It probably is not much of a surprise that French born Marion Cotillard found her place on stage and later on the big screen. You could say it was genetic. Her mother Monique, who changed her name to Niseema, is also an actress and a drama teacher. Jean-Claude, her father, was once a mime, a visual art form that conveys a message through the use of expression and form. He also is a teacher, actor and director, and won the Moliere Award in 2006.
The Beginning – Theater Training
Theater work hones the skills of an actor because it is a demanding venue. Once the curtain goes up, it’s show time. No stopping for mistakes; you just have to work your way through them. The people watching you are living and opinionated, sometimes vocally so. The reward for a stellar performance is an elated, adoring audience. Those who fall short of the mark may not find such a welcome reception.
Marion learned to act on the live stage before ever setting foot on a sound stage. It is this disciplined form of acting that gave her the backbone to tackle some of her most demanding roles. The talent and the need to act were already in her blood. Theater acting gave Marion a valuable edge.
Early Films and Television
Marion started with minor roles, both on television and the big screen. One early role was in “Highlander,” a sci-fi fantasy TV-show where dashingly handsome immortals lived forever, unless they were unlucky enough to lose their heads in a sword fight. Sci-fi isn’t easy; not only must you get in character for your role, you must act as if the world you are acting in is totally normal.
Other early works brought out her comedic side, 1999s “Taxi” directed by Gerard Pires. Marion played a rather off-beat girlfriend sharing the need for speed with her race car driving boyfriend Daniel. Dramatic roles, like that in the warm film “In the Highlands,” and her Cesar Award winning performance in “Les Jolies Choses” added another facet to her talent.
“La Vie en Rose” – An Award Favorite
Released in 2007, “La Vie en Rose” was based on the life of French singer Edith Piaf, popular from the 1940s to the 1960s. “La Vie en Rose” was one of her hits from 1946. Piaf’s mother was a café singer and her father was a street acrobat. Much as Marion did, Edith went into the family business. She started by performing with her father when she was 14 and sang in public for the first time. Piaf’s career spanned the war years and she overcame personal tragedies, including the death of her only daughter.
Both Marion and Edith came from families involved in the performing arts, so perhaps Marion had an innate understanding of Edith to draw upon. Marion’s performance, following the life of Piaf from childhood until death, evoked almost every conceivable human emotion, from downright silliness to the sobering finality of life's ending.
The Best Actress Oscar went to Marion for that performance, along with a Golden Globe, the French Cesar Award and the Czech Lion, the Czech equivalent of the Oscar. At the Seattle International Film Festival, she won the Golden Space Needle Award.
“Nine” – Romance with a Musical Twist
After her success with “La Vie en Rose” it was time for a bit of levity. In 2009 Marion landed the role of Luisa in the musical/romantic-comedy “Nine.” Centered around Guido Contini, a lady-loving Italian filmmaker, and his problem with writer’s block, Marion is part of a bevy of beautiful women that try to help Contini get back on track.
What gives Cotillard an edge, as Luisa, is that she is Guido’s wife. It doesn’t hurt that Guido is played by the very dishy Daniel Day-Lewis, who learned Italian for the role. This is Marion’s chance to tap her comedic genius, and to sing. As the dutiful wife Luisa, she sings “My Husband Makes Movies.” Later, fed up with that husband’s philandering, Luisa belts out “Take it All.”
“Inception” – Back to Science Fiction
In many ways “Inception” took Marion Cotillard back to her beginnings in the show “Highlander,” but this was more psychological. The premise was the ability to implant thoughts into the mind of another. In this 2010 hit, Marion plays a sexy, sultry, yet vulnerable woman. At the same time, she is the main antagonist, with an ability to instill thoughts of guilt and sadness into others. Playing opposite Leonardo DeCaprio, Marion is the manifestation of his dead wife Mal. The film went on to win the coveted 2011 Bradbury Award for best dramatic film in the science fiction ge>
Some actors are one dimensional and others are type-cast. Marion Cotillard is neither. Perhaps part of it is the genetic material flowing through her veins, or it could be the tenacity with which Marion pursued both dramatic and comedic roles. Most likely, it is more than a little of both. Fans can see Marion as Miranda Tate in “The D Rises,” out later this year.
Author Bio: Sean is a foreign film geek and especially loves les films français. When he’s not watching the lastest Jean-Pierre Jeunet release you can find him contributing to ATTSavings.com or @SeanTR.