Cotillard wins top French film award for Piaf role

Fri Feb 22, 2008 7:02pm EST
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By James Mackenzie

PARIS (Reuters) - Oscar-nominated actress Marion Cotillard took France's top cinema award on Friday, winning a Cesar for her virtuoso portrayal of chanteuse Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose."

Mathieu Amalric claimed the best actor prize for his performance as a man crippled by a stroke and able to communicate only by blinking an eyelid in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," whose director Julian Schnabel has also been nominated for an Oscar.

Cotillard, who had already won both a British BAFTA and a Golden Globe for the her role as Piaf, had been tipped to win France's answer to an Academy Award.

Her portrayal of Piaf has attracted rave reviews in her home country and abroad and she thanked director Olivier Dahan.

"You changed my life, you changed my life as an actress, you changed my life full stop," she said, fighting back tears.

Cotillard also thanked Piaf's friend Ginou Richer, to whom she became close while preparing for her role. "I love you Ginou, you opened up your life, you opened up 15 years of your life and friendship with Piaf and you really nourished me."

If she wins on Sunday, Cotillard would be the first French performer to receive a best actress Oscar since Simone Signoret in 1960, although several others, including Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Adjani, have been nominated.

Amalric, receiving his second best actor Cesar, was in Panama shooting his part as the villain in the next James Bond film and he sent a message of thanks to be read out at the ceremony.   Continued...

<p>French actress Marion Cotillard receives the best actress award for "La Mome" (La Vie En Rose) at the French Cesar ceremony in Paris February 22, 2008. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>