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Five things we learned at the press conference for Blood Ties, featuring Marion Cotillard

Five things we learned at the press conference for Blood Ties, featuring Marion Cotillard

What: Blood Ties, French director Guillaume Canet’s fourth feature film about a pair of brothers (played by Billy Crudup and Clive Owen) — one a cop, the other a criminal — in 1970’s New York. Marion Cotillard plays the mother of Chris’s (Owen) children, who’s trying to run her own brothel.

When: Sept. 10, 10:45 a.m.

Who: Director Guillaume Canet, producer Alain Attal, Marion Cotillard

1. Canet, who has long been fascinated with the 1970’s, has always wanted to set one of his films during this period in New York.
“I grew up with … the cinema of the 1970’s in the U.S. Like Sam Peckinpah and Jerry Schatzberg,” said the Tell No One director, seated beside his real-life partner, Cotillard. “I’ve always been very excited about making a movie of that genre.”

2. Canet and Cotillard admit there are ups and downs to being in a working and personal relationship.
The couple, who have been together for several years and have a child, talked at length about the difficulties of both living and work together. “I trust Guillaume 200 per cent,” said Cotillard. “I would do anything for him to get what he wants. When he’s not happy, it touches me deeply. But it’s interesting to be in the life of someone who’s in the creative process. Even though it’s sometimes really hard to live, sometimes it’s heaven and sometimes it’s hell. But I’m supportive because I know this creative process is really intense.”

3. Don’t ask the La Vie en Rose actress about her personal life, even if you disguise it as a question about Parisians being more romantic.
When a journalist asked how the couple keeps the romance alive at home since France is the most romantic country in the world, Cotillard gracefully responded, “I cannot answer this question. We never talk about our personal life.” Canet quickly turned to the actress and said, “You can just say I’m very romantic at home, too.”

4. Cotillard accepted the role partly because she was looking for a film set in the 1970’s, since she’s acted in films from virtually every other period in recent history.
“I was very excited to explore this period because I had explored the 20s, 40s, 50s, 60s, even the 80s, but never the 70s,” said Cotillard, to which Canet joked, “This is why I picked the 70s, to make sure she would accept.” The actress, smiling, replied, “No, I would have accepted anything,” before adding, “There is a special groove to the 70s and I loved working on the very specific body language that really comes with what they wore and the period’s time and the way people wanted to set themselves free of the constrictions that they had lived in for years.”

5. Cotillard, who dons an Italian accent in the film, had no trouble picking up Polish for a role, but failed miserably at learning Italian.
Cotillard had to learn some Polish for her work in the film The Immigrant, but says she simply couldn’t pick up Italian for Blood Ties (even though it was all her idea!) “I wanted to learn a little bit of Italian, but I failed,” said Cotillard. “It was kind of dramatic for me, but I didn’t have to speak Italian in the movie so it was’t like a major public failure … The amount of time it took me to learn four lines in Italian was the same amount of time it took me to learn 20 pages in Polish. I mean, I am really not good at Italian.”

Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet partners of a different kind in ‘Blood Ties’

Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet partners of a different kind in ‘Blood Ties’

Marion Cotillard, the stunning French actress who won an Oscar for La Vie en Rose, was delighted that she did not have to strip off her clothes to play a prostitute in Guillaume Canet’s Brooklyn crime thriller, Blood Ties.

“How it was written,” she told a TIFF press conference on Tuesday, “I didn’t have to do crazy naked stuff.”

Emotionally, she did have to go to extremes, but that was easier because that is her job as an actress. “I would have gone wherever Guillaume wanted to go.”

Cotillard, of course, was confident she would not be exploited by writer-director Canet. After all, he happens to be her life partner, and father of Cotillard’s two-year-old son Marcel. Blood Ties is also the second time they have worked together, after she starred in Little White Lies (2010), his French-language dramatic comedy. Blood Ties is Canet’s English-language debut.

Working together is like a love affair, only with a different set of complications. “Personally,” Canet said, “I think it is an advantage only for the director … and not at all for the actress.”

“That’s not true!” Cotillard said, glancing at her lover, who is a heartthrob movie star in France when not directing his own films.

“It is very different for the actress,” Canet continued, describing how Cotillard would have to come home after a day of shooting “and you don’t want to hear all the director’s problems that he had all day long.”

Filmmakers who direct their lovers also have another issue to deal with, he said: “They don’t want to express too much the admiration and love (they have) for their partner. So, on the set, unconsciously, they are less … (he pauses, searching for the phrase in English) …”

“Open to compliments?” Cotillard offers with a mischievous grin.

“Yes! On the other hand, I think there is something really, really important and magical when you shoot a movie with someone who is your partner.” That something is trust.

“All directors know that Marion has something extraordinary in her way of working. She is very generous and, once she is committed to a movie, she is trusting the director no matter what. With me, it is even more because she knows she would give everything. She trusts me because she knows me, and she knows I don’t want to disappoint her and (put) her in a weird situation. For me, that a huge gift — to have this complicity.”

For Cotillard, their relationship is based on that same sense of trust that Canet described. “I trust Guillaume 200%.”

As for being given a hard time on set, “He was always fair. Don’t believe what he said about being more difficult. And I would do anything for him to get what he wants.”

Cotillard and Canet are well known for not talking about their personal life together in Paris. So their revelations about their working relationship are somewhat unusual. But Cotillard brought down their cone of silence when a Mexican journalist awkwardly asked her to describe her romantic relationship with Canet.

“We never talk about our personal life,” Cotillard said.

“You can just say I’m very romantic at home, too,” Canet suggested.

“Which is true, actually,” Cotillard confirmed.

There’s no rust on Cotillard

Actress earns multiple award noms for latest drama

You can expect to see Marion Cotillard at the Academy Awards in February.

The French actress — who already has an Oscar (as well as a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and a Cesar) for her performance a few years ago as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose — now stars in Rust and Bone, a drama that may net her another Oscar nod. As awards season begins, she’s already been nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award and for a Golden Globe for her performance, and Rust and Bone is also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.

Despite the accolades, “When I start working on a project, I feel like I’ma beginner again,” she says.

“Nervous. Of course, I have more experience now, but because I love to jump on the unknown each time, it’s hard to start all over again. And that’s what I love about this job.”

The film — loosely based on the work of Canadian writer Craig Davidson — is a love story about damaged people. Cotillard, 37, plays a whale trainer working at the marine theme park in Antibes. She is badly injured on the job. Co-star Matthias Schoenaerts portrays the bareknuckle fighter she relies upon after her accident.

She works with Schoenaerts again in the upcoming Blood Ties (2013), a film about organized crime in the ’70s that also stars Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Clive Owen and James Caan.

These days, Cotillard juggles parenthood with work commitments on both sides of the ocean.

She and her partner, actor/filmmaker Guillaume Canet (who directed Blood Ties) have a 20-month-old son.

“It’s hectic,” she understates, smiling. “My life is in movement, constant movement, and I love it, but sometimes you just need to relax and not work too much – and I want to see my son every day of my life and do nothing and just stare at him.”

Success has led to a new-found visibility, and Cotillard concedes that it can be a nuisance to be hounded by paparazzi. But she’s not complaining.

“We turn it into a lot of fun, like when I have to go to the airport and suddenly my publicist says, ‘Oh, my God, paparazzi,’ and I look like s—, so I put some makeup on. And that’s ridiculous! To put makepup on just to take a plane? So we make fun of it.”

She adds, “It’s not difficult. Difficult is no money to feed your kids. Difficult is something totally different… Sometimes it’s annoying, sometimes when you want to have time for yourself and your family it can be more than annoying, but you have to take a little step back … My life is amazing and I shouldn’t complain.”

Above all, Cotillard continues to love what she does and be challenged by her work.

“I love it when I0m not sure I’m gonna be good. I love it even when I’m not sure I’m going to be able to give life or find authenticity, and sometimes it doesn’t work. But when it does, it’s a lot of fun.”

The Argument: Marion Cotillard, Hollywood’s favourite French actress, gets unleashed in Rust and Bone

The Argument: Marion Cotillard, Hollywood’s favourite French actress, gets unleashed in Rust and Bone

The first time I saw Marion Cotillard in the flesh was at this year’s TIFF. The jaw-droppingly gorgeous French actress was standing atop a long flight of stairs inside Michael’s on Simcoe. She was in town for the gala presentation of Rust and Bone, a dark and visceral French romance adapted from a collection of short stories by Toronto author Craig Davidson and directed by Jacques Audriard. In the film, she plays a killer whale trainer at Marineland who loses her legs in a freak accident involving an aquatic animal routine gone very, very wrong.

I happened to be coming up the stairs at Michael’s just as Cotillard, wearing bright blue and yellow satin heels, was about to go down. I saw the shoes before I saw the woman wearing them, and was about to compliment her when our eyes met, and I realized I was standing there with my one and only celebrity crush. I instantly froze. And then turned into a pile of mush.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not obsessed with Cotillard in a creepy stalker way—not like the New York woman who recently pleaded guilty to sending the actress more than 500 emails, plus over 100 web videos of her (the stalker, not Cotillard) hissing like a cat and talking about playing Russian roulette. My crush is much more innocuous. It started nearly a decade ago when I saw her in the dark French comedy Jeux d’enfants, in which she plays a fiery woman who falls for her handsome best friend, played by the heartthrob (and Cotillard’s real-life partner) Guillaume Canet. She had me at bonjour.

With Rust and Bone, which hits theatres this month, Cotillard is an early contender for a Best Actress Oscar. She’s already won the big prize once, for her depiction of Édith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie en rose, which captured the conflicted chanteuse’s messy, selfish and tragic existence with an irrepressible intensity and almost eerie realism. She’s only the third French actress to take home the award—after Claudette Colbert, for 1934’s It Happened One Night, and Simone Signoret, for 1959’s Room at the Top—and the first to win for a French-language performance.

At the time, she could barely speak enough English to cobble together an acceptance speech, offering little more than a string of bumbled clichés and stunned thank yous. Five years later, she’s the public face of Rust and Bone for the film’s North American tour. At the TIFF screening, she deftly translated Audiard’s opening remarks, charming the capacity crowd.

Cotillard has come a long way in such a short time, and not just linguistically. Her post-Piaf resumé is a catalogue of big-name Hollywood directors—Michael Mann, Rob Marshall, Woody Allen, Steven Soderbergh. Not to mention her most high-profile role to date, as Bruce Wayne’s mysterious romantic interest in The Dark Knight Rises, for which director Christopher Nolan adjusted the shooting schedule purely to accommodate Cotillard, who was pregnant with her first child.

And yet Hollywood doesn’t quite know what to do with her. In the European films where I like her best, Cotillard is often cast as powerful, complicated women—roles that allow her to contrast an inner turmoil with her serene outer beauty. On this continent, she still gets stuck playing the foil to more
magnificent men.

We got a taste of Cotillard unleashed in Nolan’s Inception, in which she played Leo­nardo DiCaprio’s dead wife, who haunts his dreams with ever-greater maliciousness. Every move she makes in the film insinuates violence, every facial expression is a threat. She channels that same intensity in the musical Nine, in which she cuts down her philandering husband, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, with a sassy striptease. Both roles hint at Cotillard’s range, and yet neither captures her at her best.

Rust and Bone is the kind of character-driven drama that allows Cotillard to be raw, ragged and a little ferocious. After the grisly accident with the whale, Cotillard’s character awakens in a hospital room and slowly becomes aware that she’s a double-amputee. She screams and hurls herself from her bed to the floor, writhing in agony. Her pain is so palpable it makes you squirm in your seat. She is slowly restored by a friendship-cum-romance with a drifting street fighter and deadbeat dad (played with brute force by Belgian-born dreamboat Matthias Schoenaerts).

The role of a tragically disabled person who finds love and the will to survive sounds like shameless Oscar bait, but Cotillard makes the melodramatic scenario feel real. Her performance doesn’t come off as capital-A Acting—it’s as if you are witnessing someone’s most private moments. When she and Schoenaerts’ character finally have sex, the moment is entirely unsexy. She wants to know if she is still capable of engaging in intimate physical acts, and he, rather perfunctorily, obliges.

It’s the kind of scene that couldn’t happen in any of the blockbusting popcorn flicks that characterize her newfound Tinseltown career, but it’s one that shows exactly what she is capable of. There aren’t any bat-suited superheroes in Rust and Bone. What it does have is the real Marion—the one capable of reducing a man to nothing more than mush.

Interview: Marion Cotillard

Interview: Marion Cotillard

Oscar winner Marion Cotillard talks directors, CGI and why she’s suspicious of big studio movies

Marion Cotillard won an Oscar before she became a star.

The actor now familiar to Christopher Nolan fans as Mal in Inception and Miranda Tate in The Dark Knight Rises grabbed the Academy’s best actress prize for her full-throttle performance in La Vie En Rose (among a select few to do so for a foreign-language performance).

Having graduated to A-list status, Cotillard’s back in the Oscar conversation again, this time for her wrenching turn in Rust And Bone. She plays Stéphanie, an orca trainer who loses her legs in an accident and goes on to redefine her life, stripped of limbs, makeup and vanity.

During an interview at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, Cotillard shrugs off the physical challenge of playing an amputee. She credits CGI wizardry for that part of her performance. The bigger challenge was getting to know her character.

“Stéphanie was totally mysterious to me,” she says in gently accented English. When she told co-writer/director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) that she didn’t understand her character, he claimed not to understand her either.

“So we took the road to meet her,” says Cotillard, recognizing that comfort with the enigmatic is part of Audiard’s genius. “I realized that part of Stéphanie would stay a mystery, and that’s okay.”

Cotillard stresses the importance of a solid director to lean on, whether in a French art house film or a big-budget extravaganza.

“The first person I do my job for is the director,” she says. Which is probably why her resumé is full of auteurs like Michael Mann, Steven Soderbergh and Woody Allen.

Dark Knight Rises director Nolan has “the spirit of an independent,” says Cotillard. He’s actively involved in every stage of the filmmaking process. On the other hand, she’s uneasy about studio movies – or at least those that seem so to her.

“One day I was offered a dream role in a huge, big American movie,” she says, explaining how her excitement for the project quickly evaporated when she met the director, who came off as a studio tool.

“I felt I had nothing to do in the project,” she says. “And he didn’t know anything about actors because it wasn’t his movie. It was a studio movie. He was there to direct. Direct what? I don’t know, but not me.”

She turned down the role (she won’t reveal the film’s title), even though friends called her crazy. When it turned out to be a massive box office success, Cotillard went to check out what she’d missed.

“It was so bad,” she says, laughing. “Even actors who were good in other movies were so bad [in this]. And I had the explanation: they had no director.” 

Oscar buzz

France entered The Intouchables as its entry in the foreign-language category, but don’t count out Marion Cotillard to score a best actress nod. Sure, she’s got an Oscar on her mantle already, but the Academy loves actors playing characters with disabilities.

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