The Passion of Marion

This month, Marion Cotillard stars in the new musical Nine from director Rob Marshall. France-Amerique interviews the most gifted and iconic actress of her generation.

Since she won the Oscar for her performance as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose in 2008, Marion Cotillard has become one of the brighter stars in the constellation of French cinema. The French actress is everywhere, working with some of the most demanding directors in Hollywood and France. Ridley Scott, Tim Burton, Michael Mann, Rob Marshall. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Karim Didri, Olivier Dahan and Guillaume Canet, to name just a few. While filming the latest Christopher Nolan movie in Los Angeles, the 34-year-old beauty agreed to an exclusive interview with France-Amerique. She talks about the great joy she takes in making movies, the causes she cares most about, and the new musical Nine, inspired by Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, which opens in American theaters on Christmas Day.

F-A: The film Nine comes out on December 25th in the US. How did the screenplay land in your hands?

M.C.: Rob Marshall had seen La Vie en Rose and wanted to meet me. I went through dance and singing auditions in London, and then tried out for a number of roles. In the end I landed one of them — my first American role.

F-A: This was after the Oscars?

M.C.: No, this was six months before the Oscars. I got the role the previous July. It was extraordinary for me to be able to act in an American musical. And it was really thanks to La Vie en Rose, because it wasn’t even a question of the Oscars at that point.

F-A: Had you already sung onscreen before?

M.C.: Yes, I had already sung in a French film called Edy. I really love singing — it’s a very particular type of artistic expression. The voice really allows you to express a multitude of emotions. And when we sing, it changes a role, makes it more personal, even if it’s just for four or five minutes. So there was really quite a lot of preparatory work. For [Nine], I really immersed myself in Fellini’s life, and that of his wife, because Louisa [her character in Nine], is very similar to Giulietta Masina [Fellini’s wife].

F-A: Had you seen Anouk Aimée play the role of Louisa in Fellini’s 8 ½?

M.C.: Yes, of course. I had seen 8 ½ a long time ago. I watched it again even before my audition for the role, which develops very differently in Nine. At the start, I tried out for other roles. When I was chosen to play Louisa, I didn’t have to rewatch it.

F-A: Did you feel disconnected from her performance, or inspired?

M.C.: Anouk Aimée is so extraordinary in that film. I certainly had a very strong idea in my head of what she had done there. But I didn’t want to recreate it, because it was her work and it was magnificent. That would have been uninteresting for me. I wouldn’t have been able to perform at a high level without going in a different direction. I drew from outside the role, even though it’s obviously the same part in some ways. Louisa’s suffering is the same, as is her intelligence and her sensitivity.

F-A: Nine is filled with very prestigious actors: Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren and Daniel Day-Lewis. What was the set like?

M.C.: To have the chance to be part of a musical comedy with the likes of all those people was already really exceptional. There was a bond between us all from the beginning. I admire Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz enormously; they’re the actresses I spent the most time with on set. The fact that I was able to share all that time with those two made me really happy. To watch them at work, investing all their energy in a character, and to be able to throw myself into the same work — it was a unique experience. As for Daniel Day-Lewis, he’s one of the greatest actors in the world. Initially, another actor was cast in his part. When I found out he was going to be in the film, I was completely…I don’t know what word to use…I really felt incredibly thrilled.

F-A: Who is the biggest perfectionist of all of you?

M.C.: Penelope (laughs). I’ve rarely seen someone work so hard. It’s admirable.

F-A: What’s it like to work with someone of Day-Lewis’s stature?

M.C.: I had already met him, and I had always been very impressed with him. The fact that I’d already met him allowed me to be slightly less intimidated when I arrived on the set…

F-A: Because he is intimidating!

M.C.: Yes, he is very intimidating, and at the same time he is quite accessible, and he really loves his work, and has an admirable work ethic. We all came to the film with a great deal of enthusiasm, but also anxiety — musicals are a very particular genre. We were all in the same boat. We were all nervous, but all eager to get to work.

Check out Nine at a theater near you!

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