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Marion Cotillard Talks ‘The Immigrant,’ ‘Lady Macbeth,’ Scorsese and the Dardennes Brothers

Cotillard was in Marrakech to be part of Martin Scorsese' jury

MARRAKECH, Morocco– On top of being part of Martin Scorsese’ Jury at Marrakech Film Festival, Marion Cotillard — whose latest film, James Gray’s “The Immigrant,” played at the Morocco-based fest — cheerfully participated in roundtables with journalists. Cotillard, the first French actress to have won an Academy Award for her perf as Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose,” just wrapped Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “Two Days, One Night” and will next topline Justin Kurzel’s “Macbeth,” replacing Natalie Portman in the title role.

Variety: Through your parts in “La Vie En Rose,” “Rust and Bones” and “The Immigrant,” you’ve fully transformed yourself and dived very deep into the characters. How did these experiences change you on personal level? 

Marion Cotillard: I think that when you discover something that was unknown before it opens your mind, your heart. Roles after roles, I learned a little more about human beings. I want to go as deep as I can in a character. Sometimes, especially with “La Vie En Rose,”when I finished the movie, I needed to clean myself from old stories, things that you keep within yourself that you never get rid of because you don’t know how, or because it’s just too much, you don’t have the courage. To go deep in the character really gives the courage to face things. I don’t do that job to do that, to have that, but it happens. But I’m not going to choose a character because I’m gonna be like “it’s gonna be fantastic therapy” or something.

You’re on the Marrakech jury with Scorsese and you look like one big happy family. Do you think he’ll think about you for a future role?

Of course I’d love to make a movie with him one day, but today, the relationship we have all together, with the jury, is just about talking about cinema. I’ll do a parallel with James Gray. I met him with my boyfriend (Guillaume Canet) and we became friends. I’m a huge admirer of his work but when I met him, I didn’t even dare to tell him. Never in my mind was I thinking, “I’m going to do everything to work for him” because I was never able to be in that kind of seduction from the beginning of my career. When I had to meet a director, I preferred to have a screen test and show what I could do instead of sell myself in a discussion, because I was bad at it. When I met James, we became friends and I never thought I could work with him because he was my friend. The relationship I have with Martin (Scorsese) is two people who talk about cinema, and that’s it.

What’s your memory of Oscar night?

Just before the Oscar night I was chosen by Michael Mann to play in his movie and also by Rob Marshall, so I felt that “La Vie En Rose” had really changed my career. But each time it’s a new surprise. I never thought I’d have that chance and I still don’t think it’s going to last.

To me the best recognition I can receive is someone like James Gray writing a movie for me. The Oscar is the cherry on the cake, but what deeply changed was Olivier Dahan who was crazy enough to think that I could do this (play Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose”). I remember when I read the script I asked my agent “Which part am I gonna do?” and he said “He (Dahan) want you to do the whole thing”. I said it wasn’t possible, but I didn’t say it too loud. I thought it was crazy and felt right away it would be an amazing experience. And then yeah, as I told you, the greatest recognition is still working with amazing people.

At some point you were working on your directorial debut. Is it still in the works?

I’d love to direct actors. I don’t know if I’d be able to direct a movie because, my god, it’s a really hard job. But I’d love to direct actors one day.

I still have a project, but I want to write it, and I don’t know if I can write. I need to have time to do it. It’s there. Maybe one day. I can’t say what it’s about, but it was inspired by a little nomad girl I met. She had a huge impact on my life, imagination, and inspiration.

You deserted Europe for a while and then you made a comeback in a French-language film with Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone,” and you have The Dardennes Brothers’ “Two Days, One Night” and Benoit Jacquot’s “Diary Of A Chambermaid” lined up. How difficult is it to find meaty roles in Europe?

It’s never easy to find a good role. But last time I did a movie in France it was Jacques Audiard’s movie, and I had a very narrow window to shoot it. Actually, I couldn’t (she was still under contract for “The Dark Night Rises”), but I made room, we decided to go straight into production instead of preparing as much as Jacques and I wanted. He loves to prepare well in advance. But it was irresistible, the role and the idea of working with Jacques. But it’s always hard to find a good role, there are some amazing roles, like the two leads in ”La Vie d’Adele,” so powerful, or “The Past,” with Berenice Bejo, sublime. There are good roles, but not a ton of them.”

How was your experience working with the Dardenne brothers?

We’ve just finished shooting. What I can say is that when I began working in the U.S., I started to think that all those amazing, greatest directors I never thought I could work with, suddenly … I realized it was not unreachable anymore. But there were two people for me who were unreachable: Bruno Dumont and the Dardennes Brothers. When my agent told me they wanted me to meet with them, I genuinely thought it was a joke. Then I thought it would be a totally different movie than what they do usually, because they do stories in their hometown.

With all due respect for all the directors I worked with, this experience was the greatest of my life as an actress, so I hope it’ll be good. They push the actors so far in the detail. That’s the relationship that I’d always expected with directors. That was idyllic.

You’re involved with Greenpeace among other ONGs, do you feel that it’s part of your job as a popular actress to be involved in humanitarian activities?

No, it’s not. It’s just that it’s a great thing when a human being takes action. I don’t do this because I’m an actress, and I don’t think it has an impact. If you dedicate a huge part of your life to it, like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, and even with them it’s hard for them to be taken seriously. But with the time they’ve put in, they’re taken seriously. It’s a hard job to get there. I’m doing this because I’m a human being concerned by the planet, our health, our well-being, and not just here now. I know it’s hard to think ahead, think of 2000 years, but it’s part of my life.

Is “The Rivals,” a project with Michael Sucsy attached to direct, still in the pipeline?

Oh my God, this is such an old project that we had with Nicole Kidman. But I don’t think it’ll happen.

What can you tell us about your next big part as Lady Macbeth in Justin Kurzel’s “Macbeth”?

Again, it’s a crazy opportunity, it’s always been my dream to play Lady Macbeth. I was sure I’d do it onstage, in French, because I’m French. In film adaptations, Lady Macbeth has always been played by English-speaking actress. These guys are crazy, I hope I won’t ruin the film. I rely on my coach to learn the accent. I know when it’s really bad or wrong, but I don’t know when it’s not very good.

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