sundance film festival

Marion Cotillard’s secret

Marion Cotillard with Rust and Bone co-star Matthias Schoenaerts

Marion Cotillard has been keeping a terrible secret. The producers at Warner Brothers were quite clear, and her contract spelled it out: for five months, she would be the exclusive property of The Dark Knight Rises. While shooting the role of Miranda, a do-gooding philanthropist with a dark secret, she could not work on any other movies, even during her many weeks off.

"I didn't have a major part in the Batman movie, but I had to be available for it at all times. The script changed constantly, and I needed to be ready to get on the next plane and be on set as soon as they needed me," Cotillard explains during an interview, in French, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Then it happened: filmmaker Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) offered her the starring role in Rust and Bone (De rouille et d'os). He wanted her to play Stéphanie, an orca whale trainer at Marineland where, one day, the aquatic circus turns into a danse macabre as a whale attacks Stéphanie, robbing her of her legs, and her will to live. She grows bitter, tormented and disillusioned.

It was the kind of challenge Cotillard couldn't refuse.

"I had to lie. I told the media I was taking a bit part in Jacques' film, and that we were going to shoot after Batman wrapped. I was terrified that somebody would find out," she recalls.

Cotillard admits that she always has butterflies before a shoot, secret or not. "I remember being so nervous on set! I never know if my performance will be any good. I get very anxious."

And her Oscar for La vie en rose didn't change that? "Nope!"

There must be a good reason she stays in a profession that torments her so. "I'm not somebody who opens up to people very easily," she says. "With this form of expression, I think I've found a way to speak to a lot of people and share something of myself, while still keeping my distance."

She certainly does keep her distance. Even though the American press has dubbed Cotillard "France's answer to Angelina Jolie" (her partner is actor Guillaume Canet, who happens to be "the Brad Pitt of Paris"), she rarely reveals much about herself in interviews.

"I don't have anything against people who bare their soul to the media. I just know I can't do it. I want to share things that seem practical to me. It's the same if I go to a dinner party with guests I don't know; I'm not going to share my life story with them. It's exactly the same with the press — you're not going to hear my life story either, because we've just met. That's how it works. We talk, and I tell you about the movie. Getting into private matters is actually very intense. And, well, I don't know how to do that." However, Cotillard is willing to reveal herself in a way that few in Hollywood dare — she goes without makeup in Rust and Bone.

Was it a humbling experience? "Not at all! I really appreciated not spending two hours in hair and makeup every morning."

Her nude scenes weren't any tougher, apparently. "A big part of my profession has to do with representation," she says. "It's something I like doing. So being almost completely nude was a real pleasure."

Mathieu Chantelois is the editor of Le magazine Cineplex.
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