Category: Press

Marion

Marion

She’s the smart, considered, Oscar-winning actress who also happens to be our new favourite French style icon. Stylist meets the impossibly elegant Marion Cotillard

Listening to Marion Cotillard makes me want to be French. Looking at her has the same effect, but it’s listening to her that has me dreaming about booking a seat on the next Eurostar. The intonations of her voice rise and fall with the subject matter, lulling me into a relaxed state as she philosophises in English about the economy or being a humanist, every so often forgetting herself and reverting to her native tongue. Even when she becomes truly excited about the Dior dinner she will attend later that evening with her good friend, Dior creative director Raf Simons, and her voice climbs a few octaves, it is still soothing.

Stylist catches up with the 38-year-old actress between Dior’s haute couture a/w 2014 show earlier in the day (Cotillard has been the ‘face’ of Lady Dior handbags since 2008) and the ensuing celebratory dinner. She is surrounded by boxes in the apartment she shares with her partner, actor and director Guillaume Canet and their three-year-old son Marcel. It’s not just her significant other who is in the same industry: Cotillard was born in Paris to a family of actors, growing up in Orléans where she studied at the Conservatoire d’Art Dramatique. Before long she was being cast in French TV dramas but it was Luc Besson’s 1998 film Taxi that took her career up a notch. Now, after working on film sets across the globe, from Pittsburgh (The Dark Knight Rises in 2012) to the Isle of Skye (Macbeth with Michael Fassbender, due for release in 2015), she has settled back in her home country.

Cotillard’s latest film, Two Days, One Night, has critics whispering “Oscar” in relation to her performance. Directed by Belgian brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (who have won the coveted Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or Award twice), she plays Sandra, a working-class woman struggling with depression who has one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their 1,000 Euro bonuses to save her job. To be honest, I was wary of seeing a film this emotionally taxing just in its synopsis, but came away oddly uplifted. Marion is exceptional; it’s the most convincing depiction of depression I’ve seen: traumatic, yes, but with chinks of light and hope.

Bringing subtlety and nuance to every performance is Marion’s modus operandi. It’s what won her the Academy Award for best actress for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose, the 2007 film that had the world at her impeccably shod feet, and the reason she’s booked up until 2016 with another five films to be releasedafter Two Days, One Night. But before we get to her relentless schedule, I’m dying to know what she picked up from Dior earlier…

Did anything take your fancy at the Dior show?
Oh yeah, a lot of things. I’m very impressed by the way Raf reinvents his world all the time. He’s a very special person. The way he mixes his very modern vision of clothes and the Dior house is really, really impressive.

Watching Two Days, One Night was an intense experience… 
Everything was intense during shooting. The role is intense because Sandra goes through a lot and the experience itself with the Dardenne brothers, the way they wanted to shoot the movie was… oh merde, comment dit ça…? A sequence shot? A scene is just one take that keeps rolling, and sometimes we did 100 takes. I’ve never worked with such demanding directors. But I loved it. That’s what I want when I work with someone; that they will be super-demanding in a creative way.

It’s one of the most realistic portrayals of depression I’ve seen on screen. Has anyone in your life experienced it? 
Not really. But I know what it is to not feel at the right place [in life]. That’s something I experienced myself. My parents taught me how to move on when something is stuck and I have the strength not to fall, but I was very close to depression. So [with Sandra], I knew what it was to be lost and deeply in pain and not know exactly where it comes from, or how to stop or deal with it.

Luc Dardenne said they worked hard to make sure you looked ‘ordinary’ in the film. You certainly look incredibly different to how you look now. 
This is something I always do for every role. I’m very interested in what’s inside and drives a person. What is their heart and soul? Whatyou have inside shows on the outside; the way you talk and breathe. Do you look someone in the eye? Do you breathe from the lungs or your throat? The way you move tells a lot about who you are inside. A shy person walks and talks like a shy person. One of my favourite things is finding the physicality of a character. I find the performance inside and how it impacts the outside and what people can see of you.

You’ve been called “shockingly beautiful”. How does that feel?
I’m never really aware because I’m not very interested in it. I don’tneed it. Sometimes people I work with read blogs, so I see the occasional thing about myself. It makes me laugh because either way you can’t change anything. It’s not the end of the world if you look like sh*t! You know what I mean? 

You’ve said it was hard to find the right emotions to portray Sandra. What makes you feel emotional yourself?
Wow. My god. Almost everything. Kids make me emotional. I’m a very emotional person. That’s a problem for me but I deal with it by being an actress.

Another factor in the film is the economic crisis in France…
The crisis everywhere, you mean!

What’s it like to live in France right now? Does it feel like things are improving?
I only just returned to Paris. It’s funny when you take a step back. I feel there’s a kind of depression now which affects a lot of things like creativity. But I think we’re going to find the way out. You know, French people and this word ‘existentialism’… we question ourselves too much sometimes, circling on our own problems. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay attention to them, but it wouldn’t hurt to pay attention to what happens in the rest of the world occasionally.

What is it about Paris that has drawn you back? 
I’ve been in Paris two weeks and have finally opened my boxes that were sleeping in my apartment for three years. The last time I lived here, I was pregnant [in 2011]. So I’m in this process of reconnecting with France. There is this energy of all these amazingpeople who created this country and this city. But like I said, I feel we need to open up to the world. We have to stop thinking we’re the best at everything; it’s not true first of all. I mean, it’s good to have confidence but at a certain point, you also need to learn from others. But Paris is so beautiful.

You’ve appeared in a mix of blockbuster films and low-key projects – which do you prefer?
Both. Otherwise I wouldn’t do both. I always choose a project because I feel it’s my place to be there and I love the project, even with the blockbusters. My dream when I was a kid was to be Peter Sellers; to jump from comedy to something totally different. I haven’t jumped yet into comedy but that’s one of my dreams. I find joy in opposites.

What is your favourite Peter Sellers film?
The Party. Or Docteur Folamour… I mean Dr Strangelove. The guy was a genius.

Who makes you laugh now?
Will Ferrell! My friends. I have very, very funny friends. They make me cry because I laugh so hard. Oh, and Jennifer Lawrence. Yeah, that’s a good list! 

You filmed Macbeth on the Isle of Skye in February. Was it cold?
Yes! That was crazy cold. There were hailstones, which made it harder. But hard is good.

If hard is good when you’re working, do you take it easy when you’re not?
Time off is super, super tiny in my world. But now I am off, I read and watch documentaries. I try to play music and become a good musician, which is far away but I’m getting closer. I’m going to have to be just a musician before being a good one [laughs]. Being in Paris after all those years, I’m seeing friends. It’s a marvellous thing to be able to reconnect and share everything they know and talk about the world. That’s something I missed a lot; it’s one of the things I enjoy most.

What do you talk about? The environment? Your work with Greenpeace is well-documented.
Not only Greenpeace. I support all people who want to… I wouldn’t say change the world, but to push it to a more human evolution.

Who inspires you in this way?
There are so many – it’s really reassuring to have a very long list. A lot of French people, like Pierre Rabhi or Edgar Morin. [Canadian astrophysicist] Hubert Reeves. Wangari Maathai and Aung San Suu Kyi. All people who fight for people.

Are you happy? 
Yes, I am. I have an amazing experience of life. It makes me understand more and more about the weird animal we are and it makes me happy to be connected to people and to learn.

One of Edith Piaf’s most famous songs was about not having regrets – do you have any?
Non. I know that things I didn’t do were simply things I was not meant to do. Or I wasn’t the right person or it wasn’t the right moment. Maybe I had some but then I realised regret is not a good thing to feel. I am sure you do what you need to.

What’s next? More unpacking? 
I’m very fast! I opened my boxes in 10 days. I still have a few more but they can wait. Tonight, I have a Dior dinner, which I’m looking forward to because they’re amazing, funny people. And Jennifer Lawrence will be there so I’m going to have a lot of fun! 

Will the food be good? 
But of course! We’re in Paris. The food will be magnifique!

‘Before my family, everything was dedicated to the character’

‘Before my family, everything was dedicated to the character’

When Marion Cotillard took on Edith Piaf she lived the part, willing herself into the role of a tortured genius. Such commitment is harder now that she has a toddler. But, as Stephanie Rafanelli discovers, that doesn’t stop her trying

In a hotel suite in Paris, Marion Cotillard is behaving like a monster. We are about to start our interview when her three-year-old sprints in with his nanny, and before I have a chance to ask my first question, Cotillard has leapt on all fours and is skidding across the carpet letting out strangled roars. There’s a chase in which she plays Godzilla (upright, with claws), and Marcel, her son with French actor and director Guillaume Canet, squeals with delight. Finally she resumes her position on the sofa with Marcel still chuckling impishly under one arm. “He’ll get bored soon,” she reassures me.

Cross-legged and clad in tweed hot pants, she looks like a particularly soignée teenaged mother: her face has never lost its adolescent curves and her body barely looks 20 years old (she’s in fact 38). When Cotillard bent herself into the prematurely aged Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose, a morphine-addicted, cancer-ridden husk of a woman, Trevor Nunn called it “one of the greatest performances on film ever”. Meeting her, you appreciate why.

In the seven years since winning the Best Actress Oscar for her role, Cotillard has shown herself to be consistently drawn to complex, tortured women. Her recent work, if less transformative, has been just as unflinching: a double-leg amputee in visceral love story Rust and Bone; a young Polish refugee in New York manipulated into prostitution in The Immigrant. In her latest film Two Days, One Night by Belgian auteurs the Dardenne brothers, she plays Sandra, a factory worker who, after a period of sick leave due to depression, is forced to petition her colleagues to vote for her in a work ballot. They’re faced with a cruel moral dilemma: her job or their annual bonus. It’s a raw, empathic portrait of mental illness.

She seems to relate to outsiders, I say. “I’ve always felt an outcast,” Cotillard replies. “There is something strange about me. I don’t ever feel at ease in a group of people. I have to fight hard to overcome my fears.” What are these fears? She smiles. Her eyes are alert, glassy, and look as if they could brim with tears at any moment. I’m left to find meaning in her gaze. It’s all very Mona Lisa.

It is this mysterious quality that seems to appeal to directors, from La Vie En Rose’s Olivier Dahan (who wrote the screenplay with Cotillard in mind because he saw something tragic in her eyes) to an imposing list of American filmmakers: Christopher Nolan (Inception and The Dark Knight Rises), Michael Mann (Public Enemies) and Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris). Today she is one of the highest paid non-American actresses in Hollywood, although she has never turned her back on low-budget French-language film. For the Dardenne brothers, who have only worked with unknown actors throughout their 40-year-long career, casting Cotillard in Two Days, One Night was a risky move, not just because of the Hollywood baggage but because of her fashion status as one of the faces of Christian Dior. The underdog-loving jury at the Cannes Film Festival has already overlooked Cotillard for the Best Actress prize three years in a row. But this year the Dardennes – three-time Palme d’Or winners – also walked away empty-handed. “For me? I really don’t care,” she says, waving a hand in the air. “But the film? Yes. The Dardennes get an award every time they go to Cannes, so I got a little paranoid and thought: ‘Oh my God, maybe it’s my fault.’”

Cotillard is a fanatical researcher, so when I ask how she constructed her performance I’m expecting a tale about observing patients in Belgian institutions. “The preparation was very light this time,” she says, shifting into a half-lotus position. “Medical information on panic attacks and the side-effects of Xanax. I understand depression. I was never super-depressed, but at one point I thought it was coming.” At this point she dispatches Marcel, fidgety and bored, to his nanny. “I’ve had many turning points in my life like that. I’m able to tell when I’m in a bad place or super-sad and move on. When you’re stuck somewhere you need to change something, to shift the energy.”

One such time came after filming La Vie En Rose, when Cotillard had let herself be swallowed up by Piaf, shaving her eyebrows and hairline, willing her body to shrink nine inches (Piaf was 4ft 11in) and sitting for five hours a day in make-up. It was less of a performance, more a demonic possession. After the shoot wrapped, Cotillard says she continued to be haunted by Piaf, sometimes speaking in her gravelly voice. Piaf stayed with her for a total of eight months. “I tried everything,” Cotillard tells me. “I did exorcisms with salt and fire. I travelled to Bora Bora to escape her. I went to Peru to Machu Picchu and did ancient shamanic ceremonies to cleanse myself after I eventually realised why I couldn’t let her go. She had been abandoned as a child. Her greatest fear was to be alone.”

Now that she has Marcel, she says she is unwilling to plunge so deeply into a role, to lose herself in what she calls the “total darkness”. She recently filmed Justin Kurzel’s new adaptation of Macbeth, playing Lady Macbeth opposite Michael Fassbender. “Before my family, everything in my life was dedicated to the character. The more deeply affected I was by her, the closer I felt to her. But I cannot lock myself away in another world any more. I don’t want it to affect my son when I’m in a weird state because I’m ‘depressed’ or ‘killing a king’.”

Cotillard says she’s always been “sensitive”. As a child she was a shy, melancholic loner riddled with very early-onset teenage angst. “I had existential dilemmas as young as seven, obsessive questions about my place in the world. Where did we come from? Why am I here?” She grew up in Alfortville, a suburb of Paris to French “bobo” parents – bourgeois bohemians. Her mother Monique Theillaud was a mid-level theatre actress, her father Jean-Claude Cotillard a Breton mime artist and theatre director. Together with Cotillard’s younger identical twin brothers, Guillaume and Quentin (a writer and a sculptor), they lived in a flat on the 18th floor of a tower block where they were allowed to draw freely on the walls. But excluded by her brothers’ symbiotic relationship, Cotillard didn’t talk much: “I couldn’t identify with anyone. At school I was considered very strange. I didn’t understand the relationships between people.”

From an early age she was drawn to imaginary stories. When she saw ET, aged seven, she was so distraught she had to be removed from the cinema. Her father also introduced her to silent films. “I used to pretend I was Louise Brooks or Greta Garbo in my bedroom,” she says mimicking her younger self. “I absorbed a lot from my father. He taught us how to mime at home with games.” When he set up his own theatre company, the family moved to La Beauce, near Orléans. Theillaud began teaching at the Conservatoire d’Art Dramatique d’Orléans, where the teenage Cotillard enrolled to study acting. “I saw it as a way to escape myself,” she tells me. “But it was through acting that I met myself.” On graduation she moved to a rundown flat near Gare du Nord station and appeared in the TV series of Highlander at 18, after which she was never unemployed.

In 1998 Cotillard got her first big film break in Luc Besson’s Taxi. She met Canet, then married to Diane Kruger, on the set of Love Me If You Dare six years later, and the friends reconnected after Canet’s divorce from Kruger in 2006. In France the couple are equivalent to Brangelina, but photographs of Cotillard with Canet in public together are rare. Little is known about their life together, although they both separately admit to being guitar geeks (their flat in the Marais is crammed with various models, and until recently Cotillard played bass for Parisian singer Yodelice as her butch alter-ego Simone). Cotillard agrees that the country’s strict privacy laws allow them breathing space. “Having your picture taken in the street and put in a magazine won’t change your life. But what happened to people in England, hacking phones. It’s vomit. It’s sick. This fucking changes your life.” She almost retches with disgust. “If someone is cheating on their wife in the street and pictures are taken, fine, that’s their risk. I’m not talking about some people… who currently run this country.”

This, you presume, is a reference to François Hollande’s extramarital dalliance with actor Julie Gayet. Despite appearing to prefer life on the spiritual plane, she is surprisingly engaged with politics, and when I bring up the Front National’s landslide majority at the European elections, she makes a “Quelle horreur!” expression: “French politics is a circus. The French people like to shake things up a bit, but Marine Le Pen getting into government? This will never happen. Never.”

Her real passion, however, is the environment. She’s a locavore (where possible, she eats locally produced food) and has been recycling since the 80s, a habit learned from her Breton grandmother. She’s also an ambassador for Greenpeace: in 2010 she went to the Congo to make a series of films about the destruction of the rainforests by logging companies. The following year she supported Amazonian Indian Chief Raoni in his fight against the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in Para, Brazil. Then last year she caged herself, literally, with other demonstrators outside Paris’s Palais Royal in protest over the detainment of the Arctic 30 in Russia. Her current cause is the endangered Sumatran tiger.

“I’m a nature lover, but I’m a human being lover, too. Nature will survive us. The thing we’re going to fuck up is us – and animals,” she says. “Destroying what makes us live is sick. More people are waking up but it’s super-slow. Why don’t we listen to the wise men in our world?” She reels off a list: Al Gore, French-Canadian astrophysicist Hubert Reeves and Algerian writer and farmer Pierre Rabhi. She is aware of the paradox of being both an environmentalist and a frequent long-haul-flying actor, plus the muse of Dior, part of the haute-fashion conglomerate LVMH. This is the one chink in the Cotillard matrix. “Campaigning and acting aren’t compatible,” she admits. “That’s why Audrey Hepburn gave up acting. That’s why Angelina Jolie will give up. I’m not ready to stop yet.”

Still, some things are changing. You get the sense that after Lady Macbeth she is growing a little weary of tragic antiheroines. “The dream,” she says, “is to do comedy.” Her first foray in the genre was a cameo in Anchorman 2 last year. “Comedians I know, like Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin, are some of the best human observers. Comedy has deep insights into our human defects that somehow affect the audience more deeply than tragedy.” She pauses while I absorb this, then she shrieks: “Oh! And I’d like to play a man.”

Inevitably my mind leaps to Hamlet – the ultimate tortured soul. “Oui! C’est ça!” she cries, slapping her leg when I suggest it. “But on the stage in London, unannounced. So no one knows it’s me… I could totally disappear.”

Two Days, One Night is released in cinemas nationwide on 22 August

Phoenix, and Cotillard, loosen up to talk ‘Immigrant’

Phoenix, and Cotillard, loosen up to talk ‘Immigrant’

Many words can be drummed up to describe Joaquin Phoenix, that quirky four-time Oscar nominee who back in 2009 took performance art to new heights during a faux career switch to rapping, and who has famously bedeviled interviewers for years.

Difficult. Intense. Idiosyncratic. Odd.

But how about: sweet, self-effacing and actually quite lighthearted when the mood strikes?

“People often think he’s strange. He’s just very shy and that seems bizarre, but he’s uncomfortable being in the public unless it’s doing his thing,” promises James Gray, who’s directed four of Phoenix’s films. “He’s extremely sensitive and tender.”

So here Phoenix is, in the back room of the Bowery Hotel, greeting folks around him with full-body hugs. And there he is, happily watching a video that Marion Cotillard shows him of her son, Marcel, 3, playing with toys. “He’s amazing, really amazing,” he says.

Phoenix, 39, and Cotillard, 38, play a strangely co-dependent couple in Gray’s The Immigrant, now in theaters. Phoenix’s character preys on helpless women immigrating to New York City in the 1920s, and Cotillard’s is one of his apparent victims. When told he makes a compellingly creepy pimp in the film, Phoenix pauses and retorts, “You must not have known many pimps.”

Touché. And for someone who seems to never be at ease in the spotlight, who rarely banters with the media, Phoenix seems to be ready to let loose, a little. He doesn’t miss a beat when his 2012 drama The Master becomes confused with, of all things, 1999’s The Messenger, starring Milla Jovovich. “That’s my best work by far. You could say I’m probably the best thing in The Messenger. Most people don’t even know it’s me,” deadpans Phoenix.

Cotillard is a bit perplexed. “I should see it?” she wonders. “Did you play Joan of Arc?”

‘You just dive in and you don’t think about it’

In The Immigrant, Ewa (Cotillard) is a Polish newcomer who becomes the victim of a ruthless and manipulative yet often strangely kind hustler, Bruno (Phoenix). Cotillard, who is French and won a best-actress Oscar for playing “little sparrow” Edith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie en Rose, speaks English with a Polish accent in the film, and has absolutely no hint of her Gallic mother tongue.

“How did you do that?” wonders Phoenix.

Pas de problème, to hear how matter of factly Cotillard describes it. “The Polish accent was not as intense as the Polish itself. You never have enough to work. It was a very low-budget movie. In Paris, I’d see a Polish person, I’d try to work. So you just dive in and you don’t think about it. You just have to do your best. I listened to a lot of Polish,” she says.

Both are similar in that they’re not at ease, or at their best, glad-handing the media to sell their films. Cotillard just hides it better. “I’m so terrible at this. I think I’m a terrible actor,” says Phoenix.

Seriously, with four Academy Award nominations to his name? But Phoenix insists he’s not offered the crème de la crème of films, and chooses the best of what’s out there. “I’m not as selective as I should be. It’s so clichéd. It’s like falling in love. When you fall in love, you don’t ask a lot of questions. You have this desire to be with this person. I have to have this experience,” he says.

While other actors seem to clamor for and lap up approval, Phoenix appears to let commentary roll off his back, bad or good. “I would have to say he’s a wild animal. He’s like a cat,” says Cotillard. “Like a very big, nice cat. Like Garfield. I think he’s cool.”

“A little pudgy is what she’s getting at,” responds Phoenix.

Striking a balance

Cotillard is famously focused and ultra-prepared, but has being the mom of a toddler made her total immersion more difficult, or even impossible? “Honestly, it’s super-hard. I saw it on the last movie I did,” she says.

The actress just wrapped Macbeth, opposite Michael Fassbender. Playing the power-crazed wife of a Scottish general had a corrosive effect on Cotillard. “I’m really affected by the characters. I was playing Lady Macbeth and she’s really hard to live with. I had to send my son back to France. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but it did not work with my son around. I didn’t want him to be affected by it,” she says. “Someone told me I had to protect myself more, but I can’t do that — protecting myself from my character is impossible. Sometimes it takes a long time to get into this person. You escape it when it’s done. Being a mum has changed everything.”

But you’d never know it from being with her in front of the camera. “You were affected by it and you were clearly in it,” Phoenix says to Cotillard of her ability to immerse herself on set. “Children actors are the best. They quickly enter into this land of make-believe. I like giving over to this world quickly. It’s just kids saying, ‘I’m Flash Gordon, I’m Superman,’ ” says Phoenix.

Or perhaps Joan of Arc. After apologizing to Phoenix about the earlier snafu, Phoenix starts laughing. “Are you kidding? That was the best part,” he says.

Phoenix, Cotillard team up for tiring ‘Immigrant’ shoot

It’s the day after the Met Ball and Marion Cotillard seems distracted. It was a long night, one filled with libations, and now she has a full day of press ahead of her, plus a premiere later tonight. So you wouldn’t fault her for being drained. But she’s not.

“I drank a bit. I just like to drink,” shrugs Cotillard. “It’s true.”

Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Cotillard’s pimp in the period drama The Immigrant, first laughs in appreciation of her honesty. Then he provides perspective.

“This is not tired. Making the movie was exhausting. You really had it tough,” he says. “We called her ‘cyborg.’ You could not stop her. She was like Terminator. She had this kid and she was tired, and I was exhausted, but it was nothing compared to what she had to do. She still showed up and was always on. It was very frustrating. She made the rest of us look very bad.”

Or, says director James Gray, upping the game for everyone else.

“You’re talking about two of the best actors in the world today. Marion has one of the greatest movie faces ever. She’s like a silent movie actress. She’s so expressive, so smart, so aware of human behavior,” says Gray. “And Joaquin is very observant. All of this resistance to talking to press is really about his very sincere fear of seeming phony. He doesn’t want to be that guy on TV. He doesn’t want to seem like a liar. I love him, obviously. He has the soul of an artist.”

For someone who famously doesn’t excel at doing press, Phoenix is at his most loquacious this afternoon.

“I know this is going to sound so stupid, but I feel like this is the first time I’ve met Marion. It was so strange,” he says, turning to her. “I can’t believe you’re a normal human being. You have such personality.”

Pause, as silence goes unfilled. “Great interview, thanks so much. I can’t stand this lull. I’m so uncomfortable,” announces Phoenix. “Well, this is great, that’s all I have to offer.”

But he gamely plays along. He and Cotillard met the first day of rehearsal. The pace of the film was so intense that they barely hung out together as actual people, as opposed to co-stars. Cotillard’s son Marcel, now 3, was a baby during the two-month shoot, which shifted from days to nights and back to days. Not exactly ideal for the mother of an infant. “I was feeding my son. I was not sleeping. I was (expletive) exhausted,” she says.

Opening doors opened the door for Marion Cotillard and Two Days, One Night

Opening doors opened the door for Marion Cotillard and Two Days, One Night

Hollywood is famous for the “elevator pitch,” in which a movie can be described (and hopefully sold) in the ride between two floors. The Cannes Film Festival has introduced the “elevator meeting,” and the results have been fruitful.

Marion Cotillard first met Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne on the set of Rust & Bone, which screened in competition at Cannes in 2012, and in which she portrays a whale trainer who loses her legs. The Dardenne brothers were co- producers on that film.

“We met her by chance, coming out of an elevator holding her baby, and were won over immediately,” says Luc. “My brother and I looked at each other and we said, ‘We would like to work with you.’ ”

In their new film, Two Days, One Night, Cotillard plays Sandra, an employee at a small solar-panel manufacturer who loses her job when her co-workers must choose between laying someone off or losing their bonuses. After convincing her boss to allow a second vote on Monday morning, Sandra has the weekend to convince her 16 coworkers to give up their bonuses and let her keep her job.

It’s tear-jerking social realism and puts Cotillard in good stead for her first acting prize at Cannes. The Dardennes have won two Palmes d’Or (for 1999’s Rosetta and 2005’s The Child) and would be the first filmmakers to win a third if Two Days, One Night goes the distance.

In the film, the outcome of the second vote is never certain, and there’s an unexpected twist at the conclusion. “We took some time to find it,” Jean-Pierre says of the final scene. “We made several different proposals but none satisfied us.”

He speaks of their fraternal collaboration as a kind of machine. “When the machine doesn’t get going, it means the proposal isn’t right. If we can’t agree, there’s no point in working together as brothers.”

Cotillard gained prominence in America after winning an Academy Award for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie en Rose. Since then she has moved easily between American and European productions, with roles in Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, even as a Canadian news anchor in Anchorman 2.

“I love complex roles,” she says of her part in Two Days, One Night. “Characters discover things within themselves that they didn’t realize they had, and that’s what interests me in the human condition. I’m deeply moved by people who manage despite difficult circumstances. I learn a lot when I explore these people’s souls.”

She likens her body to a car, and says that after discovering a role from the inside, “I hand the keys to the character and the character drives me.”

And, surprisingly, she would be willing to let a man take the wheel. Asked what role she would most like to play in the future, she says, “I’m fascinated with the idea of portraying a man, because it strikes me as impossible.”

Cannes : éblouissante Marion Cotillard dans «Deux Jours, une nuit»

Cannes : éblouissante Marion Cotillard dans «Deux Jours, une nuit»

Marion Cotillard est éblouissante dans « Deux Jours, une nuit », le nouveau film des frères Dardenne, présenté hier à Cannes et qui sort aujourd’hui.

À Cannes, Marion Cotillard a passé, dans sa carrière, bien plus que « deux jours, une nuit », du nom du film de Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne, en lice pour la Palme sous pavillon belge, présenté hier sur la Croisette et qui sort aujourd’hui sur 310 copies. Les deux frères ont déjà décroché l’or à deux reprises : en 1999 avec « Rosetta » et en 2005 pour « l’Enfant ». Une troisième, tout à fait possible, signerait leur grand chelem. Sinon, la môme Cotillard peut d’ores et déjà prétendre à un prix d’interprétation féminine. A 38 ans, elle interprète de manière éblouissante Sandra, une ouvrière qui joue le tout pour le tout pour ne pas perdre son travail. Nous l’avons recontrée hier après-midi.

Jouer une ouvrière quand on a une vie privilégiée, c’est une façon de remettre les pendules à l’heure ?
MARION COTILLARD.
Pas du tout ! S’il est vrai que j’ai une vie privilégiée, je ne suis pas entourée de gens qui le sont, je ne viens pas d’une famille fortunée. Je ne suis pas déconnectée du monde. Il me questionne, il me touche. Cette société qu’on a créée, je n’oublie pas que j’en fais partie. Ensuite, je ne choisis pas un rôle sous prétexte qu’il donnerait un éclairage à ma vie personnelle, ni pour y changer quoi que ce soit. Mais uniquement si j’éprouve un besoin brûlant de le faire.

Quelle brûlure ici ?
Le sujet qu’il traite : cette difficulté à trouver sa place. Et la question qu’il pose : comment comprendre qu’on peut être utile au monde alors qu’on peut s’y sentir de trop.

Comment vous êtes-vous retrouvée chez les Dardenne ?
La première fois que je les ai rencontrés, c’était à l’occasion du film de Jacques Audiard, « De rouille et d’os ». Ils coproduisaient la partie belge. Nous nous étions dit bonjour entre deux ascenseurs. J’étais très impressionnée. Plus tard, mon agent m’a annoncé qu’ils envisageaient une collaboration avec moi. C’était impensable, même si je les mettais tout en haut de ma liste. Ils ont l’habitude de travailler avec des acteurs belges.

Qu’avez-vous appris avec eux ?
Ils m’ont fait puiser plus loin dans mes ressources, dans mon imaginaire. Parce que leur façon de tourner réclame une totale perfection dans tous domaines. Et que lorsqu’on a atteint 70 fois la même émotion, on est un peu usée. Comment faire pour que ça fonctionne une fois de plus ? Alors on va chercher toujours plus profondément en soi-même.

Il paraît que vous avez gardé le débardeur rose que vous portez pendant tout le film…
Je ne garde jamais les costumes, mais, là, l’équipe me l’a offert, dédicacé par tout le monde.

Vous voyagez à Cannes avec une armée de bagages ?
Je dois avouer que cette année je suis arrivée avec plus de valises que d’habitude… parce que j’ai eu moins de temps pour les faire. Dans ces cas-là, on jette tout dedans, on bourre et quand ça ne rentre plus, on en prend une autre.

Vous songez à un prix d’interprétation ?
Sincèrement, je n’y pense pas. Je me refuse à le faire. Sinon, c’est trop stressant.

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