LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - French actress Marion Cotillard has gone from playing singing legend Edith Piaf to portraying the girlfriend of another kind of popular hero, bank robber John Dillinger.
In the movie “Public Enemies” opening on July 1, Cotillard plays Billie Frechette, a woman who fell in love with Dillinger, played by Johnny Depp, during his ill-fated cops-and-robbers war with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in the 1930s.
Cotillard won the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of Piaf in 2007 movie “La Vie en Rose.” Her role in “Public Enemies” as the daughter of a Frenchman and an American Indian is her first since winning the Academy Award.
She spoke to Reuters in French from Chicago about her character Billie Frechette, her love of the Windy City and her upbringing in France in a family of actors.
Q: What did Billie Frechette see in John Dillinger that attracted her to him?
A: “At a young age, she was sent to a boarding school, and it was a very difficult place where they tried to erase everything that was Indian in her. And I think that she encountered there a great injustice, and she shared with Dillinger a suspicion of authority. I think the two of them saw that in each other and they fell in love immediately, and there was a very strong connection between them.”
Q: Growing up in a household of actors, did you often practice scenes with your parents?
A: “Yes, because my parents were actors and theater directors. And my father was a director for children’s theater after having been a mime for a long time. So, seeing actors rehearse was something very familiar to me.”
Q: Did that influence you as an actress?
A: “I was absolutely fascinated that you could make a living telling other people’s stories by imparting your emotion to them. And I always wanted to be an actress. My first work as an actress was when I was about five years-old.”
Q: You played in a scene that young?
A: “I made two small movies for television. And before that I remember acting in a play with my mother, and it was very disorienting because I played the daughter of another actress. They were telling me that she was my mom, but I knew she wasn‘t. In fact, my real mom was also on stage. I remember being very disoriented by that.”
Q: How did you prepare for your English-speaking role in this movie?
A: “I worked with a speech coach for several months, and I had to relearn how to use my face and my body, because the way of saying certain letters is so different in French than in English, and it was very hard to train myself in that.”
Q: What did you do for fun while you were shooting this movie in Chicago?
A: ”I went to a lot of museums because I love museums and there are a lot of marvelous ones here. Also, I went dancing at the Green Mill (cocktail lounge) and listened to jazz there. I was there often, I liked that place.
“I love this city. I love the architecture. I love the 1930s and there’s a lot of sublime ‘30s architecture here. I find the lake so energizing, so vast, so beautiful. I am looking at the lake now through my hotel window, it looks like the ocean.”
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patricia Reaney