Any discussion of Rust and Bone involves a form of spoiler, but if you know anything about the movie you probably already know. We’ll give you this chance to stop reading if you really want to go in blind. Once you even know the premise of the film, you may be intrigued by star Marion Cotillard’s approach to it. She plays a whale trainer at a theme park who loses her legs in a performance accident. In the rest of the film, a womanizing underground fighter (Matthias Schoenarts) helps her adjust and begins an affair with her. We got to spend a few minutes with Cotillard in Los Angeles, where I couldn’t help but notice her legs in real life. She’d kicked off her shoes, curled up on a sofa and played with her toes while we spoke. It’s not a foot fetish, it’s a personal touch in the aftermath of a day of wardrobe changes and photo shoots. Cotillard also attended AFI Fest which showed the film and presented a tribute to her career. Rust and Bone opens in select theaters Friday.
CraveOnline: Obviously the legs transform you quite a bit, but it’s all a special effect that you may not see until later, so does that make it easier or more difficult to feel the transformation?
Marion Cotillard: Well, first of all when we did the first costume fitting, we had to try those pants that were empty of my legs and I had to fold my legs in the wheelchair. That image was so powerful that we kept it throughout the movie. And also we worked with amazing CGI guys, this team was really, really talented but also that’s what we do as an actor. We believe something and if we work hard enough and we’re lucky enough then the audience will believe it too.
The scene where you wake up in the hospital and realize what’s happened to your legs, what were your thoughts on how to play that moment?
We didn’t know. It’s something that’s really hard to imagine so we tried many versions of it and then in the editing room Jacques [Audiard] decided for this version because also, there is not only one reaction. You take four people and in that situation they will have four different reactions. So we experienced and we explored different ways to find the authenticity of this moment.
What other ways did you play?
Well, we played shocked, silent shocked like you cannot even scream, you shook almost. And we tried a very violent reaction. We tried many things and the only one that stays actually stays.
Were the love scenes in this film like no other you’ve ever filmed?
Yes. I usually hate doing love scenes. I’m very uncomfortable but this one was very different because the sexuality of those two people is really part of the movie and also I happened to be so happy for her. That was almost something that I was giving to my character and I had to enjoy it because it’s something so powerful that happens in her life at that moment.
And she would continue this arrangement as long as it’s exclusive right? She’s not pushing for a relationship, she just wants “this” to be exclusive.
I don’t know if it’s about exclusivity. I think it’s about being respectful and the relationship with Alain starts with Alain looking at her as a human being in the most simple way and without pity, without anything but simplicity. That’s what creates a very strong connection between both of them, but he looks at her as a human being but not as a woman yet. That’s what she can teach him.
I first saw you in the movie Love Me If You Dare before I knew anything about you. I understand that became an important film for you personally, was it an important film for you professionally?
Yeah, I had always wanted to do a romantic comedy and that was a very special romantic comedy, crazy, crazy romantic comedy and I loved the screenplay and so wanted to do this movie. It took forever for the director to tell me that I was the one he had chosen and it was kind of hell to wait that long but yeah, I loved doing it.
It goes quite dark too, for a romantic comedy, doesn’t it?
Yeah, that’s why I loved it. It was not like a sweet romantic comedy. It was really dark.
One of your first jobs was an episode of “Highlander: The Series.” Was that a good experience?
That was an amazing experience. All the first experiences that I had, even sometimes [when] it was not exactly what I wanted to do, but it still was an experience as an actress and I was living from my passion.
Here we see actors like Brad Pitt and other really big stars on American shows like “21 Jump Street” before they were famous. Was “Highlander” like that where they were looking for European actors?
Well, yeah, because they were shooting in France so that’s why I ended up doing this episode.
How were your experiences on the Taxi films?
That was totally different. That was comedy and I didn’t feel very comfortable because I had no experience at that time. I would do it totally differently now but that’s an amazing experience for me because that allowed me to meet a huge audience and we had a lot of fun doing it too.
What did you think of the American remake?
I haven’t seen it.
How does that feel to have an AFI retrospective at this point?
I don’t really know. I’m just really happy to share this movie with the American audience because I’m very proud of it and I love French cinema. I’m always very happy to share the cinema of my country which is full of diversity and creativity.
Did winning the Oscar have different impacts in Europe and Hollywood?
I don’t know. It was different because I was known for my work in France before the Oscar and I was not known for my work here. It opened doors of the American cinema and I would have never thought that I would work here one day, but it makes me very happy.
Follow Fred Topel on Twitter at @FredTopel.