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Marion Cotillard: “My dream was simple”

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Marion Cotillard
Photo by Andreas Rentz
Short Profile

Name: Marion Cotillard
DOB: 30 September 1975
Place of Birth: Paris, Île-de-France, France
Occupation: Actress

Ms. Cotillard, you have worked on all kinds of different projects, from art house French films to Hollywood blockbusters. Do you have a favorite style of working?

No, I love when it’s different every time. I don’t like to compare because I don’t see the point. I don’t have a favorite process. My favorite process is the right process for the person I am working with. I can fit in any process as long as the director respects who I am and doesn’t try to put me in a situation to get something out of me – if I can give it without that situation. It doesn’t work at all.

What kind of situation?

Someone who will try to make me angry or create a situation that is not related to my character in order to put me in the state of the character. It’s 100 percent counter productive. Either I will get mad and I won’t be good or – and most of the time this is what happens - I will laugh. I cannot take it seriously.

Why not?

Because I can see the trick and I need authenticity. I need to be on the same page as the director. It happened once that the guy was doing things and he would ask me to do things that I didn’t expect, but I liked it because it fit with the movie. I was never slapped in the face, but some of my fellow actors have had this experience. That wouldn’t work for me at all. I need to be part of the process – and the trust.

Are you more self-confident now than you used to be?

No. I think it’s part of myself. Insecurity is very common among actors. When I started giving interviews and talking to people that I didn’t know, it was a nightmare. I’ve learned how to deal with interviews and insecurity; I’ve gotten used to it. But it’s always weird when you have to talk to someone you don’t know, someone who asks questions about yourself. It’s kind of a weird process. But I feel good. I love to discover and jump into the unknown and there is no security there.

Is that why you work in Europe and in Hollywood?

That was totally by luck. I had never thought I could work outside of my country, especially in the United States. I am from this generation where the American, the U.S. movies are part of our culture, so the American movies fed my dream to be an actress, but I never thought that I could one day work in an American movie. So I feel very, very lucky.

Well it doesn’t hurt that you won an Oscar for your performance in La Vie en Rose.

I feel lucky that this crazy Olivier Dahan thought I could be Édith Piaf. He changed my life. As an actress I always wanted to do movies and I never dreamt about doing movies in America just because I didn’t think it was possible. It was never a part of my dream. My dream was pretty simple. I just wanted to tell stories, make movies. I already consider myself very lucky to be able to do what I love to do.

But many French actors and filmmakers choose not to work in America, even though they could. French director François Ozon told us, “Americans respect you when you stay in your country, but when you arrive in America it’s finished.”

I was in Cannes one year with a French actress and she is very talented, very beautiful, and my American agent grabbed my dress and said, “Introduce me to her. I want to meet her!” So I went to see her and said, “My American agent wants to meet with you.” And she was like, “I don’t care! I don’t speak English and I don’t want to do any movies there.” I was surprised, but she absolutely refused to meet with my agent. She’s my generation, she could have everything, and she totally refused. And I was begging her! I said, “It’s an experience, you never know…” So you know, it’s very personal. Some people are just not interested. But it was not my goal and I don’t consider it as a big achievement to act in America. I just always wanted to be an actress.

Always?

My parents are actors and so I was surrounded by actors. I was surrounded by great energy and storytellers all my childhood. And that was fascinating. When I was very young I saw plays that are not for kids and I have a very, very vivid memory of those moments. Usually it was when the nanny didn’t come and my mom had to take my brothers and I to a three-hour play about ancient Greece or something. We would go crazy – she would go crazy, too. (Laughs) I remember the actors who were friends with my parents being normal people that I knew and then on stage they were cats or dogs. That was crazy. As far as I remember I always wanted to be an actress.

What was it like the first time you were on stage?

I was very young, I think I was like four or five. My mother was doing this play and the director asked me to do something. I remember exactly the location, the theater. There was a big piano, there was this woman on the floor and she was supposed to be my mother. But my mother was on stage, too. And I remember the confusion. I didn’t understand why they were saying such crazy things, pretending that my mother was there lying down while my mother was over there! That was my first time on stage.

Do you bring your son on set with you like your mother took you to the theater?

Yes, but you need a very good make up artist. (Laughs) You don’t sleep anymore, but at the same time you have this strength that comes from this life that has just arrived. It’s a big cliché how your priorities change, but every parent knows that sometimes there’s a thunderstorm and you look at his eyes and everything is all right. It is a revolution of everything you feel. It increases strength. It increases everything – except nighttime.