Marion Cotillard has appeared in more than 40 movies, including Tim Burton's "Big Fish," Ridley Scott's "A Good Year," Luc Besson's "Taxi" movies and, most recently, "La Vie en Rose," in which she played Edith Piaf. That performance has been generating Oscar buzz since before it was released in June. It's an astonishing feat of metamorphosis -- Cotillard managed to appear a foot shorter than she is to play the French singer and icon, and though she is 32, she plays Piaf convincingly from age 17 to her death at 47.
In person, in a midtown hotel here, she is lovely, elegant and low-key enough to request hot water from a waiter, producing her own bags of green tea.
You've been talking about "La Vie en Rose" for more than two years now. You've been in more than 40 movies, but it sometimes seems this is the only film you've done.
I shaved back my hairline and shaved off my eyebrows back in September 2005 and we started shooting in January last year and started the promotion shortly after that, so, yes, I have been living with this role for over two years now. But I'm really enjoying all the adventure so I really can't complain. Sometimes you get the same questions over and over again, but you just have to laugh about it. It's pretty easy to handle. And there will be an end to it all.
So do you have your Oscar acceptance speech rehearsed yet?
No! I'm not working on any speech. We really have to wait and see if I even get a nomination. That would be something huge for me. When I even say this, it makes me laugh, like what am I even talking about. I could never have imagined that one day I would talk seriously about Oscars. I'm just very happy for the movie.
You were in New York just three years ago to study English.
Yes, I came here right after I did "Big Fish" with Tim Burton, where I had a very hard time understanding people. So I took a Berlitz course for a few weeks and I've been practicing ever since.
Your parents are both actors and you started working very young.
I did work when I was 5 because one of my parents' friends was about to direct a TV movie and asked me to be a part of it. But then I did have a very normal childhood. Without explaining it to me, I understood that to be an actor you have to live your life and go through normal joy and normal pain because an actor is telling people stories and you have to live normally to know how it works in real life, and then when I was 18 I started to work again.
Just before playing Edith Piaf, you played the love interest to Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott's "A Good Year." How was working with those two?
I'd been told of Russell Crowe's reputation, but he's really the nicest guy. And I'm not doing an American type promotion. He really wanted people to be happy on the set and he would do anything to make you at ease.
You've said that in playing Piaf you didn't want to imitate her, that you wanted to express her.
It's not interesting to imitate someone who existed in real life. You have all the information about this person and you have to understand them. That is what's very interesting. So I think that Jamie Foxx (as Ray Charles) or Will Smith (as Muhammad Ali) or Joaquin Phoenix (as Johnny Cash), I'm sure they didn't try to imitate because that's technical. I had to learn cello for another movie and it was mechanical to learn the cello but the fun part is when the mechanical part is all in your hands and you can play with the emotions.
You only sing in one small part of "La Vie en Rose," when your character is drunk, but you've sung before, and your next project "The Nine," directed by Frank Marshall and co-starring Javier Bardem, is a musical, yes?
Oh, yes, I love to sing! But I couldn't sing like Edith Piaf and with three months to prepare, I wouldn't have had time to have her voice. And I've been practicing my songs for "The Nine." It's good to sing, music is a good way to enjoy life. You see people in the street listening to music but you don't see them walking with a movie. You can take music everywhere!Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times