A Beautiful Mind

Article excerpt

Byline: Marlow Stern

Marion Cotillard on motherhood, the 1 percent, and her Rust a[umlaut]and Bone role that will make a[umlaut]you do a double take.

I liked being watched. I liked turning guys on. Getting them worked up. But then I'd get bored.

Such is the modus vivendi of Stephanie, a callous temptress played by Marion Cotillard in the new French drama Rust and Bone. An orca trainer by day, she is forced to confront her self-destructive nature after losing both legs from the knees down in a tragic on-the-job accident. Eventually she finds comfort in Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a street-fighting single father who thrusts her out of the darkness and into the light. The film is directed by French auteur Jacques Audiard, and loosely adapted from a collection of short stories by Canadian author Craig Davidson.

"I didn't have time to shoot this movie, but it was irresistible," says Cotillard on a recent fall morning in New York. "We went for it and jumped into the unknown, and I'm glad we did."

Cotillard's packed dance card shouldn't come as a surprise. Since winning an Oscar in 2008 for her portrayal of the singer Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose (and becoming the first Best Actress winner for a French-language turn), the Gallic performer has transformed into a bona fide Hollywood star, with roles as an alluring flapper in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, and as a femme fatale in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, both directed by Christopher Nolan. She's also been the face of Lady Dior since 2009.

After wrapping the final Batman film, which Nolan delayed shooting in order for Cotillard to have her baby, she had just one week to prepare to play Stephanie. With her 5-month-old boy, Marcel, in tow, she hopped on a plane to the Cote d'Azur to tackle her most physically demanding role to date--one that required her to fold her legs back during wheelchair scenes and to don green tights in other scenes so her legs could be removed with CGI. The result is one of the truly great special-effects triumphs of the year. The legless sex scenes--and there are quite a few--were especially difficult to film.

"Usually I don't like to do love scenes but sexuality is a very important part of the movie," says Cotillard. "When we did the scenes, I was a hundred percent in character, but a part of me was also very happy about what was happening to her."

She adds: "But we also had a lot of fun. Jacques was like, 'Cut! Your leg is making a shadow on Matthias's back, so we won't be able to use it. Put your leg higher!' That was really funny."

And the gamble seems to have paid off. Audiard's gritty, expressionistic tale, an affirmation of the Pat Benatar maxim "love is a battlefield," is earning Cotillard major buzz this Oscar season. An ethereal beauty--and living proof that the eyes are the windows to the soul--Cotillard says she related to Stephanie's melancholia. …