Tag: Chloé

Marion Cotillard on Playing a Prostitute in ‘The Immigrant’ and Seducing America

Marion Cotillard on Playing a Prostitute in ‘The Immigrant’ and Seducing America

The Oscar winning French actress with the arresting gaze on her turn as an Ellis Island immigrant who falls into prostitution in ‘The Immigrant.’

It is true, there is some angels in this city.

With those ten words, delivered in her alluring wisp of a voice—and in broken English, no less—Marion Cotillard’s grande séduction of America began. Since being awarded the Best Actress Oscar for her spellbinding turn as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, she’s done what no other French actor in history has done: see their star shine just as bright in America.

In the wake of that fateful 2008 evening, Cotillard has worked for, and alongside, some of the biggest names in Hollywood. As Johnny Depp’s arm candy in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies; Leonardo DiCaprio’s nightmarish ex-wife in Christopher Nolan’s Inception; an artistic muse in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, the list goes on.

But she’s never carried a movie before—until now. James Gray’s The Immigrant sees Cotillard play Ewa Cybulski, a Polish émigré who lands at Ellis Island in 1921. Things don’t exactly go as planned. Her sister, Magda, is quarantined after catching tuberculosis aboard their cramped vessel, and her aunt is nowhere to be found. Out of options, Ewa falls into the clutches of Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix), a seedy character (think: a latter-day club promoter) who uses his burlesque troupe as a front for prostitution.

Gray based the story on recollections from his Jewish grandparents, who came to New York in 1923. And he wrote the role of Ewa with Cotillard in mind. The pair’s first meeting, however, was a catastrophe. Gray and Cotillard had dinner in Paris and, after arguing over an actor—Gray thought he or she was terrible, Cotillard disagreed—the actress launched a piece of bread at his head.

“I never play with food—ever—but I couldn’t believe it!” exclaims Cotillard. “And when James says something, and has a very strong feeling about it, there’s no word you can use to make him change his mind, so I became kind of violent. That was my way out. I was like, ‘Okay, fuck it! BAM!’”

Cotillard—who wouldn’t disclose the actor’s name for fear of “embarrassing James”—says the pair eventually made amends, acknowledging that Gray has a tendency to “argue for the sake of it.”

In The Immigrant, Ewa soon finds herself inveigled into pleasing Bruno’s more affluent clientele in order to raise enough money to spring her sister from Ellis Island’s hospital ward, despite her protestations. It’s a courageous performance by the 38-year-old Frenchwoman, whose ability to elicit pathos via her arresting gaze is virtually unmatched.

And the role is, interestingly enough, a full-circle moment for the actress. Cotillard’s first leading role in a film was as the title character, a runaway teen forced into prostitution, in 1996’s Chloé, and the last time she played a Polish character was in 2003’s Love Me If You Dare, where she’d meet her eventual husband, French actor-filmmaker Guillaume Canet. She laughs when I bring up the myriad coincidences.

“Oh, wow! I never thought about that,” she shrieks. “It’s funny, actually. The difference with Chloé is she didn’t have the necessity—the need—to do this, she was just trapped, whereas Ewa has nothing left but this. She prostitutes herself even though she knows it’s against her religion, which is very judgmental about it. She does it because she will do anything for her sister.”

She adds, “She experiences such horrors, but she’s full of light and hope; she’s pure. She fights for her sister and she’s a beautiful woman, so it was not hard to live with her even though she goes through a lot.”

It’s hard to capture Cotillard’s aura with the written word. Most male writers end up looking like drooling sycophants. I can tell you that, having spoken with her a handful of times, her beauty is just as ethereal in person as it is onscreen, which she holds with the magnetism of classic screen sirens like Maria Falconetti in La passion de Jeanne d’Arc, or Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. Her genes may have a little something to do with it. Cotillard’s father, Jean-Claude, was a former mime turned director, and her mother, Niseema, is a drama instructor.

Cotillard made her acting debut in one of her father’s plays when she was six, and developed what she calls a “good ear” by playing classical piano during her formative years.

A “good ear,” by the way, is a massive understatement. After taking in a screening of Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration at Cannes, Cotillard was so impressed she taught herself some light Danish. For The Immigrant, she had just two months to learn a ton of Polish dialogue, as well as master a convincing Polish accent.

“With this project, there were 20 pages of Polish dialogue, which is close to Chinese for me,” she says. “There were three words over the course of the 20 pages that looked like French or English, but I just went for it. I’m never afraid of the amount of work it’s going to take, I’m just afraid I won’t have enough time to do it.”

Then came her tour of America. After making her American screen debut in Tim Burton’s 2003 fantasy Big Fish, Cotillard viewed the experience as “super painful not to understand anything,” so she took a total immersion English language course at Berlitz.

“When we decided to do the awards campaign for La Vie en Rose, I felt the need to go back to Berlitz,” says Cotillard. “I rented an apartment in New York a month before, and started the total immersion process again. But my English really improved when I did Public Enemies because Michael Mann wanted to completely erase my French accent, so I worked for six months every day with a dialogue coach—four months before shooting, and then two months on set. Michael wouldn’t even let me speak French with my boyfriend or family.”

It’s a big reason why, in addition to her unique acting talents and screen presence, she’s been able to conquer America in a way none of her fellow countrymen have. While Cotillard considers herself “lucky to cross the road of crazy people” like Mann, Nolan, and the rest, she seems to be blessed with a preternatural ability to navigate the human psyche.

“Exploring human beings by being different human beings in different cultures is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid,” says Cotillard. “I didn’t think I’d do American movies, but at the same time, I didn’t even think about it, so I never thought it wasn’t possible. By not putting boundaries on myself, I left the door open for anything to happen.”

She pauses. “I wasn’t aware that I wanted to explore the human soul when I started out acting; I just wanted to tell stories and play different people. Now I know it’s my need to explore the human soul that makes me do what I do, and to be able to explore different cultures is an even bigger gift than I could have imagined.”

Marion Cotillard la petite fugueuse

Marion Cotillard la petite fugueuse

Marion Cotillard adore voir et revoir les films de George Cukor.

À 20 ans, elle a déjà beaucoup joué. Rencontre avec Marion Cotillard, qui n’a pas eu peur, dans “Chloé”, d’interpréter une prostituée.

Cheveux châtains longs, yeux bleus, longe silhouette, Marion Cotillard se souvient de “Chloé”, un personnage de jeune fille révoltée. Dans cette histoire réalisée par Dennis Berry, la chaleur des sentiments était inversement proportionnelle au froid qui régnait lors du tournage, la nuit dans les rues de Liège. “J’avais déjà rencontré Dennis lors d’un épisode de “Highlander”. Il m’a parlé de son scénario, je l’ai lu. Mais je n’ai pas eu envie de jouer ce rôle. Après réécriture, deux ans plus tard, j’ai été séduite par Chloé, pleine d’espoir, toujours en quête d’absolue. J’ai plongé en me disant que je n’aurai peut-être plus l’occasion d’intrerpréter un personnage aussi fort.” Le pari était risqué : camper une prostituée n’est pas des plus aisés. Mais Marion n’a pas eu froid aux yeux : “Apparaître nue ne m’a pas dérangée. Ce n’était pas une exhibition gratuite, c’était justifié pour la crédibilité de mon personnage.”

Cette Parisienne compte trois films et cinq téléfilms à son actif. Nous la retrouverons bientôt au cinéma dans “La belle verte” de Coline Serreau. “Je joue une infirmière qui s’occupe d’enfants et rencontre un extraterrestre.”

Quand elle ne travaille pas, Marion Cotillard lit beaucoup, contemple de sa fenêtre les arbres qu’elle adore. Son appartment donne sur une cour de couvent, ce qui lui donne l’impression d’être loin de Paris. Elle confectionne aussi des plats mexicains pour ses copains. “Je les sers devant la télévision pendant la retransmission des matchs de football.”

Marion Cotillard in a TV Magazine 1996

I have no idea whether this indeed is Marion Cotillard’s first magazine appearance but it’s certainly the first I have in my extensive magazine collection. 20 year old Marion Cotillard was promoting her first leading role in TV movie ‘Chloé‘. I’m sure you’re as excited as I am about this gem!

Filming took place in the roads of Liège during nights – it was constantly very cold. She said that director Dennis Berry had already showed her this screenplay while he directed her for an episode of ‘Highlander‘. But she didn’t want to play the part then. When the screenplay was rewritten 2 years later she wanted to play Chloé, a girl full of hope and searching for the absolute. She dove into the part saying to herself that she might never again get to play such a strong character (little did she know hehe). The nude scenes didn’t bother her as they weren’t gratuitious but rather important for the character’s credibility.

Hobbies while not filming included at the time reading and looking out the window, admiring the trees. She also had the habit of preparing Mexican dishes for her friends and serving them while they were all watching football on TV.

Kindly do not redistribute the magazine scans at another Marion Cotillard fan site as they were scanned exclusively for ‘Magnifique Marion Cotillard’. Thank you.

Press:
Marion Cotillard la petite fugueuse, Télé Poche, June 3, 1996

Gallery:
002 Scans from 1996 > Télé Poche (France) – June 3

‘Chloé’ Screencaptures

Earlier this week ‘Chloé‘ was released on DVD in France (Buy). The TV movie from 1996 comes with no extras and no subtitles – just the plain film in the original French language. The movie was hard to come by up until now and no doubt because of Marion Cotillard’s recent Oscar win France 2 decided to release this film on DVD now.

Note how the DVD cover reads “Marion Cotillard, Oscar and César for Best Actress in ‘La Vie en Rose’, in her first role. Featuring the music of ‘L’hymne à l’amour’ by Edith Piaf”. It must be stated however, that although Chloé was indeed one of Marion’s first roles it was not the first. That’d be the role of Lori Bellian in an episode of ‘Highlander’ – also directed by Chloé director Dennis Berry.

I’ve had a low quality version of the movie for a while but never managed to make screencaptures from it. Now that the film is available on DVD I couldn’t resist buying it even though I have to admit that this is my absolute least favourite movie out of Marion’s resumee. Nontheless, she gives a very strong, powerful and harrowing performance, really remarkable – especially considering she was only just 20 years old at the time and at the beginning of her acting career.

920 Chloé – DVD Screencaptures
011 Chloé – DVD Screencaptures > Menu
001 Chloé – Artwork