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.”
Cotillard remains passionate about the directors she works with. To date she can count Michael Mann, Arnaud Desplechin, Woody Allen, Yann Samuell, Steven Soderbergh, Tim Burton and Ridley Scott among her collaborators. Is it a guiding career principle, I wonder?
“Yes. No. I plan. But not always. I am so lucky that people want to work with me in the first place. And I’m so lucky because some of them are directors that I really want to work with. But if I don’t like the story or the project I will say ‘No’, and hope that one day they’ll come back with something else. I have a big, big list of directors that only my agent knows. There has to be something vibrant about the character or the project. It’s simple with me because I like it or I don’t like it. Sometimes I will like something but I’ll feel I did that before. Most of the time it gets into my blood and that’s it.”
Now that Hollywood has coming a-courting, it’s easy to forget that Cotillard spent 15 years as a working actor: she graced TV’s
Highlander and Gérard Pirès’s ungainly Taxi sequence before her Oscar win.
She enjoys the challenge of working in English-language roles but she still prefers working in France where she has consistently found work in dark, unglamorous parts. On screen, she has indulged in crazy S&M games in Love Me if You Dare, faced the guillotine for murder in A Very Long Engagement, and she has been chaotic and bipolar in Little
“I think those characters are beautiful,” she says. “It’s the kind of work I love most.”
In common with Little White Lies, her next project, Blood Ties, is cowritten and directed by Canet, her partner of nine years.
“We don’t have rules. Of course we share what we do. But we don’t share everything that we do. Because he’s an actor I love when I see him in a movie and discover a whole life that I wasn’t fully aware of. But when we work together that’s a whole other subject. That’s trickier.”
The film – which will bring together Cotil
lard, her Rust and Bone cohort Schoenaerts, Clive Owen and Mila Kunis – will mark Canet and Cotillard’s first joint venture in American cinema. It’s exciting, she says, but it won’t herald a transatlantic move.
“I do love traveling. I love meeting new people and discovering new cultures. But my base will always be France. I’m lucky to be able to work outside my own country. But I love French cinema and I love being French.”
Cotillard with Rust and Bone director Jacques Audiard (left) and co-star Matthias Schoenaerts