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Dec 2012
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Marion Cotillard takes a tough turn in the gritty love story “Rust and Bone.”

In her new film “Rust and Bone,” which already has set box office records in France, Marion Cotillard takes a dramatic step away from her chic, seductive earlier roles. Cotillard won a 2008 Oscar as Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose,” played captivating dream women in “Inception” and “Midnight in Paris,” and has been a brand ambassador of Dior since 2009.

Now the 37-year-old actress goes gritty and working-class as Stephanie, a killer-whale trainer at a French seaquarium. After she suffers a terrible accident, she enters a sexually charged courtship with Ali (up-and-coming Belgian star Matthias Schoenaerts), a tough boxer/bouncer with a criminal past, impulse-control issues and a spotty record as a single parent to his young son. Each is damaged inside and out, each makes an effort to heal — and tame — the other.

“Rust and Bone” is already gathering Oscar buzz for Cotillard. To prepare, she took swimming lessons while filming “The Dark Knight Rises” in Pittsburgh, and spent days learning how to interact with whales by observing orca trainers at Marineland in Antibes. (Spoilers follow.) But in a September interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, she said that playing a double amputee re-learning to walk did not require a lot of study.

“I didn’t need to watch a lot of videos” to create her character’s body language, Cotillard said. “They showed how amputees who were experienced with their artificial legs moved. My character, who was suddenly injured, was learning to walk from scratch, like a newborn, and she learns as she goes along.”

Cotillard’s father was a mime and theater director, her mother an actress, but they didn’t pressure her to perform, she said. Her early film diet was heavily Hollywood, and she considers herself “very lucky” to have collaborated with Woody Allen, Tim Burton, Michael Mann, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott and Steven Soderbergh. She hopes one day to work with her longtime favorite, Steven Spielberg, as she crafts a career shuttling between English-language roles and working in France, which she considers her home base.

Cotillard is famous for her immersion in her characters. She shaved her eyebrows and hairline to play the haggard, aging Piaf. To get inside John Dillinger’s girlfriend Billie Frechette in “Public Enemies,” she interviewed elders at the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin where Frechette grew up.

But she had never faced a challenge like playing a legless woman. For scenes in which Stephanie uses a wheelchair, Cotillard sat on her folded legs. Scenes where she walks on steel prosthetics were created with digital technology. “Once I put myself in the character of someone legless, I almost forgot everything below the knees.”

The love affair between Stephanie, who retains a healthy sex drive, and the ever- ready Ali, who is brusquely matter-of-fact about her injury, is by turns dramatic, frankly sensual and surprisingly fun and funny. “The tragedy was already in the situation. We didn’t need to dwell on it as actors,” she said. “They both hurt but they are transforming, regaining their lives, embracing love. Why wouldn’t they laugh together sometimes?”

Cotillard appears in several scenes with performing whales at the amusement park, in effect directing their performances. It was one of the most difficult episodes of the production, she said, because she considers the whales intelligent, sensitive creatures that should not be removed from their habitat.

“It didn’t feel like I was in charge. It was as if we were working together as a team,” she said. “But it was not my favorite scene. I never go to the zoo because I hate to see animals caged or turned into circus amusements. Their captivity in a swimming pool upset me. The trainers love them, working with these huge creatures is their passion, but I would not go back there again.”

By contrast, she sees the scenes of Stephanie’s visceral excitement about Ali’s bare-knuckle boxing career as paradoxically life-affirming. The whale trainer becomes his lover, manager and chief cheerleader. It’s not that her character relishes brutality, she explained, but that the combat stirs visceral feelings in a woman who felt physically desensitized. “She’s not a saintly martyr,” Cotillard said. “A character who is pure isn’t interesting. It’s the complicated ones who are the best challenge.”

Dec 2012
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When Marion Cotillard first heard about the movie Rust and Bone — a romance between a street fighter named Ali and a woman named Stéphanie, who trains whales at a marine park and loses her legs in a tragic orca accident — she thought it was role she would never take on.

It was months before director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) asked to meet with her, and she didn’t think she was even in line for the film. But an agent was telling her about it, and Cotillard says, “My first reaction was ‘Oh my God, I love this director and I really want to work with him one day if I can, but as much as I love him I could never ever do such a character, because of the marine land.’”

It’s a subject that’s close to her heart. The 38-year-old Oscar winner (for La Vie En Rose) is a prominent environmentalist and has been a spokeswoman for Greenpeace. The idea of a movie where whales are kept captive in tanks for the amusement of the public was against everything she stood for.

Cotillard says she forgot all about the conversation until she was cast in Rust and Bone — a job she accepted because of Audiard, and because Stéphanie was an intriguing mystery — and she had a scene with the orcas kept at Marineland Antibes, in the south of France. Then it came back to her.

“It’s me now in this sea land that I hate so much,” she recalls. “But then I met the trainers and I met the animals and I finally considered them as animals and not as freaks, I mean as poor animals turned into freaks by human beings. So, yeah, I had to do the job, but I will never go back to a marine land. I respect the trainers, but I don’t understand how you put such an animal in a swimming pool. It’s beyond understanding.”

Yet it’s a beautiful scene: Cotillard’s character stands in front of a glass tank as a whale swims up to her and moves from side to side at her direction. There’s no big secret to it — “you give them fish and they do anything you want them to do” — but Cotillard says it was an amazing encounter nonetheless. She felt she had a special relationship with the orca during rehearsal, although that changed when the scene was actually filmed.

“There were so many people behind me that the orca got scared and suddenly she screamed at me and she opened her mouth and even with the security glass I was totally shocked. And I cried that day.”

It was an emotional reaction from an actor who is known for throwing herself wholeheartedly into roles. “She brings a level of emotion that’s very high,” says Audiard. “It’s like a hand grenade.”

Stéphanie spends much of the film in a wheelchair or crawling on the floor or, memorably, having sex with Ali — played by rising Belgian star Matthias Schoenaerts — with her half-limbs thrust into the air. Cotillard says it wasn’t a difficult effect to manage.

“It came very quickly,” she says. “We were doing the fittings and I had those pants and I just sat on a chair with my pants hanging. And suddenly we had the image … and this image never left my mind.

“I didn’t have to try to feel that I had no legs. I had seen it.”

The film, which is based on a book of short stories by Canadian writer Craig Davidson, goes beyond romance and becomes an examination of the collapsing economy as well. Audiard says he was inspired by 1930s Hollywood movies and directors like Tod Browning (Freaks) who cast their dramas against the unspoken background of the Depression. Cotillard said they never talked about it, but Browning is one of her favourite directors. “I saw Freaks I don’t know how many times.”

And then there was the attraction of the mysterious Stéphanie. Cotillard says she’s always looking for things that she hasn’t done before.

“I kind of like that she stayed mysterious to me in a way. I’m not sure exactly what she’s looking for, but I believe that you attract what you need in life if you want to listen,” she says. “If you want to see. If you want to watch. If you really want to be here and now, you can be here and now. And even though she was totally lost, her failure is so deep she’s empty. She doesn’t know who she is.”

She adds, “It must be the first time that a character is so mysterious to me. It was really exciting because usually I get who the person is. There’s always a way, a road to take to the character, but this one was a really long road. I couldn’t see her on the road when I started walking on this road.”

It’s a departure in other ways as well. Cotillard’s other 2012 film was the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, directed by Christopher Nolan. However, the two movies are not as different as they appear. “Yes Batman is like a huge blockbuster, but it’s also directed by someone whose totally involved in the whole process,” she says. “It’s kind of rare when a director in America writes his own scripts, so Chris Nolan is very, very special. It’s a big movie but almost like directed by a guy who has the spirit of an auteur.”

Rust and Bone is a much smaller project, but her performance was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, and it is also generating Oscar talk. Cotillard doesn’t want to talk about it, beyond saying, “You know, I’m very happy that people like the movie.

“I just want to do my best. I just want to find the authenticity of each character. That’s what matters to me. It would be horrible to have an audience saying, ‘Oh it’s her.’ It would be horrible. I want to experience something new each time.”

Dec 2012
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Marion Cotillard is still visibly shaken when she recalls the moment she first heard about the Aurora shootings.

The date was July 20, 2012, and what was meant to be a career high for the Oscar-winner — starring in a new, Christopher Nolan-directed Batman epic — was instantly overshadowed by unthinkable tragedy, as news quickly spread that a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado left 12 moviegoers dead at the hands of a crazed shooter.

Those wounds have barely begun to heal as the country now copes with an even more unbelievable and senseless horror: the murder of 26 people, 20 of them young children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

The Hollywood Reporter asked Cotillard about her thoughts on the Colorado shooting in a conversation with the actress last month.

“I’ve never felt good about guns. Especially when it’s out of control,” the Rust and Bone star told THR.

“Sadly, I guess, it’s in America’s culture,” Cotillard continued. “And I believe it’s going to be hard to change that because some people can’t be secure without it. It’s creating at the same time this insecurity. It’s a vicious circle.”

Cotillard is currently shooting Blood Ties, directed by her partner and father of her one-year-old son, French movie star Guillaume Canet. The film is set in the world of organized crime in 1970s Brooklyn.

Dec 2012
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from / by Aly Semigran

“It’s one of the most powerful movies that I’ve ever seen, but I know I won’t be able to watch it again because it’s such a strong, emotional journey.” Marion Cotillard could have very well said the same exact thing about her film Rust and Bone, the harrowing French drama which has earned her a Golden Globe nomination in the Best Actress in a Drama category (and will likely earn her another Oscar nod) about a woman whose life takes a sharp turn when a horrific accident leaves her a double amputee. Instead, Cotillard is talking about another kind of gut-wrenching tearjerker: David Lynch’s 1980 classic The Elephant Man. “I remember seeing it and I cried so much I didn’t want to go to school the next day because my eyes were so big from crying so much,” the actress recalls.

It’s obvious within moments of meeting her that Cotillard is an actress who wears her heart on her sleeve both on the big screen and off. In fact, it’s that very same sensitivity that provided to be her biggest challenge in the film. In Rust and Bone Cotillard’s Stéphanie is an Orca whale trainer at Marineland. The actress says that while she felt a connection with the majestic creatures, their being attractions at a theme park proved to be too much for her. Cotillard — who once “had the opportunity once to swim with whales in the ocean and it’s fascinating, it’s totally amazing” — admits, “I’m very uncomfortable in a captivity [environment]. It’s something that I don’t really understand, how we can take these magnificent animals out of their environment and put them in swimming pools. That was my biggest challenge, was actually to be cool during those days.”

The stunningly beautiful 37-year-old star may have not been able to connect with Stéphanie’s ability to work with whales in captivity, what she didn’t have a hard time with was finding ways to connect to the spirit of her character and her many struggles. In addition to her injury, Stéphanie falls for a handsome, but troubled single father Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) and their tumultuous relationship both burdens her and sets her free. Cotillard says that her Rust and Bone character is “much more violent than,” than she is in real life, but she understands that through violence people can release themselves from pain. “I had a period of my life when I questioned existence. I had so many questions and there was no answer and I was kind of lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I didn’t know why I was alive.”

But those very questions of existence and the “Whys?”, like the ones Stéphanie continually asks herself and others, can lead to something quite unexpected. “There’s a process of self-destruction when you don’t get those answers because you don’t know if you’ll ever get them,” Cotillard says. “Before you find something that allows you not to worry anymore about those answers, that thing is most of the time, love,” she says of her character’s journey, both with herself and in her unique relationship with Ali. “When you hit the bottom and there’s nothing left but yourself to face, you abandon a lot of bulls**t. You get straight to the point, you’re up front, you have no time to lose with not saying things or saying things in a very complicated way. She tells what she feels because that’s who she is now.”

But it’s those very complications that draws the Oscar-winner — whose film credits in 2012 ranged from the small, intimate Rust and Bone to the blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises — to her projects. “I love complexity, that’s really what I’m attracted to. With [Stéphanie] …she was such a mystery when I read the script for the first time. I thought, ‘Well she could be a lot of people.’ There’s very little information about her, about where she comes from, about her family, about her past, there’s almost nothing. So we really had to create almost everything about her and to find the authenticity, to find who she is and that was an amazing journey because when you do this with such a brilliant director [Jacques Audiard], it’s very inspiring.”

Cotillard gives a lot of the credit to Audiard (whose brutal and brilliant A Prophet earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010) for making the heaviness of the film work. “Jacques is this mix of a very grounded person and at the same time, a great poet seeking authenticity in everything he does and I loved working with him.” Cotillard has spoken before about the importance of a great director to a project, like she did during The Hollywood Reporter’s recent actress’ roundtable. (“I realized that if I don’t trust the director, if I don’t like him, I’m going to be bad.”)

At that same roundtable, Cotillard found herself surrounded by the very women who are earning accolades for their work in film this year. The very same women she’ll face off with this awards season, including other Globes nominees Naomi Watts, Anne Hathaway, Sally Field, Amy Adams, Rachel Weisz, and Helen Hunt. But, that’s not the way Cotillard sees it. “I’m the biggest actresses lover! I love actresses, I’ve always felt a connection [to them]. We share something in that we play our emotions and we tell women’s stories.”

Rust and Bone is currently playing in limited release.

Dec 2012
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from Montreal Gazette (Canada) / by T’Cha Dunlevy

Fate works in funny ways, onscreen and off.

In Jacques Audiard’s raw romance Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os), Marion Cotillard plays an orca trainer who suffers a terrible accident and must learn to piece her life back together, under dramatically different circumstances.

It’s a standout performance from an actress who is racking them up. But it almost never happened.

“I was not supposed to do this movie,” she said, during a sit-down interview at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Cotillard has been on fire since winning the Academy Award for best actress for her star turn as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose in 2007 — the first time an Oscar has gone to a French-language role. Since then, she has kept busy in high-profile films including Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris and Christopher Nolan behemoths Inception and The Dark Knight Rises.

Acting for Nolan was like entering Hollywood through the side door, Cotillard explained.

“I had a chance to work on very big movies, but with a very special director who has the spirit of an independent director,” she said. “Chris Nolan movies are blockbusters, but they’re still director’s movies, not studio movies, which I couldn’t do. I was offered, several times, roles in very successful movies. And I will never regret not being in those movies.

“I saw those movies and I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s obvious I couldn’t fit in there, because there is no director. The first person I work for is a director. If I have no director on set, I will be so bad.”

Which may explain what drew Cotillard from California to the Côte d’Azur: the chance to work with Audiard, director and co-writer of such powerful films as The Beat That My Heart Skipped (De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté, 2005) and A Prophet (2009).

“My schedule was really tight,” she said. “But I thought, ‘I have to do it. I cannot let it go.’ I totally fell in love with the story, and the character. I was so moved. It got right into my blood. What I’m looking for when I read a script is to be surprised — to have the perspective of something I’ve never done before.”

Worlds collide in Rust and Bone when Cotillard’s character Stéphanie meets Ali (the excellent Matthias Schoenaerts), a rugged bouncer — and, unbeknownst to her, single father. His uncouth directness proves to be just what the doctor ordered in getting past Stéphanie’s defences and helping her start over.

“He looks at her like a human being, someone who is alive when she is an empty shell,” Cotillard said. “He doesn’t look at her right away as a woman — she’ll have to teach him that; but she feels alive because he thinks she is. Maybe a (more sensitive guy) would be worried for her. Ali is not worried at all.”

They are an odd match. Early scenes have Ali and his young son hitchhiking through France and engaging in petty crime before settling in with his sister. He eventually finds his calling in a brutal form of streetfighting, broadcast on the Internet, with payment in cash.

But while Ali is a man of action, Stéphanie is — at least initially — a woman of deeply internalized emotion.

“She was the most mysterious character I had ever read,” Cotillard said. “Usually when I read a part and I want to do it, immediately there’s a connection and I know who this person is. With her, at the end of the script, I had no idea who she was. I told that to Jacques; I had to tell him, even though I was scared he would freak out that the actress he was working with didn’t know who (her character) is. But he told me, ‘Neither do I. We’ll have to go on the road and find her.’ ”

Cotillard’s tight schedule, combined with logistical problems in coordinating the sequences at Marineland in Antibes, in the south of France, meant there was little rehearsal time. Cotillard and Audiard unearthed her character on the fly. The moment finally came during one of Schoenaerts’s bracing fight scenes, where Stéphanie is sitting off to the side, within the safety of a vehicle.

“For the first week (of the shoot), we were sometimes not sure if we were going in the right direction,” Cotillard said. “But then there was this scene. She gets out of the car and he’s on the ground, beaten; and (Audiard) told me, ‘Yeah, that’s it. She’s a cowboy.’ And that was it. We had found her.”

Rust and Bone is in theatres Friday.