Regardless of what the French think of Yanks, they love American movies — and Marion Cotillard is no exception. Even though she first acted onstage as a 4-year-old child with her thesp parents, the actress got the real urge to perform from a most unlikely cinematic source.
“A major movie moment from my childhood is John Huston’s ‘Annie,'” she says of the 1989 film adaptation of the enormously popular legit show. Cotillard, in fact, says she could sing “Tomorrow” forever.
“My dream is to be in a musical. I was taken with the singing and tap dancing. As a little girl, I wanted to play Annie. She was my hero. I still love that movie. I’d watch it again.”
“Annie” was soon followed by repeats of “Singin’ in the Rain” on French TV.
“On that one, I actually watched it again and again and learned the choreography, and tried to do it in front of the TV.”
Cotillard makes a passing reference to the French musicals “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort” by New Wave director Jacques Demy. “But it’s not in the French culture to do musicals,” she observes, a little miffed.
Fortunately for her, “La Vie en rose,” in essence, is a musical, since much of the story is told through the songs of Edith Piaf, whom Cotillard essays. According to the actress, the 2007 biopic was even more tuner-like in its early drafts of the script.
“For example, at the beginning of the movie, where Piaf is young and living with the prostitutes, the first draft (of the script) had the prostitutes singing, like in a musical,” she recalls. There would ultimately be budget constraints that would make that impossible, yet “you can feel that concept of a musical.”
Cotillard had wanted to sing her own vocals in the film, but a decision was made to lip-sync the Piaf songs instead.
“I started to take singing lessons, but when we realized we had only three months to prepare the movie, it was absolutely obvious that I wouldn’t be able to record the songs,” she says.
Cotillard did sing her own songs for the music-business comedy “Les jolies choses” but doesn’t even venture a critique of her own ability.
“It’s so hard to judge one’s own voice,” she explains.
Favorite film: “I can’t pick one. I love all the Charlie Chaplin movies. I love ‘Singin’ in the Rain.’ I love ‘Sophie’s Choice.’ Meryl Streep is great. ‘The Lives of Others’ is a masterpiece.”
What you want in a director: “Passion, confidence — a real need to say something — and sharing. But passion is most important.”