ROME – France’s Marion, diva Cotillard, shares in life the melancholic temperament with the heroines embodied on screen. The Oscar-winning Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose”, the girl with no legs in “Rust and Bone”, brings to theatres a new and convincing portrait of a lady (January 16). In James Gray’s epic “The Immigrant” she is a young Polish immigrant who arrives at Ellis Island and ends up a prostitute, caught in a quarrel between the recruiter Joaquin Phoenix and the magician Jeremy Renner. “I feel very close to Ewa. I, like her, know very well what it means to feel like an outcast,” says Marion, 38, the world’s most famous French actress, forty films on her resumé, some made with high caliber filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan and Woody. “I have never thought about it in terms of career” – she says – “never planned or analyzed my path. To me it’s just telling stories, investigating the nature of human beings: one lifetime isn’t enough to grasp our complexity. I feel like an anthropologist trying to understand how souls, hearts, and brains work.”
The film is like a historical painting of an era. How did you prepare?
“I left it to the director to research the America of the 20s, my Ewa is an immigrant in a new world. I focused on her and the Polish language. In Michael Mann’s Public Enemies I was playing an American with French roots. This time, I had to be believable as a Polish citizen, delivering lines in Polish, which is a complicated language that I studied like a mad woman. For months. Languages are my obsession: after watching Festen I took Danish lessons because I dreamed of working with director Thomas Vinterberg. ”
How did you create the character of the unfortunate Ewa?
“I went back to the age of twelve, when I had a Polish classmate. She was the misfit of the class, always alone. I was fascinated by her appearance,the proud gaze with which she faced the others and that seemed to say “You don’t know”. I was the only one who would talk to her, even though we didn’t share a friendship. At the time, I was very strange as well. But I seemed to understand her thoughts, that feeling of being threatened by the other children. I based my Ewa on her.”
In what sense were you different at that time?
I was not very social. It took time for me to understand, to learn to manage a normal relationship with others. Very early on, I had too many questions in my head, like “Why are we here?” and “Where do we come from?”. I questioned everything, I lacked the innocence of my age. I felt like I was just one big question mark.”
What was your relationship with your parents like?
“Good. But they were both actors. We are not normal people, we are especially not regarded as such. It can be difficult for a child, I wanted my mother to be like the mothers of my classmates, which she was definitely not. I have two twin brothers bound by an exclusive relationship, only at twenty years old did we manage to have a relationship, before that I considered them animals that I happened to share a family with.”
Has being a daughter of the arts influenced your choices?
“Yes. As a little girl I was fascinated by the lives of my parents, of the people around them; no day was ever the same. I started acting early. I felt that I was made for it even if I didn’t feel entitled to say it out loud, it seemed presumptuous. I wanted to be sure of my ability and it took time and effort to get here.”
Are you finally calm now?
“It’s a good time in my life. I have learned to control my fears and emotions. It’s not fun to always be the outsider. I hated feeling like that. But a part of me will always be somewhere else.”