Marion Cotillard on the “Dark Side” of Her ‘Annette’ Character and More [Interview]

Marion Cotillard on the “Dark Side” of Her ‘Annette’ Character and More [Interview]

Marion Cotillard won an Oscar for playing singer Édith Piaf, but she did not actually sing in 2007’s La Vie en Rose. But she has a background in music, and she does get to use her actual singing voice in Annette, the odd new musical from French filmmaker Leos Carax (Holy Motors) that sees Cotillard playing an opera singer in a tumultuous relationship with a comedian played by Adam Driver.

I caught up with Cotillard this week for a quick spoilery chat about the “dark side” of her character, working with a “special” co-star, and how she mentally prepared to play this role. Check out our full conversation below.

Warning: spoilers ahead for Annette.

I understand that you sang the songs live on the set while you were making this movie, which is an entirely different type of performing than working in a studio. You’ve spoken about the physical component of preparing for that, but did you do anything to mentally prepare for that challenge of your performance?

Wow. Mental preparation. When I start a project, I need to have the time to prepare, even if I never feel I’m ready. I guess how I mentally prepare myself is working as much as I can to be able to deliver what is expected from my director.

Speaking of that, what kinds of conversations did you have with Leos about your character? What was his vision for Ann in this movie?

Well, when you have a good script, you don’t need to talk too much because everything is there. Then it’s your job as an actor to find out this character got to the place the audience will meet them. But Leos gave me some material, and what he talked to me about was how she loves this man. He gave me a video of this actress called Romy Schneider. It’s an interview of her with another actor, and nobody knows they’re in love. The way she looks at him, the way she’s super powerful when she speaks about her work, and as soon as he speaks about his work, the way she looks at him with burning love. But still, because she’s in an interview, not showing too much. There’s this balance of shyness and power that was very interesting.

So I’m going to wait until the movie actually comes out on Amazon before I publish this interview so people have a chance to see the movie, but I want to ask you about a couple of spoilery things that I think readers will be very interested in. I was not expecting your character to die in this movie, and I certainly was not expecting her to haunt the rest of the film as a vengeful sea ghost. Did you approach the character of Ann any differently when she was alive versus when she was dead?

Yes, absolutely. The thing is, when the life is taken out of her – so her career, her recognition, everything that she worked for is taken away from her – then you see the dark side of her. The monster coming out of her. Because the way she’s going to behave with her kid is so wrong. As Adam’s character, Henry McHenry, will manipulate his own kid, she does exactly the same. She will manipulate this kid because she’s angry, because she has the rage inside of her. I think it’s very interesting to see how it affects the people around you and the people you love the most when the negativity and the toxicity takes all the place. Even if you love this kid, you will harm this kid because you are not yourself anymore, because of the frustration, the fear, and the rage.

What was it like working with the Annette puppet? As an actor, did you have to do any extra work to help sell those interactions because the puppet is so artificial?

We were lucky to find those people who created all the ages of this special kid. We trained a lot with her, especially I have this spinning scene where I need to sing this very high-pitched melody and turn, turn, turn, and I had to manipulate her as well several times in the movie. So we had to get familiar. But her expressions and the way she was manipulated when I was not manipulating her was so deep, so beautiful. It was actually kind of easy, even though it might not seem easy. There was life there.

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Annette is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.

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