Marion Cotillard in 'Rust and Bone'

from Variety / by Kate Hahn

Eye on the Oscars: The Actress – Lead Actress Contender

When Marion Cotillard first read the script of French-language drama “Rust and Bone,” her character, Stephanie, was a mystery to her.

Discovering the essence of an orca trainer who later experiences a terrible accident was an intriguing challenge for Cotillard. She won both the Oscar and Golden Globe for her portrayal of French chanteuse Edith Piaf in 2007 biopic “La Vie en rose.”

“The hardest was finding who she was before the accident. She doesn’t even know,” Cotillard says.

“She’s struggling with who she is, so she can be violent, cold and needy.”

It actually helped that “Rust and Bone” began shooting with a demanding scene in which Stephanie awakens alone in the hospital and discovers her legs have been amputated.

“When we shot ‘La Vie en rose,’ on the fourth day there was a major scene, when she’s very old and dying. I was not OK with it,” Cotillard says. “But after that first experience, I realized it was good to just dive into the role.”

Cotillard takes Stephanie on a nuanced journey from depression to joy through an evolving relationship with fighter and security guard, single father Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts).

“She has to face herself because there’s nothing else left,” Cotillard says. “Even with a damaged body, she becomes a full person.”

Cotillard says director Jacques Audiard helped her find Stephanie’s soul and bring it to the screen: “What I love about him that he’s willing to try things, often opposite things, to find the authenticity of the moment.”

Oscar-Worthy: An Exclusive Interview with Marion Cotillard

from / by Edward Douglas

The first time most Americans discovered French actress Marion Cotillard was when she played Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, a performance that took her all the way to Oscar night where she won the Oscar, making her the first French actress to do so in nearly 50 years. Cotillard went on to appear in fantastic films like Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion.

After starring in Nolan’s finale to the “Dark Knight Trilogy” earlier this year, Cotillard delivers another astounding performance in French auteur Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone as Stéphanie, a killer whale trainer who loses her legs in a horrifying accident and is forced to rely on the generosity and compassion of a bouncer and underground fighter, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, who starred in the Oscar-nominated Bullhead.

We’ve grown accustomed to Cotillard delivering exemplary dramatic performances that often move us and make us cry, but her role in Audiard’s film is one that’s so challenging and daring it really elevates the actress to another level. We don’t want to go into too much more detail about it, since it potentially could ruin the experience, but let’s just say that her performance is one that has to be seen to be truly believed as well as one of the best of the year. had a chance to sit down with Ms. Cotillard for a rare interview last week, meeting up in a downtown hotel room where Cotillard was comfortably wrapped in a blanket as she carefully pondered each of our questions before responding. It’s interesting that you’ve continued to do French films, bouncing back and forth, after you started doing Hollywood movies, which is great since Jacques Audiard is one of France’s great filmmakers. How did he approach you about it? Did he have a script already?
Marion Cotillard:
Yeah, yeah, he had a script and we met, because we didn’t know each other, and he wanted me to read the script, and I read it and I loved it. I expected a very special story, because all his movies are very special stories. What I didn’t expect though was that he’d film a love story and I thought it was very exciting to be in one of his movies with something he had never done before.

CS: I feel like it goes back to “Read My Lips” which wasn’t a love story so much, but it was two people from different backgrounds meeting. What’s your reaction when you read a script which has killer whales and no legs and all these other elements. Do you wonder, “How is he going to do this? How is this possible?”
No, I think nothing is impossible when it has to be made. No, before I read the script, I knew that my character was losing legs and that she was working in Marineland with orcas, but that was the only information I had.

CS: What questions did you have for him after reading the screenplay and deciding to do it? Were you curious about what you’d need to do as far as training?
Cotillard: Yeah, we talked about it after I read the script, Jacques and Thomas Bidegain, they originally wrote the script before the San Diego accident. I think there were like two accidents the same year and before those accidents, the trainers, they would be in the water with the whales. I can not really remember but I think when I read the script the first time, yeah, it was like that in the first draft I read, so the accident was totally different than it was in the movie because in the process of rewriting, they were told that trainers were not allowed to go into the water anymore, so we talked about it because they had to think about how they would do it with me out of the water.

CS: The whole movie’s like a magic trick. I’ve seen it a couple times and I’m still not sure how you’ve done some of the things like having no legs and the prosthetics. What was it like shooting those scenes and did you have to work with physical trainers to make it so authentic?
No, I knew that I had to have a specific position with my legs so they could erase them, but my physical training because I was not a very good swimmer and I had to be a better swimmer. I had to gain muscles to be able to have the specific positions but that’s it. I didn’t have a training for the physicality with no legs so no I didn’t do that.

CS: Did you have to learn how to swim just with your arms for those scenes? That must have been tough.
Cotillard: Yeah, well it was not that tough because legs are very tricky in swimming, but I learned how to swim better with my whole body and we dropped the legs. There’s a lot you can do in CG but not erasing little waves on the water. It would have been too difficult, so I had to swim without my legs.

CS: I haven’t had a chance to speak with Jacques, so were they able to do some of the visual FX while you were shooting so you could see what it would look like?
When we started shooting, I think it was one of the first scenes with the CGI was the first time she walks with the prosthetics and she shows her prosthetics underneath her pants, that was the first thing they did and it was actually pretty amazing. I think that was the first thing we saw and that was pretty amazing. We really worked with amazing CGI people. They were very discreet on set. They were very fast and actually the fact I had legs never got in our way.

CS: I’m surprised you didn’t have much swimming experience because I remembered in “Little White Lies” that you did a bit of water skiing.
I can swim but my swimming was not perfect and those people who train orcas and who work in the water, they’re very good swimmers. I just had to improve my swimming.

CS: To make it look more real and convincing.

CS: What was it like actually being with the killer whales and working with them? How was Jacques able to convince Marineland to shoot a movie there? Or is that a question for him as well?
Yeah, I don’t know how to answer that actually. We went there for four days for me to learn all the gestures and choreography for the show to meet with the orcas and to get familiar with them and to be realistic as an orca trainer. We actually shot the scene of the show in the real show with the real audience and I just replaced the leader of the trainers.

CS: Did you get the impression that the orcas knew you or recognized you as you worked with them? I would think the scene with you and the orca behind glass couldn’t have been done otherwise.
Yeah, well they told me I had a special connection with the orca I was working with. I think that if I was not giving him fish, he would have this very special connection, but when we rehearsed that scene behind the glass on the second day of my training, that was really strong, because that was all improvisation because I knew the gesture and that was all improvisation so it was different than the show, which was choreographed and that was a very powerful moment.

CS: Matthias is a pretty amazing actor. I’ve seen “Bullhead” but nothing else he’s done, so were you familiar with his work?
No, I didn’t know him at all. I hadn’t seen “Bullhead”–I saw it after we shot Jacques movie–but I met him, we had a reading at Jacques house and I met him there for the first time, and right away I felt like it would be an amazing journey with him, because he’s hard to read and you know right away when an actor’s good and you know when an actor’s great and he was great.

CS: I feel like he brings out a different side of you than we’ve seen, because Stephanie’s very feisty and he’s brought that out because he’s such a force and it feels like she had to be aggressive with him.
Yeah, well, both of them are kind of aggressive.

CS: Sure, but it feels as if you really had to step up to match his.
Well, it’s not a question that when you work with someone and you do a scene, the energy is shared so there’s no level you have to reach. It’s an exchange.

CS: You’ve worked with so many great directors, so what’s it like working with Jacques as a director. I’ve always been impressed with the performances he’s gotten out of actors who don’t have as much as experience. What does he bring and give you as an actor?
He explores a lot on set. We could do a version of a scene, and then do a total different and opposite version of the same scene, and also, he really seeks for authenticity. There were two scenes that I shot twice on a different set with different characters, so that was very unusual. I had never done that before and actually I think those two scenes are totally gone. Yeah.

CS: Does that help with the authenticity when you as an actor have prepared for certain things and you show up and things have changed?
Oh, I love that, yeah, especially when you trust a director 100%. Yeah, the unknown and the unexpected is something that I really enjoy, and it brings unusual situations, unusual feelings.

CS: But when you make movies with Christopher Nolan, those movies are so big that there must be a lot of preparation and set-up so everyone knows exactly what needs to get done on any day, so is it easy to jump back and forth from those kinds of movies to these?
Oh, yeah. Having very different experiences with amazing directors is something very inspiring.

CS: Last night when I saw the clip reel at the Gothams, I forgot you were in “Love Me If You Dare” opposite Guillaume Canet, who is now your boyfriend. You’ve also worked with him a few times as a director, so I was curious about that relationship and how you decide what you’re going to do in his movies?
Well, that’s a question for him. I don’t know, but I love working with him. Already on “Love Me If You Dare,” we had a great connection and sometimes, the director, it was his first movie, and an actor is a very special animal. Sometimes, he didn’t really know how to deal with us, but then that created between Guillaume and I a very strong work relationship. I really admire him as a director. I think he’s one of the greatest directors and I would love to work with him again.

CS: Do you have any idea what you might do next? I know you have another movie with Guillame done and “Nightingale” with James Gray.
No, I don’t know yet. I needed to take some time off because I worked a lot, and I’m kind of very excited by what’s going to be next because I don’t know and I’m looking forward to have this feeling when I will read a script and I will feel that I belong to the story, so that’s kind of exciting.

CS: A lot of the movies you’ve done recently–“Inception,” “Contagion” and “Little White Lies” for instance–you’ve been a part of an ensemble cast, so it’s nice seeing you in a role like this where it’s just you and Matthias. How has the Oscar season been so far for you compared to when you were doing this for “La Vie en Rose”?
Well, you know the most important thing for me is to have the opportunity to share this movie outside of our country. It’s really something we enjoy, that’s what’s important for me right now.

CS: But do you feel like you’re coming into doing press for the movie different from when you were here for “La Vie en Rose”?
It is different because five years ago, I was opening the door of the unknown, but what’s the same is that I’m very excited to show a movie I’m very proud of and a French movie.

CS: Is it nice to have a movie like this where you don’t have to be sworn to secrecy like you were with Christopher Nolan’s movies? It must be a strange thing to be asked about a movie you can’t say anything about.
Yeah, I kind of like it.

CS: Have you been in touch with him at all and do you think he’ll do a Bond movie and have you be one of his Bond girls?
I don’t know. I have no idea.

Rust and Bone is now playing in New York City and it will open in Los Angeles on Friday, December 7 and other cities over the course of December and January.

Is Marion Cotillard a Shoe-In for 'Rust and Bone'?

from Popmatters / by Jose Solís Mayén

Why do you think people think of Marion Cotillard as such an awards magnet?

There is a moment in Rust and Bone that’s so unique and unexpected it even makes you wish Katy Perry had written “Firework” for the movie, just so it had a chance at winning the Best Original Song Oscar.

This movie is a success on so many surprising levels and the scene in question is a meditative one that focuses on former whale trainer, Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) as she finds what looks like hope after a terrible accident leaves her without her legs. The moment, as unfathomably simple as it sounds, doesn’t have dialogue, isn’t exceptionally long and lacks an orthodox sense of coherence. It merely has Stephanie practice her old training commands as she sits on her wheelchair looking at the horizon. Set to Perry’s ubiquitous hit, the moment should feel less soulful, perhaps even vulgar; yet it doesn’t, instead it haunts you for weeks after you’ve seen the movie. The reason for this is of course Cotillard’s exquisitely detailed performance. In this scene, more than in any other moment in the movie, she allows her luminous face to serve as a blank screen where we can project our emotions. We feel empathy and a deep sense of connection with this woman, even if at some level we’re still fighting our mixed feelings about her. Should we like her? Are we allowed to judge her? Yes, she lost her legs in a terrible accident, but she didn’t seem like such a nice person before that. Yes, she’s looking for love after losing what once made her extremely desirable, but then again she’s still breaking bottles on guys in clubs.

On an Oscar level of Best Actress-ing, Stephanie is more akin to Marlee Matlin’s complex character in Children of a Lesser God than the saintly Maggie Fitzgerald from Boys Don’t Cry. Cotillard allows Stephanie to be who she is, to have kinky sexual needs, to drink and party without a hint of remorse. What does it say about her lack of vanity as an actress, that she lets this woman have an extremely sharp, unlikable edge rather than playing her as a martyr? That would be far too expected and Cotillard is not a performer who traffics in those terms.

Based purely on the merits of her performance, Cotillard should be a shoe-in for any awards. Back in 2007 she became only the second performer to win the Best Actress award for a non-English speaking role in La vie en rose (she ended up winning Best Actress from a historic four international film academies including France, England and the Czech Republic), yet in movie after movie she’s made since, her awards magnetism seems to have vanished. A shame really, considering that she’s spent these five years proving she’s one of the most remarkable working actresses becoming a bona fide scene stealer in films as varied as Public Enemies and Inception as well as the much maligned Nine (where she gave a performance much worthier than the one that eventually won the Oscar that year).

Going back through her awards track record we realize that other than La vie en rose and a few scattered mentions for Nine, Cotillard hasn’t really scored much love from award groups. Yet many people have decided that it is precisely based on her “impeccable” track record that she will be a slam dunk for this. Cotillard has more than a few things in her favor, first and foremost the notion that this is yet another so-called “weak” Best Actress year where her status as a previous winner automatically puts her name into the discourse. She’s also already won a Best Actress award from the Hollywood Film Festival for Rust and Bone, which might sound curious but actually has an impressive record when it comes to predicting future Oscar nominees (in their 17-year history, they’ve only missed on Best Actress nominees five times).

There’s also several factors that seem to go against her chances, beginning with the ridiculous idea that only three actresses in the past have been nominated more than once for starring in foreign language movies (Sophia Loren, Isabelle Adjani and Liv Ullman, all nominated twice). Simply put, there is a widespread misconception that subtitles kill your chances, especially when you take into consideration that Sony Pictures Classics might also be looking to get a nomination for Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva. Never before have two foreign language actresses been nominated for the same award in the same language, will voters choose one or the other or break the precedent finally?

Marion’s performance might be hard to categorize which might also present a challenge for some voters. After being touted to win Best Actress in Cannes (where the Oscar buzz started) and then losing to two unknowns, she was also snubbed at the European Film Awards, where both she and the movie were eligible, yet both came out with zero nods. Stranger things have happened before and Cotillard’s performance in Audiard’s stylish, fresh film just might be the one to finally overcome all the bad omens and statistics from years past. Regardless of what awards say, her Stephanie is the most dazzling star turn of 2012 and with Cate Blanchett (who recently wrote about her work for Variety) among fans of your work as the campaign mounts, who knows what will happen…

With that said, why do you think people think of Cotillard as such an awards magnet?

Honor Roll 2012: Marion Cotillard Dances With the Fishes in 'Rust and Bone' and Explains How a Sex Scene Can Make You Happy for a Character

from IndieWire / by Nigel M Smith

If the Academy Awards pundits (Indiewire’s own Peter Knegt included) are to be trusted, Marion Cotillard will in all likelihood be up for her second golden statue next year thanks to her searing performance in “Rust and Bone,” Jacques Audiard’s moving follow-up to his Oscar-nominated 2009 crime drama “A Prophet.” (Cotillard made history in 2008 as the first to take home the Best Actress award for a French-language performance, for her work as Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose”)

In the new drama, Cotillard plays an orca trainer at Marineland, who, after losing her legs in a freak accident at the aquarium, finds herself cared for by a stranger (“Bullhead” breakout Matthias Schoenaerts) she had met at a nightclub before the horrific incident.

Honor Roll is a daily series running throughout December that features new or previously published interviews, profiles and first-person stories of some of the year’s most notable cinematic voices. Today, we’re running a new interview with Marion Cotillard, the star of “Rust and Bone.” A few hours before she received a special career tribute at the Gotham Awards, Cotillard sat down with Indiewire in SoHo to discuss her challenging work in “Rust and Bone” and what she’s learned since winning her Oscar.

Audiard is one of the most prominent filmmakers in France and one of the most revered internationally following the success of “A Prophet” — how long had you wanted to work with him?

Since his first movie. I don’t know what is the title in English, like “Watch Them Fall,” or something.

You can say it in French.

“Regarde les hommes tomber.” I saw this movie, and I was blown away by his vision of the story. And the editing, everything was — I mean, after watching this movie, I knew that I wanted to work with him. So it was a long time ago. But I didn’t know that I would. Of course, you never know. And I didn’t know that he would want to work with me… I don’t know why I had this idea in mind. And then when he asked to meet with me, I was thrilled. And then I read the script, and I fell in love with the story, with the characters, with everything about the project.

Did you see it as an unusual love story?

Well the thing is, I didn’t know anything about the story. Well, no — I knew that the character I would play was an orca trainer and that she would lose her legs. That’s what I knew about the movie.

So you just knew your character?

Yeah. And I was very excited because I expected from Jacques Audiard a very special story, because all his movies are very special. But I didn’t expect I was about to be in a love story.

Especially as a follow-up to “A Prophet.” The tales couldn’t be more different.

Yeah! And he’s never done that before. Like, a melodrama. And I thought it was even more exciting to be part of a project with a director who’s never filmed a love story before.

Despite the subject matter being so dissimilar from that found in his other films, it shares a striving for realism that he brings to all of his work. How did he work to achieve that, with you and with Matthias?

Jacques is someone who seeks for authenticity and even though his movies are very realistic, there is poetry in everything he does. He always wants to find authenticity, but at the same time, something special. If, with Matthias, we would do something that was kind of expected, he didn’t like it. That’s why he puts poetry everywhere. It’s because it’s his vision of a story, or of a character, it’s not just doing what is written. It’s doing more than what is written. And it’s very inspiring to work with someone who has such an energy, such a love for his characters, and such a desire to tell a story in a very special and poetic way.

Do you have an example of a scene that you shot where he pushed you to explore more?

Well, it happened most of the time. Jacques needs a very long time to prepare the movie with actors before we shoot. And I didn’t have that time because I was filming Batman [“The Dark Knight Rises”]. So, I really arrived on set. Like, we had a few readings, but that was not major — he never works on the actual scenes. He writes special scenes to work with actors before the shooting. But we didn’t have that time, so, I don’t know if it was different on his other movies, but when we arrived on set, a lot of things had to be created there. And sometimes we would take a scene and we would do a version of this scene, and then the next take, it would be a totally different version, like sometimes opposite version. And that’s how you make the right version, because then you have the experience of all the research around what you will choose to be the right version, the authentic way to tell something. So that was really, really interesting.

Given the varied number of takes that you did for each scene, what was it like to actually see the finished product at Cannes?

I’ve always had a hard time talking about what I feel when I watch a movie I’ve worked on. I don’t know how to talk about it. But I was very surprised by — not very surprised, but when you do many versions, you don’t know what he’s going to take, and of course everything makes sense in the final object, but I don’t know what to say about it.

It’s not uncommon for you to take on challenging roles, but still, Stephanie must have been an intimidating part to take on, especially given that you didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the role.

I was nervous, because I want to give everything I can, and sometimes you don’t know if you’re going to be right. Well, especially with her. She’s very mysterious, and we don’t have much information about her in the script. So we really had to create almost everything about her. Who she is. Who she’s not. Who she tries to be. Her struggles. And that was one of the best experiences as an actress, to work with a director — with such an inspiring and smart and brilliant director — and to create someone with him. To search and to research and to experience in order to find the authenticity of this person. And also, we realized that we didn’t have to solve the whole mystery she was, because the mystery is part of her, too.

Was there a lot of technical preparation on your part, in terms of learning how to train the whales?

Yeah, well, training the whales was not the hardest thing to do, because basically you give them fish and they do what you want them to do, even though they told me that I have a special connection and I think it’s true. I love animals and have always had a very strong connection with animals. But it was hard for me to consider those magnificent wild animals as animals because they were in that environment, which I don’t really get. In terms of, how do you take them out of their environment and put them in swimming pools? But, anyway… so I think I had a connection, but without the fish, this connection wouldn’t have been that strong. So that was not the hardest part.

The hardest part — technical part for me — was to learn how to swim better. I was not a very good swimmer, and I had to learn how to swim like a very good swimmer, because obviously they’re very good swimmers. So that was my physical preparation. And then I had to get my muscles back because with the green socks [for the green-screen necessary to remove her legs digitally], you have to have, like, [be in] very specific positions. Like, straight legs, even when you are carried. But it was not very hard. I mean, I didn’t have to drive a car very fast — that would be challenging for me.

Still, there is a stunt sequence of sorts in the film — the scene where you beckon the orca to you from behind this massive wall of glass. How did you pull that off?

That was actually when I felt that I had a very special connection with the orcas. The first thing that I learned is all the movements, all the gestures, and then we created the choreography when I knew everything. But then this special scene was on my second day of preparation. It was like five days before we started shooting, and it was the second day, and so my trainer took me to the glass and she told me, well, “Just call for her; she’s going to come. And then, you know all the gestures, so just improvise and see what works.” Jacques wanted some specific things. Like, he wanted the orca to be like–

Swim up?

Yeah, up, so that we could see how big it was. So that was the only thing that I had to place somewhere. But otherwise, it was really improvisation. So, that day we rehearsed, that was one of the craziest moments for me on that project, because I actually felt the connection. It was not the show — it was just me and her communicating. And so when we shot the scene it was a little bit different because the first time it was just me, her, and two people. That shooting day was a lot of people, cameras, something unusual for her, so she got mad at me. We had to replace the orca because she really got mad at me, because maybe I did something not very clear and that was different for her. So, we switched the orca I was usually working with.

For my character in the movie, it’s like a big, big step taken, you know? And that was very emotional that day. Because it’s kind of like a forgiveness scene for both of us. Because those whales, they’re not meant to kill. They’re not killer whales at all. They’re orcas. They’re like, wild animals put in a situation, which is from my point of view unbearable.

Was it hard to let go of Stephanie after wrapping the film?

I really, really loved her. And I had a very special relationship with this character because some things that happened in her life made me so happy for her. Like the sex scenes, which is not something that I usually love — it’s kind of the opposite — that was very different on this movie because it’s a very important part of the story. But it’s also something that happens in her life that made me so happy for her. But then, I mean, with my experience as an actress, I know now that I can go deep inside a character, but I know how to get out of it. It was really, really hard for me when I shot “La Vie en Rose” because I went the deepest I could, but I didn’t know the way out. So it took me a while. But now, I mean, yeah, I think it’s experience that [teaches] you how to get out, and how to go back to your life.

Marion Cotillard’s Stellar Turn in ‘Rust and Bone’

Marion Cotillard’s Stellar Turn in ‘Rust and Bone’

from Newsweek Magazine (US) / by Marlow Stern

Marion Cotillard on motherhood, the 1 percent, and her Rust and Bone role that will make you do a double take.

I liked being watched. I liked turning guys on. Getting them worked up. But then I’d get bored.

Such is the modus vivendi of Stéphanie, a callous temptress played by Marion Cotillard in the new French drama Rust and Bone. An orca trainer by day, she is forced to confront her self-destructive nature after losing both legs from the knees down in a tragic on-the-job accident. Eventually she finds comfort in Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a street-fighting single father who thrusts her out of the darkness and into the light. The film is directed by French auteur Jacques Audiard, and loosely adapted from a collection of short stories by Canadian author Craig Davidson.

“I didn’t have time to shoot this movie, but it was irresistible,” says Cotillard on a recent fall morning in New York. “We went for it and jumped into the unknown, and I’m glad we did.”

Cotillard’s packed dance card shouldn’t come as a surprise. Since winning an Oscar in 2008 for her portrayal of the singer Édith Piaf in La Vie en Rose (and becoming the first Best Actress winner for a French-language turn), the Gallic performer has transformed into a bona fide Hollywood star, with roles as an alluring flapper in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, and as a femme fatale in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, both directed by Christopher Nolan. She’s also been the face of Lady Dior since 2009.

After wrapping the final Batman film, which Nolan delayed shooting in order for Cotillard to have her baby, she had just one week to prepare to play Stéphanie. With her 5-month-old boy, Marcel, in tow, she hopped on a plane to the Côte d’Azur to tackle her most physically demanding role to date—one that required her to fold her legs back during wheelchair scenes and to don green tights in other scenes so her legs could be removed with CGI. The result is one of the truly great special-effects triumphs of the year. The legless sex scenes—and there are quite a few—were especially difficult to film.

“Usually I don’t like to do love scenes but sexuality is a very important part of the movie,” says Cotillard. “When we did the scenes, I was a hundred percent in character, but a part of me was also very happy about what was happening to her.”

She adds: “But we also had a lot of fun. Jacques was like, ‘Cut! Your leg is making a shadow on Matthias’s back, so we won’t be able to use it. Put your leg higher!’ That was really funny.”

And the gamble seems to have paid off. Audiard’s gritty, expressionistic tale, an affirmation of the Pat Benatar maxim “love is a battlefield,” is earning Cotillard major buzz this Oscar season. An ethereal beauty—and living proof that the eyes are the windows to the soul—Cotillard says she related to Stéphanie’s melancholia.

“I was a very special kid,” she says. “I had questions like, ‘What am I here for?’ and because I didn’t have any answers, I struggled with my soul. I had a very hard time sharing things with people because I was very shy and didn’t really understand how relationships worked. When I started to understand that what we share creates an energy to the world, I started to relax and spend time with people instead of avoiding them.”

Raised in Beaucé, a town near Rennes in northern France, Cotillard says she was surrounded by “storytellers and passionate people.” Her father served as a theater director and mime, and her mother was an actress. She made her onstage debut alongside her mother in a play directed by Daniel Mesguich. And when Cotillard wasn’t acting, she was watching movies.

“All my big, big shocks as a kid watching movies came from American movies,” she says. “I grew up with musicals like Singin’ in the Rain and Victor Victoria, and of course, Jaws. We watched Jaws like 50 times.” She laughs. “I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to work here. It makes me very happy.”

The 37-year-old actress has come a long way since making her Hollywood debut playing a Newsweek photographer in Tim Burton’s fantasy epic Big Fish. Like The Dark Knight Rises, Rust and Bone addresses the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots, an issue Cotillard is very passionate about.

“I will always be upset about the fact that we care less about humanity than about how to make industry work,” she says. “And, even though we fail in a lot of places, we still continue to think that we need to keep the money world healthy, and that’s how we’re going to make it work. But I don’t think it’s working. Why would we continue to feed the machine when people are starving?”

In her limited free time, Cotillard listens to a variety of music, ranging from Otis Redding and Nina Simone to Radiohead and Adele. Two years ago, she toured with the French band Yodelice, and hopes to return to music again soon. For now, however, she’s occupied with her baby boy, whose father is her boyfriend, actor and filmmaker Guillaume Canet.

“It’s like you have a different mission,” she says of motherhood. “I’ve always tried to stay away from the bullshit, but now the no-bullshit approach works. Suddenly this piece of authenticity arrives in your life, and it’s a revelation about how you deal with yourself because you’re not the most important person anymore.”

But this new phase in her life has had positive repercussions on her career as well. “I was so tired from being on no sleep making Rust and Bone,” she says, “but at the same time I had this huge energy that I’d never experienced before brought by what happened in my life.”

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