When Marion Cotillard was preparing to play Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, she was reluctant to meet anyone who knew the late and legendary French chanteuse.
“You know, I didn’t feel the necessity to meet a lot of people who knew her, because I can be a very shy person,” the French native, who still lives in France, told me during a recent trip to Los Angeles. “I think that asking people about their lives or memories, well, I would maybe feel a little bit disrespectful toward people.”
Raised in a brothel, Piaf rose to fame after being discovered by a nightclub owner in 1935. Nicknamed the Little Sparrow, Piaf developed a morphine addiction after being seriously injured in a car accident in 1951. She died of cancer in 1963, when she was just 47 years old.
If you didn’t see La Vie en Rose in theaters, now’s your chance to catch up! The DVD hit stores today.
Despite her shyness, the 32-year-old Cotillard became close to one of Piaf’s best friends, Ginou Richet, during the making of the movie, when Richet reached out to her.
“She only told me one thing when she saw the movie,” Cotillard said of Richet. “She knew not that I don’t like compliments, but they’re very hard for me to take…She called me and said, ‘Oh, I saw the movie.’ And I did something I never do—I asked her what she was thinking about what I did.”
Richet simply replied, “Ooh la la.”
“I was very happy to get that ‘Ooh la la,’ ” Cotillard said.
As she should be.
Cotillard, who has appeared stateside in The Good Year and Big Fish, became a favorite for awards season as soon as La Vie en Rose was released. The Palm Springs International Film Festival has already announced she’ll be honored with its Breakthrough Performance Award in January (last year’s honoree was eventual Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson). No doubt the Oscars and Golden Globes—among all the other awards shows—will come calling.
Even before transforming herself into Piaf, Cotillard said she’s always had an interest in singing. But she didn’t do any of her own vocals in La Vie en Rose—at least none that made it into the movie. She lip-synched to Piaf’s iconic voice.
“It was the worst day for the crew, because I needed to sing for real, but I needed to hear her voice more than mine, so the volume was more than loud,” Cotillard remembered. “It hurt for all the crew, because they heard the recording plus my voice very, very loud; kind of funny, but very hard day for them.”
But from the sounds of it, we’ll get to hear Cotillard’s singing voice in Chicago director Rob Marshall’s upcoming movie adaptation of the Broadway musical Nine. It's based on the Federico Fellini film 8½, about a filmmaker and his many love affairs. Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sophia Loren are reportedly attached to star.
And so is Cotillard, but she’s not ready to make it official…yet.
“We’re talking,” she said with a laugh. “It smells good…What’s going on about the movie smells very good.”