La belle dame avec merci
“I expect Jacques to tell a very special story because when you see all his films each one is very special and rich,” says Cotillard. “But even for Jacques there are a lot of stories in this story. I didn’t expect it. Stéphanie is mysterious. The film is mysterious. And what I totally didn’t expect was to read a love story.”
The film’s many twists and turns amounted to an even greater challenge than Piaf, claims Cotilliard. The work, however, had to remain just that. “Now that I’m a mum I have to do things differently,” says the 37-year-old. “On Jacques’s movie at the end of the day I would run home to my family. Hearing ‘cut’ was my cue to get back to being a mother. Without a kid I would have worked differently. With a kid you can’t bring someone else home.”
She laughs: “Especially when she’s a totally fucked-up amputee girl.”
Did an inverted phantom-limb syndrome ever set in?
“Yes! I almost forgot I had legs. They were there all the time but I wouldn’t see them. The special-effects people were really brilliant and they were so discreet and fast that they never got in our way.”
She speaks in perfect English that can sound vaguely Los Angeles and vaguely London in the same sentence. Cotillard has been doing this for a long time. Born into an artistic Parisian household, she first entered into the family business as a child. “It was organic, natural,” she says.
It sure was. Her father is Jean-Claude Cotillard, a one-time mime and a Molière Award-winning director. Her mother, Niseema Theillaud, is an actor and drama teacher. Guillaume, one of Marion’s younger twin brothers, is a screenwriter and director.
“We were totally free to do whatever we wanted to do,” recalls Cotillard. “My parents just wanted us to be happy. What was important for my parents was for us to be free to be creative and to be respectful. Respect yourself and others and the place you live in. I started learning to act with my parents. They were always very physical with characters because they came from mime. And still I love to create a different way to talk, a different way to walk. I love that so much. It must be my favourite thing, finding the right way to think and the right body language.”
How did she turn out so feminine – she is, after all, the face of Lady Dior – as a known Leeds United supporter with only twin brothers for company?
“I think the relationship between twins is very, very special. And I was a little bit out of it. But all the games we had were very boyish. Most of the toys we had were for girls and boys. I don’t remember having a doll. I do remember having Lego. I was not very interested in girls’ things for a long time. It was only when I became more of a woman than a girl that I started to see that it was so, so fun and funny to be a girl.
She and her brothers became movie fans mostly through the agency of the VCR. They were quick, in accordance with French tradition, to think of cinema in terms of auteur theory.
“I loved Spielberg especially,” recalls Cotillard. “Like most kids. You’d have to hate movies to not love Spielberg.”