While it may have seemed premature on paper, the Telluride Film Festival's celebration of 37-year-old French actress Marion Cotillard's body of work last weekend is arriving right on the crest of her career apogee, a period we may look back on in several decades and compare to the way Jeanne Moreau and Catherine Deneuve dominated the '60s with their ubiquity.
Valid Oscar talk is already swirling for Cotillard's most recent emotionally bruising performance as a whale-trainer who suffers a brutal accident in Jacques Audiard's "Rust & Bone," which made its North American premiere last weekend in Telluride; the peg of her celebration.
And while still just making a name for herself in North America, Cotillard is already an Academy-Award winning actress (for "La Vie En Rose" -- she's only the second ever actress after Sophia Loren to win the award for a role not in English) and has worked with greats like Michael Mann, Christopher Nolan (twice), Ridley Scott ("A Good Year"), Tim Burton ("Big Fish"), Steven Soderbergh ("Contagion"), Woody Allen (“Midnight In Paris”) and Abel Ferrara, not to mention all the superb French filmmakers she has worked with (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Arnaud Desplechin) and the upcoming auteurs who have collaborations with her in the works ("A Separation" helmer Asghar Farhadi and James Gray). Truly she is the real deal, and at the same time is likely just reaching her peak; one assumes she has a long and storied career ahead of her.
During "A Tribute To Marion Cotillard," Telluride audiences were treated to clips from many of her films and an in-depth and intimate conversation with the actress about her oeuvre. Sincere, but casually playful, the actress gratefully accepted her career-early tribute and related stories about her life. Her father was a mime and therefore an early acting coach from whom Cotillard was able to soak up the physicality of performance. Oh, and despite the Telluride guide where Cotillard is quoted as saying, “I’m just a girl from the Bronx," she’s not. This is her form of a joke about living in the suburbs of France. "I aeeem znot from zee Bwonx at t'all." She quipped in a purposefully exaggerated French accent.
She’s a multi-hyphenate as well, and occasionally sings under the pseudonym Simone in Maxim Nucci's band Yodelice (see her sing Bowie’s “Velvet Goldmine” here). Simone being the name of one of her beloved grandmothers. And she works hard on her roles. After a deep immersion, it took her several months to shed the skin of Edith Piaf (the role she won the Oscar for). She spent every day for four months with a dialect coach preparing for her role in Michael Mann’s "Public Enemies" because the notoriously meticulous director wanted her without a trace of a French accent (“I cried every day,” she said of her preparations). For her role in “Nine” alongside Daniel Day-Lewis, where she played Luisa, the wife who is overlooked and neglected in favor of Day Lewis’ character’s many muses, she studied and looked to Eleanor Coppola for inspiration as a woman who is loyal but trying to find her own identity while working with a creative madman.