“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”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

DRESSED DOWN in jeans and a pat­terned black T-shirt, Mar­ion Cotil­lard has ar­rived in Lon­don on the back of a three-month break with her part­ner Guil­laume Canet and the cou­ple’s 18-mon­thold son, Mar­cel. She’s not giv­ing up on her hol­i­day just yet; she’s bare­foot as we shake hands: “I have been for months,” she notes glee­fully. Her lengthy fam­ily so­journ means she missed out on the hoopla sur­round­ing Christo­pher Nolan’s bil­lion-dol­lar-gross­ing The Dark Knight Rises. The British di­rec­tor de­layed the pro­duc­tion to ac­com­mo­date Cotil­lard’s preg­nancy but she has yet to be recog­nised on the street, she says, for her work on the film.

Dis­ap­pear­ing has long been part of Cotil­lard’s reper­toire. We’re fre­quently told she and ac­tor-di­rec­tor Canet make up the French Brangelina, yet the cou­ple re­put­edly live very qui­etly in the Parisian sub­urbs. Where other At­lantic-cross­ing Gal­lic tal­ents have ex­celled in glam­orous or glacial ex­oti­cism, Cotil­lard’s work is largely in­vis­i­ble. Her down­right freaky trans­for­ma­tion into Édith Piaf for La Vie en Rose was seam­less enough to se­cure 2008’s César, Bafta and Academy Award in the Best Ac­tress cat­e­gory. It was the first non-An­glo­phone per­for­mance to win an Os­car since Sophia Loren’s 1962 turn in Vit­to­rio De Sica’s Two Women.

“I couldn’t leave the char­ac­ter on La Vie en Rose,” re­calls Cotil­lard. “It was weird be­cause I used to kind of judge ac­tors who would stay in char­ac­ter on set or who would have a hard time leav­ing the char­ac­ter be­hind when the movie was done. I had this very dumb idea that ‘Okay, it’s a big part of your life but its your job. Go home and go back to your­self.’ It turns out it’s not that easy. In the process I was in char­ac­ter al­most all the time. Even when I went home, there was some­thing that was not en­tirely me.”

The lack of van­ity that de­fined Cotil­lard’s Piaf is piv­otal to Rust and Bone, di­rec­tor Jac­ques Au­di­ard’s much-dec­o­rated fol­low-up to A Prophet. Cotil­lard, a Green­peace ac­tivist, says she has “dreamed of work­ing with Au­di­ard” for years but was less keen on the idea of whale wran­gling.

“I love an­i­mals,” she says. “The funny thing is I first heard about Jac­ques’s project at a ta­ble with a bunch of other ac­tors and agents – I didn’t even know there was a role for a woman then – and I heard the words ‘Orca trainer’ and I thought, Oh my God. I would love to work with Jac­ques; I would die to work with Jac­ques. But I will never, ever, ever work at Marine Land. I can­not stand those places.”

She smiles and shakes her head. “And some­where be­tween that mo­ment and read­ing the script I for­got to­tally about that feel­ing. I re­mem­ber [that on] the first day of shoot­ing in Marine Land I looked around and thought, Look where you are.”

What hap­pened to change her mind?

by ex­ten­sion, turns out to be one of the year’s odd­est prospects. On pa­per, Au­di­ard and screen­writer Thomas Bide­gain’s lib­eral adaptation of a short-story col­lec­tion by Cana­dian writer Craig David­son reads like a strange brew of hoary mas­cu­line cliches and te­len­ov­ela plot­ting: the brute re­deemed by love, sex ad­dic­tion, MMA prize­fight­ing, cor­po­rate es­pi­onage, a whale-re­lated ac­ci­dent, poor par­ent­ing and am­putee sex. In ex­e­cu­tion, it’s a gor­geous, com­pelling se­ries of del­i­cately poised jux­ta­po­si­tions. The set­ting takes in the scuzzier lo­cales of the Riviera but the sea has never shim­mered so beau­ti­fully; the lead per­for­mances from Cotil­lard and Bel­gian costar Matthias Schoe­naerts are both car­nal and ten­der; their char­ac­ters are re­pel­lant and magnetic; the tone is si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­al­is­tic and melo­dra­matic.

“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

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