On a warm, glowing afternoon, I’ve met Marion Cotillard on the rooftop of the JW Marriott in the South of France. She was barefoot, lounging on a big sofa, dressed in pastel green pants and jacket, wearing a dramatic Chopard emerald and diamonds necklace. The Parisian actress shot to stardom with an Oscar-winning role, playing Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose in 2007 and has been growing strong ever since.
This year in Cannes, she came with Arnaud Desplechin’s drama, Ismael’s Ghosts, which premiered in the Out of Competition selection of the world’s premier film festival. Off silver screen, Marion Cotillard is perceptive, luminous but at the same very tough. “No one can be harder on myself than I can be on myself”, she says flamboyantly.
To The Pavlovic Today, she talks about the pitfalls of fame, her new movie Ismael’s Ghost and why she stopped reading blatantly fraudulent stories about her affair with Brad Pitt.
On how she learned to live in the present
Marion Cotillard: Well, at the time I started doing movies I was so happy. I was doing movies; I was so excited. So I had the feeling that I attended the dream but I did not really live it. Today, I try to live most of the time in the present to really feel everything. So, this experience in Cannes is very different from the one I had ten years ago. Now I live in the instant.
On playing Charlotte in Ismael’s Ghosts
Marion Cotillard: Everything was pretty easy to play in the film Ismael’s Ghosts because you have such singular, amazing, writing. Arnaud Desplechin’s writing is very singular. There is a very specific rhythm and melody that takes the time to get in, but when you get it, you are in the movie, in this world. It’s like Shakespeare. To me, Charlotte is the light in the movie. And she is left to connect with the light and life within her. When she comes back after 20 years and shows up in the lives of her father and the husband she left, she comes back to break the last locket that will set her free and alive. I think it is a very interesting contrast in the movie.
On being strong
Marion Cotillard: The only person who can destroy your life is yourself. Nobody can destroy your life. You will sometimes face horrible experiences and meet horrible people who will try to destroy your life, but if you do not allow it, then your life won’t be destroyed.
Sometimes you have to be very, very strong in front of the people who want to destroy your life. It is you who has to hold the main responsibility for your own life.
On film directors, she would like to work with, in the future
I follow where the wind pushes me. There are many directors I would like to work with but I cannot know for sure that I will work with them. The only time I was sure I will work with the director, he died before we got the chance to work together. It was Claude Chabrol.
When he died I was devastated because I was waiting for the experience to work with him. I think I would have written to him if it would have been too long, but I never did and I was devastated.
I once passed a message to the director that I would like to work with him. So he responded immediately and said, okay, I have a movie we can work on together, amazing script, really amazing. A role of the lifetime. But I have just done the Dardenne brothers movie Two Day, One Night where the woman is so depressed, and then I did Macbeth so I had to say no to that director. I said to him: “This is kind of unbelievable that I am turning this down.” And it was the exact dream that I had to work with him. But after spending my life with these two very disturbed women, with these two roles, I could not picture myself sharing myself with this woman who is so amazing but so deeply depressed.
I tried to protect myself emotionally, outside of the set because I have kids and I can’t bring my work home. But on set, I want to go into character as deep as I can, and I knew I could not have handled it at that time.
I was on the phone with that director, and I said: “ this is crazy, I am turning this down, this is the most beautiful script, this is the most beautiful character, I was the one who knocked on your doors but I can’t do it.” He understood. I have not seen the movie yet but I was told that the actress who took the role was absolutely amazing and I was very happy that she did it. I do not want to talk about it as it is her movie and I do not want to add my story to hers. But yeah, that was the one time I knocked on the door of the film director.
On why she never abandoned France for L.A.
Marion Cotillard: I am very lucky that I can work in my country – which is an amazing country for cinema, where cinema is well protected, and to also work in other countries of cinema like England and America. I have the chance to choose and pick amazing projects but again, I go where I feel my place is, where I can deliver something authentic. In France, some people think I live in Los Angeles, that I have this amazing life in Hollywood, but I have never left my country.
On false stories, the media writes about her
Marion Cotillard: Sometimes it is really crazy that they publish information that is not even true. What was the most bizarre thing that was published about me? So many…One day, I’ve just stopped reading. When you are a young actor you cannot help yourself from reading but you have to. You know, there is this ego that is a big beast that you have not tamed yet and one day you are like: “do I really want to read this?” Because this is just one-sided, so you should either not read anything, or you should read everything – which would take a lifetime. And even then it would not even give a sense of the reality of who you are.
On her involvement in Brad Pitt’s divorce
Marion Cotillard: I felt sorry for people who reacted like I was that horrible person without knowing anything about the reality. That was really crazy. And actually, I’ve never taken it personally, because I was not part of that. The story did not even touch me. What touched me was you know, two people, living through very troubled times. But I was not touched by me being involved in this story, as I have never been involved in anything with Brad Pitt. And I have to say, all the comments….
Negativity feeds people and the negative stories sell better than the positive and kind ones. But then, at one point, the more horrible comments became, the more we cried laughing. “Are you kidding me?” People went crazy without knowing anything about our lives and I felt very sorry for them. What is in their head that pushes them to write these things?
I honestly did not want to react to the story as I had nothing to do with this. But once I had paparazzi in front of my house, my husband was like: “you have to do something, I can’t bear this anymore.” So I took my statement to Instagram and that helped as it was super direct.
On the changing face of the media
Marion Cotillard: When you talk to the public directly, no one can change your words. The face of the media has changed already.
Today everybody is the paparazzi, everyone can listen to what you say, record what you say, take a picture of you, everybody has a camera so, yeah, the way we communicate, it has all changed.
On why she stopped reading the news about herself
It was one point in my life when I thought first of all that no one can be harder on myself than I can be on myself.
And it did not give me anything, it was just bringing negativity to my life and I was getting so upset about something that it was not even real. And then I realized that this will all be forgotten in a week.
On the change winning the Oscars brought to her life
Marion Cotillard: Suddenly I entered this world of having amazing propositions, and access to amazing projects and directors. It is a haven for an actor. So yeah, the Oscars changed a lot. It changed my life. It brought me things I dreamed of. The dream is still alive.
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