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Interview: Marion Cotillard of 'Rust and Bone'

Matt Pais, @mattpais

RedEye movie critic

December 17, 2012

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Good news, Katy Perry fans: Though Marion Cotillard’s whale trainer character in “Rust and Bone” loses her legs in an accident  as Perry’s “Firework” plays, the actress says she’s not too traumatized by the empowerment tune.

“The song’s become something very special to me,” says the Paris-born Cotillard by phone from New York. “And we listen to it a lot with the team I work with. I love the song.”

In the film, opening Friday, Stephanie (Cotillard) copes with tragedy through help from Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a nightclub bouncer who defends Stephanie in a fight before the accident. The 37-year-old Oscar winner (“La Vie En Rose,” “The Dark Knight Rises”) says her feelings about fighters vary.

“If you fight as a kind of sport, kind of a game, so it becomes something powerful and not something specifically violent [that's one thing] … but when you fight in the street, when you fight because you get in a fight with someone who says something bad, [it’s] not showing strength,” she says. “It can be weakness to be a fighter. Because you are just a violent person.”

Cotillard wasn’t happy when a friend tried to defend her in real life against “someone who was annoying me.” “I got so mad because I didn’t want him to get into a fight,” she says. “I used to go to see boxing and I used to love it, but seeing people fighting in the street because of an argument or something, this is something that I cannot stand.”

People may not expect someone as glamorous as Cotillard to enjoy boxing, but she doesn’t see herself that way. “It’s part of an actor’s life to sometimes show glamor,” she says. “In my real life I see myself as a human being who learns a lot of things, but I would not describe myself as glamorous. I would describe myself as just a simple human being.”

Cotillard’s Stephanie character has anything but a simple journey in “Rust and Bone” as she tries to reclaim her sense of self after the tragic accident with a whale she is training. Cotillard emphasizes the role of sexual identity in that process. “That’s a beautiful way to put the energy back into your body,” she says.

The whale accident comes as a jolt in “Rust and Bone,” but Cotillard has been familiar with surprises lately—particularly regarding her character in “The Dark Knight Rises.”

“I didn’t tell anyone what my character does in the movie,” Cotillard says of her friends, “and they were pretty shocked.” (Spoiler alert: She sleeps with Batman and tries to kill him. Cotillard notes her friends focus more on the killing aspect.)

These serious movies tend to be her forte career-wise, but Cotillard admits to loving “dumb” American comedies, including Adam Sandler films. She’s particularly fond of “Step Brothers” due to her love for John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell (she also says she loves Steve Carell and Vince Vaughn).

Yet when asked to name an actor she still wants to work with, Cotillard said Kate Winslet. When I suggest a comedy starring the two of them, Cotillard offers an idea for the title: “Step Sisters.”

Plus:
If she had unlimited time in Chicago: “I would want to go and visit my friend who lives there. And I would go to Gibson’s. And Green Mill. I loved it, too.”
On working with whales: “The thing is I didn’t have much time to prepare this movie because I was filming another movie, so I arrived five days before the shooting and we had worked before with [director] Jacques [Audiard], but with the whales I arrived five days before the shooting and that’s when I met with them and I started to learn how to [do] all the gestures to make them do what you want them to do. I love animals and I’ve always had a strong connection with them. My trainer, the woman who worked with me, she was really amazing and she made my job very easy … If you do the right gestures, you feed them well, they will actually do whatever you want them to do.”
On, as seen in “Rust and Bone,” topless swimming being more common in France than the U.S.: “There’s a freedom with our bodies in France maybe, I don’t know.”
If it’s more difficult to lose arms or legs: “Oh my God, I don’t know. It’s hard to compare. It’s really hard to lose a part of your body. No, I’d rather not lose anything. [Laughs]”
 

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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