilling another childhood ambition by playing Lady Macbeth in the latest big-screen adaptation of the Scottish play.

This is on top of two films that will soon be gracing our picture houses. The 38-year-old plays a down-on-her-luck Pole coming to 1920s New York in James Gray’s The Immigrant, and she has a part in the ensemble thriller Blood Ties, directed by French heartthrob Guillaume Canet, with whom she has a two-year-old son.

It’s not just on cinema screens where Cotillard has been wowing. Wherever she goes, someone has seemingly spent hours laying out a red carpet for her to strut down in the latest creation from Christian Dior. She’s been the promotional face of their handbag line since 2008, a contract that landed soon after she became the first woman since Sophia Loren in 1962 to win the Best Actress Oscar for performing a non-English language role.

In any room she enters, Cotillard is seemingly the only person there. This is true even when she dresses in jeans and a T-shirt, as she does when we meet at the Marrakech Film Festival, where she has been on jury duty, rubbing shoulders with heavyweight movie directors – Martin Scorsese, Paolo Sorrentino and Fatih Akin. Everything she does, even dressing down, oozes confidence.

How different it was when I first met the actress in 2004. At the time, she was getting rave reviews for her turn in the abstract romantic fantasy Love Me If You Dare. Looking back, the film is one of those curiosities that seemed to be a signifier for her life and career. She played an outsider of Polish extraction, who, over the years, plays destructive games of one-upmanship with her childhood best friend, depicted as an adult by a certain Mr Canet, who at the time was married to the German actress Diane Kruger. Different interpretations of Édith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” was one of the thematic motifs of the romantic tale – and three years later, it was playing La Môme Piaf that won Cotillard her Oscar.

But what always stuck in my mind was how nervous and awkward the actress seemed. At the time she said of her teenage years, “I was crazy, but I was not wild. I was not very sociable, not very happy either. I could do crazy things but in a way to destroy myself.” She continued, “I decided to be an actress. Perhaps the idea was to escape – but I realised that it was the exact opposite, that it was the only way to meet myself. To meet my true self and not to escape anymore… being someone else helped me to find my true self.”

Well it seems that fame, adoration and an Oscar can bring confidence. Meeting again, it’s hard to imagine a more sure-footed person.

She sees two big moments as altering the course of her career: “The first was Jean-Pierre Jeunet offering me the most beautiful role in A Very Long Engagement, which put a different light on my work.” Cotillard won a French César for her supporting role as an assassin in the First World War drama. In hindsight, it was the moment when the principal star, Audrey Tautou, handed over the baton as France’s most coveted actress.

The other, more predictably, was La vie en Rose, after the success of which, “I started to get proposals of good roles in America – and it was watching American films that first got me interested in acting.”

Now she’s one of the most sought-after actresses in the world, as her recent cameo in Anchorman 2 demonstrates. She’s also one-half of France’s most famous movie couple. When I ask her how different performing is when the director is her husband, she pauses, reflects and then says, “Well, I sleep with the director.” She then holds her head in her hands, seemingly embarrassed and adds, “It’s a joke – but it’s true.” I only realise later that whether or not Canet and Cotillard have actually married has never been publicly announced. But she chooses not to correct me.

She also starred in Canet’s underrated 2010 family drama Little White Lies, as well as the forthcoming Blood Ties. Living with him has made her appreciate the director’s lot: “I now know what it is to direct a movie. I have to live the whole journey of realising a movie and I know how hard it is. Now when a director cannot get what he wants, most of the time because of money, it breaks my heart.”

She gives an example from The Immigrant. “I could feel that James was not happy on set, and I asked him if he was okay. He said, ‘yeah, I was just thinking about what I wanted to do’ – and he started to explain; it was beautiful, but then he added that it would cost twice the budget that he had. I felt that he was very sad, and it affected me more than it would have before, because I know what it’s like to put years of your life into a project and be frustrated.”

Gray is full of praise for Cotillard, saying, “She’s an actress who can perform without needing words.” When this is recounted to the Parisian, she retorts, “Yeah, he says that, and then he writes 20 pages of dialogue in Polish and asks me to do it.”

She spent three months learning Polish to play Ewa Cybulski, an immigrant who gets separated from her sister at Ellis Island and is then torn between two men, one volatile (Joaquin Phoenix) and the other sweet (Jeremy Renner).

The forthcoming year may be her best yet. Michael Fassbender will be playing Macbeth in the adaptation by Snowtown director Justin Kurzel. “I knew that one day I would play Lady Macbeth, but in my mind it would be on stage and in French,” she says. “I never thought that one day I would say the original lines, which took me ages to understand. I was very honest when I read the text for the first time. I called the director and said. ‘Thank God I know the story, because I didn’t get any of the words’. It’s kind of crazy for them to ask a French actress to do that.”

On the subject of Lady Macbeth, Cotillard says that she’s infatuated by, “The depth of humanity in her – but it’s all driven away by fear and despair. How you do things to have a better life – but when they are against humanity, you will fail.”

Moral decisions are also central to her forthcoming turn in the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night. The film is expected to land at Cannes in May and Cotillard says, “The way they do cinema is everything that I love – and they pushed me as much as they could, and I was ready for anything. It’s hard to talk about the movie, because they are still editing and I haven’t seen it yet…” The film is about a woman who will not be made redundant if she can persuade bankers to forego their bonuses. She adds, “Okay, I know the set-up is fake.”

Fake or not, the plot is intriguing, and with Cotillard starring, it’s one of the most anticipated films of 2014.

“The Immigrant” and “Blood Ties” will be released in the spring

Marion Cotillard Talks ‘The Immigrant,’ ‘Lady Macbeth,’ Scorsese and the Dardennes Brothers

Marion Cotillard Talks ‘The Immigrant,’ ‘Lady Macbeth,’ Scorsese and the Dardennes Brothers

Cotillard was in Marrakech to be part of Martin Scorsese’ jury

On top of being part of Martin Scorsese’ Jury at Marrakech Film Festival, Marion Cotillard — whose latest film, James Gray’s “The Immigrant,” played at the Morocco-based fest — cheerfully participated in roundtables with journalists. Cotillard, the first French actress to have won an Academy Award for her perf as Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose,” just wrapped Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “Two Days, One Night” and will next topline Justin Kurzel’s “Macbeth,” replacing Natalie Portman in the title role.

Variety: Through your parts in “La Vie En Rose,” “Rust and Bones” and “The Immigrant,” you’ve fully transformed yourself and dived very deep into the characters. How did these experiences change you on personal level?
Marion Cotillard:
I think that when you discover something that was unknown before it opens your mind, your heart. Roles after roles, I learned a little more about human beings. I want to go as deep as I can in a character. Sometimes, especially with “La Vie En Rose,” when I finished the movie, I needed to clean myself from old stories, things that you keep within yourself that you never get rid of because you don’t know how, or because it’s just too much, you don’t have the courage. To go deep in the character really gives the courage to face things. I don’t do that job to do that, to have that, but it happens. But I’m not going to choose a character because I’m gonna be like “it’s gonna be fantastic therapy” or something.

You’re on the Marrakech jury with Scorsese and you look like one big happy family. Do you think he’ll think about you for a future role?
Of course I’d love to make a movie with him one day, but today, the relationship we have all together, with the jury, is just about talking about cinema. I’ll do a parallel with James Gray. I met him with my boyfriend (Guillaume Canet) and we became friends. I’m a huge admirer of his work but when I met him, I didn’t even dare to tell him. Never in my mind was I thinking, “I’m going to do everything to work for him” because I was never able to be in that kind of seduction from the beginning of my career. When I had to meet a director, I preferred to have a screen test and show what I could do instead of sell myself in a discussion, because I was bad at it. When I met James, we became friends and I never thought I could work with him because he was my friend. The relationship I have with Martin (Scorsese) is two people who talk about cinema, and that’s it.

What’s your memory of Oscar night?

Just before the Oscar night I was chosen by Michael Mann to play in his movie and also by Rob Marshall, so I felt that “La Vie En Rose” had really changed my career. But each time it’s a new surprise. I never thought I’d have that chance and I still don’t think it’s going to last.

To me the best recognition I can receive is someone like James Gray writing a movie for me. The Oscar is the cherry on the cake, but what deeply changed was Olivier Dahan who was crazy enough to think that I could do this (play Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose”). I remember when I read the script I asked my agent “Which part am I gonna do?” and he said “He (Dahan) wants you to do the whole thing”. I said it wasn’t possible, but I didn’t say it too loud. I thought it was crazy and felt right away it would be an amazing experience. And then yeah, as I told you, the greatest recognition is still working with amazing people.

At some point you were working on your directorial debut. Is it still in the works?

I’d love to direct actors. I don’t know if I’d be able to direct a movie because, my god, it’s a really hard job. But I’d love to direct actors one day.

I still have a project, but I want to write it, and I don’t know if I can write. I need to have time to do it. It’s there. Maybe one day. I can’t say what it’s about, but it was inspired by a little nomad girl I met. She had a huge impact on my life, imagination, and inspiration.

You deserted Europe for a while and then you made a comeback in a French-language film with Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone,” and you have The Dardennes Brothers’ “Two Days, One Night” and Benoit Jacquot’s “Diary Of A Chambermaid” lined up. How difficult is it to find meaty roles in Europe?

It’s never easy to find a good role. But last time I did a movie in France it was Jacques Audiard’s movie, and I had a very narrow window to shoot it. Actually, I couldn’t (she was still under contract for “The Dark Night Rises”), but I made room, we decided to go straight into production instead of preparing as much as Jacques and I wanted. He loves to prepare well in advance. But it was irresistible, the role and the idea of working with Jacques. But it’s always hard to find a good role, there are some amazing roles, like the two leads in ”La Vie d’Adele,” so powerful, or “The Past,” with Berenice Bejo, sublime. There are good roles, but not a ton of them.”

How was your experience working with the Dardenne brothers?

We’ve just finished shooting. What I can say is that when I began working in the U.S., I started to think that all those amazing, greatest directors I never thought I could work with, suddenly … I realized it was not unreachable anymore. But there were two people for me who were unreachable: Bruno Dumont and the Dardennes Brothers. When my agent told me they wanted me to meet with them, I genuinely thought it was a joke. Then I thought it would be a totally different movie than what they do usually, because they do stories in their hometown.

With all due respect for all the directors I worked with, this experience was the greatest of my life as an actress, so I hope it’ll be good. They push the actors so far in the detail. That’s the relationship that I’d always expected with directors. That was idyllic.

You’re involved with Greenpeace among other ONGs, do you feel that it’s part of your job as a popular actress to be involved in humanitarian activities?

No, it’s not. It’s just that it’s a great thing when a human being takes action. I don’t do this because I’m an actress, and I don’t think it has an impact. If you dedicate a huge part of your life to it, like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, and even with them it’s hard for them to be taken seriously. But with the time they’ve put in, they’re taken seriously. It’s a hard job to get there. I’m doing this because I’m a human being concerned by the planet, our health, our well-being, and not just here now. I know it’s hard to think ahead, think of 2000 years, but it’s part of my life.

Is “The Rivals,” a project with Michael Sucsy attached to direct, still in the pipeline?

Oh my God, this is such an old project that we had with Nicole Kidman. But I don’t think it’ll happen.

What can you tell us about your next big part as Lady Macbeth in Justin Kurzel’s “Macbeth”?

Again, it’s a crazy opportunity, it’s always been my dream to play Lady Macbeth. I was sure I’d do it onstage, in French, because I’m French. In film adaptations, Lady Macbeth has always been played by English-speaking actress. These guys are crazy, I hope I won’t ruin the film. I rely on my coach to learn the accent. I know when it’s really bad or wrong, but I don’t know when it’s not very good.

A Woman Whose Softness Could be Taken for Fragility

A Woman Whose Softness Could be Taken for Fragility

However, one would only need to exchange a few words with her to understand the subtlety of her intelligence. Aware of her professional luck, she is also extremely critical of the state of injustice and absurdity of the world we live in. She is not particularly interested in her big star tag. She runs away from it, fights to protect the small bubble she feels entitled to. Mysterious Marion Cotillard.

Q: Do you feel in any way pressured by the fact you are considered one of the most well-known french actresses worldwide ?
No. (Silence), Because I don’t see myself in that way. Yes, I think I am very lucky to be working with great directors like James Gray. And I’m very happy about what is happening to me today, but I give no thought to how I am perceived. Honestly, I never considered myself as a world icon. There are so many great actors in this world who are not necessarily under the spotlights like I am sometimes. At least, I don’t see myself at the top of something. I think I am an actress who still has a lot to learn and has been lucky enough to meet exceptional people to further her teaching.

Q: You are the lead role in James Gray’s latest film The Immigrant. Was it difficult to learn Polish to play your part ?
Well, first of all, I didn’t have to learn to speak Polish, I learnt 20 pages of a script in Polish !! (laughs) Which means I certainly don’t speak a word of Polish. There isn’t one word that vaguely resembles French or English ! Someone could have told me I was learning Chinese, I would have believed them without a doubt ! But, to be serious, it is really interesting to learn another language, because it helps to immerse yourself in the culture of another country. If you learn a language without doing any research on the local culture, your way of speaking will certainly end up being rather flat. (Silence) It is just the manner in which each language tends to put some words at the beginning or at the end of sentences that says a lot about the culture of a country. It is essential.

Q: What made you agree to work with James Gray ?
I have great admiration for his work, and this experience has been quite special, because James gives absolutely everything to his actors. All his films are highly personal. The way in which he opens his heart and his intelligence to us, actors, is something I had not experienced before. We have shared very personal things, really, that I had not told anybody else. These exchanges have helped to better figure out my character in the script, and how I was going to approach it. It wasn’t so simple for me because I had never before used my personal life to enter a character. What we shared was highly personal, though never indecent.

Q: How was your cooperation with the great director Jacques Audiard for the film De Rouille et d’os ? (Rust and Bones)
I had always dreamed of working with Audiard, though never thought I would one day. He has his own particular way of working. He does a lot of research then waits for the shooting to start so the actors can suggest ideas. He is like a poet, he ruminates ideas, then builds up his film whilst shooting. Generally, I need time before a film to prepare, but with him, it was really fast. We rapidly turned into production. And this tension in creation pushed us to use resources we never imagined. This idea to have the actors participating, that’s just genius !

Q: You don’t like being stared at, being photographed in the street, or everything that might draw attention on you. Are you scared a part of you might get stolen ?
That’s not what it is. It’s always difficult to talk about it because I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining when I am so lucky. But it is a strange thing to have your life disected and see people appropriating your personal life. I felt very strongly about this when I had my child. And it created a kind of fury deep inside, so I stepped back and I tried to get used to the fact that everyone owns a camera these days, and I can’t do anything about it. I have to get used to it, it’s not so bad. I have to ignore it and get going.

Q: You approach the subject of immigration in your latest film, what do you think about the general state of things ?
About Africa, the whole world has a great responsibility towards the fact so many people try to leave the continent which bears so many riches-though we have taken them. Today the world is a small village, if we want to know what is going on, all you need to do is read and understand. This is also our responsability, to know, be aware. We are totally responsible of the actual state of the African continent.

Icon Marion Cotillard

Icon Marion Cotillard

She radiates Old Hollywood grace and of-the-moment international style, but as anyone who’s watched her soul-baring performances can attest, France’s most in-demand export is a true original. Fellow actress Jessica Chastain interviews.

It’s nearly impossible to portray an icon. Film history is littered with failed biopics because even great actors struggle to capture the inexplicable spark that separates the merely great from the eternally unforgettable. But every once in a while, it happens. An actor captures that specific brilliance – and she becomes a legend too. That’s what happened in 2007’s La Vie en Rose, when a transformed Marion Cotillard embodied the grace, madness, and prickly resilience of Edith Piaf, singing “Non, je ne regrette rien” in her final scene with utter confidence, because Cotillard knew that she had left everything she had on the screen. The French star, born in Paris, raised by bohemian actor parents, and in a long-term relationship with French actor-director Guillaume Canet (who is directing her in this fall’s Blood Ties, in which she’ll star opposite Clive Owen), was already a rising star in Europe before her Oscar win captured the world’s attention. Now 37, she is fast becoming her own sort of global icon, a modern-day Catherine Deneuve: drop-dead gorgeous, wildly talented, insanely stylish – only with a kind of throwback, Garbo-esque steeliness. Already she’s gone toe-to-toe with Oscars’ aisle-seat actors Johnny Depp, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christian Bale. She consistently emerges as that rare actress who needn’t trade her grace for power, who can play the vulnerable patient (Rust and Bone) or the lethal femme fatale (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) with equal conviction. Next, Cotillard will burnish her fast-building legend with The Immigrant, as a Jass Age woman pressed into prostitution and torn between two men (Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner). As she moves among European art films, blockbusters, and prestige indies, there are precious few actresses who can keep up with her. Here, she speaks to one who is also a friend and fan, Jessica Chastain.

Jessica Chastain: Your parents were actors. When did you decide to become one?
Marion Cotillard:
There’s not one moment, but I really feld this creativity around me from my parents.

JC: What was the first role that made you dig very deep within yourself?
MC:
One of my first movies, Pretty Things. I was playing twin sisters. One of them would die, and the other would take her place. That was one of my first roles as a lead, the first time I had to explore the human soul. And actually, they were two souls! That was the first time I told myself that I could find the strength.

JC: Did it scare you when you realized that you actually had to go to those dark places?
MC:
I was never scared – well, in Public Enemies, the Michael Mann movie, I thought it was impossible to lose entirely my French accent. And actually that was impossible!

JC: You were wonderful in that movie!
MC:
Fortunately, she was half French.

JC: When you leave a character, like Edith Piaf, how long does it take you to lose her?
MC:
Well, it depends. Before doing La Vie en Rose, I never thought I would have trouble leaving a character. I even had weird, bad judgment about actors who could not get out of a role. This was something that I didn’t understand, but this was because I had never experienced the depth that I experienced with Piaf. I’m a little ashamed to say it, but it took me long, long time to separate myself from her.

JC: How long?
MC:
Eight months. Which is ridiculous, because I’m a really sane person, and everything I lived for those eight months sounded totally crazy. And I hated it.

JC: I understand. When you open your heart, mind, and soul, how can it not affect you?
MC:
Her biggest fear was to be alone. One day, I realized that I was scared to leave her alone. Which sounds totally crazy.

JC: No, it doesn’t!
MC:
But I just wrapped a movie, and the character took three days to go away. I guess when you explore someone else’s soul like we do, you always keep something. It’s like love, I guess.

JC: We can’t help but be changed and grow and evolve from the women that we play.
MC:
I guess that’s what we’re looking for, too. When I was a kid, I started to have a lot of questions about human beings, and I was a troubled child because of all these questions. I guess that’s why I became an actress. Not only because my parents were actors and, yeah, it’s a beautiful thing to tell stories, but I think I became an actress because I wanted to explore this – to explore what a human being is. Ina way, it really helped me.

JC: When I watched you in Rust and Bone last year, I just burst into tears. I immediately felt this connection to this woman.
MC:
The more I learn about acting, the more I get connected with my characters – but through my character, I connect with people who could be like the character – with women.

Watch List

The Dark Knight Rises, 2012
“Director Chris Nolan is irresistible. I knew this film would be a hard one for me. I was a new mum and had only had my son one month prior.”

Rust and Bone, 2012
“Working with director Jacques Audiard was my dream. The character of Stéphanie is one I was lucky to portray. She touched my heart.”

Inception, 2010
“This is one of my favourite movies in my filmography.”

Nine, 2009
“This was a wonderful experience. Director Rob Marshall, and working with Daniel Day-Lewis, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, and Judi Dench. No further comment.”

La Vie en Rose, 2007
“Changed my life.”

Big Fish, 2003
“I was very close to quitting acting – my dreams seemed bigger than my reality. It made me sad. Then suddenly, right at that time Tim Burton came my way.”

Cotillard talks working with Canet

Cotillard talks working with Canet

Marion Cotillard has confessed working with her director partner Guillaume Canet can sometimes be heaven, but sometimes be “hell”.

The Oscar-winning actress stars in new crime thriller Blood Ties, which Guillaume wrote and directed. The couple have been together since 2007 and have a two-year-old son.

Marion revealed: “The difficulty of having your partner working on a set, it’s hard to explain.

“I really want him to be happy with everything he wants, and sometimes when it doesn’t work… I’m not [just] talking about me acting, I would do anything to give him what he wants, but the general things that happen on set, when he’s not happy, it touches me deeply.

“But it’s really, really, interesting to be in the life of someone who’s in the creative process. Even though sometimes it’s really hard to live, sometimes it’s heaven and sometimes it’s hell.”

But Marion, who has been directed by Guillaume before, as well as acted opposite him, revealed she does her best to support him.

She said: “I’m being supportive because this creative process is very intense. You really open your mind and your heart and your soul to what you’re going to give your actors and your crew and eventually the audience. It’s really interesting to watch closely, and I’ve always been very impressed to watch him working.”

Blood Ties also stars Clive Owen, James Caan, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Billy Crudup and Matthias Schoenaerts.

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