Translation from Madame Figaro’s “Marion Cotillard: I’ve once wanted to disappear and start from scratch”‘s article from their May 2017 issue. Photos here.
She is the vibrant heroine of film that opens this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Les Fantômes d’Ismaël, by Arnaud Desplechin. But today it’s alongside her family, far from the bright lights, that the superstar wants to savor her happiness after the birth of her second child.
A rainy afternoon in Paris. In a renowned Parisian hotel, Marion Cotillard walks back and forth between the room where photographer Dominique Issermann captures her photo for Madame Figaro, and an adjoining room where she regularly feeds the insatiable Louise, her baby only a couple of weeks old. The actress and the mother, two sides of a woman that merge into an even more touching version of herself, cradling her child during the interview.
The end of last year completely drained her: two world tours, pregnant, to follow the releases of the American block-busters Allied and Assassin’s Creed. The return to France was marked by childbirth and the release of Rock’n’Roll, a stripping of the celebrity life, signed by her companion, Guillaume Canet.
Marion Cotillard regained her Parisian habits. This year, she swears, we will not see the exceptional actress perform in more than one film, Les Fantômes d’Ismael, by Arnaud Desplechin, and which had the honor of opening the Cannes Film Festival on this past Wednesday, which was also the day it was released in France.
A return to a world that is dear to her, that of the cinema d’auteur. And especially into the world of Desplechin, a certified “left bank” director, who welcomes her into a family of actors led by Mathieu Amalric, who plays her husband in the film. She is Carlotta Bloom, his wife, who suddenly reppears, after over 20 years gone missing, just as he is rebuilding his life with Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg), an astrophysicist who seems to appease the tumults this excessive artist, whose existence oscillates between chaos and poetry.
What is the mood of the moment?
It is a lot of sweetness, joy and devotion: I’m dedicating myself entirely to my family, and it’s been wonderful. I needed calm after the chaos of my last promotional tours. It was a lot for my condition as a pregnant woman, but it was unthinkable not to accompany those films I loved.
Was it not unreasonable to work so much at that time?
I do not ask myself that sort of question. I managed to make time – I don’t know how but I did – to be close to the people I need and who need me. Everything else, it was my choice. And last year ended up being the one where I was able to refocus, as well.
Do you need a mind and body of steel in order to sustain very demanding cinematographic experiments?
I am very endurant: I have a body that follows through wonderfully. I have no right to complain: I have made choices which are choices allowed to someone privileged. It’s a luxury to be an actor when you have children. I’m thankful every day for the luck I have, to be able to organize my life around them. During a shoot, while they’re little, I can see them in my trailer between two scenes.
Do we acknowledge the possibility of being a bad mother when we are an actress?
The business has changed a lot. What was probably true for the actresses of yesterday is no longer true today: motherhood is completely integrated. The child is at the center of the concerns of many actresses and mothers, and people are very respectful of that.
Does not it bother the directors or producers when they know an actress is pregnant?
That may be a fear for some, but if they hire you, they do it knowingly. During the shooting of Arnaud Desplechin, I was pregnant but I didn’t say anything, because I was less than three months pregnant. And then I was shot by paparazzi, and the pictures came out where they claimed I was five months pregnant, probably to stir things up. I called Arnaud Desplechin so that he would hear it from me. And he was very happy for me…
The news went well with the theme of his film, which is a hymn to life …
Yes, life shows in all the characters; even those who are close to death, there’s a last thing to live through, life gives them a final embrace. Besides, my character is called Carlotta Bloom: “bloom” means “to flourish” in English. Life flourished among the bruised – her husband, played by Mathieu Amalric, his father …
Working with Desplechin, in a cinéma d’auteur genre, was that important for you?
I’ve worked with him before, twenty years ago: I have a scene in How I Fought … (my sex life). I was half naked, so very uncomfortable. I don’t think anyone noticed me. Today, we are both very different people, and I was very happy to work with him again, and with such a beautiful, strong role.
How was it meeting Charlotte Gainsbourg?
She is a great actress, who constantly takes incredible risks in films. We didn’t know each other before. She is very delicate. There was a lot of sweetness in our exchanges. We did not talk about cinema, only about life and our children …
Carlotta, your character, is quite Shakespearean. One may even think she does not exist …
She could in fact not exist, being a ghost of the past, but for me she is very real, very alive, very anchored. It’s a paradox: on one hand, she is frontal, cheeky and sincere, on the other, she is completely enigmatic and aerial. We don’t really know where she comes from, or how she returns. She is both mystery and the opposite of that. I like playing these kind of characters, complex, deep, paradoxical.
Does she resemble you?
When I was a teenager I had, like her, the desire to leave, to disappear and to start all over again elsewhere, to relief myself of the weight of my life then. I was in pain, I dreamed of making my life in a place where I could be who I dreamed of being.
I couldn’t clearly identify the discomfort, but I got over it, although there may be small relapses sometimes. I ended up finding a way to stop hating myself.
It takes courage to leave …
It takes so much more courage to stay and accept to be who we are.
Is 2017 the year of rebirth for you, with a second child and a return to French cinema?
It will be a year of rest. I will not shoot a movie in the next few months, I have said no to everything that was offered to me, even to directors whom I adore. I want to make time for my family and for myself. My son begins school and my daughter is a tiny baby. I want to spend my time with them, with their father, it’s both a desire and a need. When I work, I’m completely committed, and that’s not what I want for me right now.
Do you remember your first time at Cannes?
It was a long time ago, I was part of an operation launched by Canal + called “Les Dix de Canal”. It had been a long casting process, Audrey Tautou was also part of it. I was very impressed, at the time I still felt very weird in my own skin, although I was trying to overcome it. A few years later, there was Midnight in Paris in competition, but I couldn’t be there because I gave birth to my son, Marcel, who was born in May. The first time I was in Cannes with a competing film was with Rust and Bone, by Jacques Audiard.
Cannes hasn’t really brought you much luck so far. Despite remarkable performances in The Rust and Bone, The Immigrant, Two Days, One Night or Stone Mischief, you have not yet received the Interpretation Award …
I feel so lucky to be able to bring films to Cannes. I have never been into the competition side of it. I have a very ambiguous relationship with the prizes. On one hand, I find that it makes no sense, on the other hand, I participate in it fully. But there is never any disappointment if I do not get an award. I know today that the need for recognition is an almost-pathological condition: one does not get rid of it by receiving prizes.
In retrospect, how do you feel when you remember the evening of February 2008 in Hollywood, where you got an Oscar for the La Vie en Rose?
I did not think it was possible and I was not expecting anything. I had a lot of fun campaigning for it, I was amazed at everything. Receiving the award was a surprise, and of course an enormous joy.