Robert Kojder chats with Annette star Marion Cotillard…
Annette is currently undergoing a limited theatrical release but also begins streaming on Amazon Prime August 20th. If you have any inkling for watching a bizarre musical that encapsulates everything from catchy choruses to emotion to unsettling imagery to demented laughter to satire on celebrity love, I strongly urge giving it a shot. Even if someone hates it, the ending is unshakable. Annette is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece worth seeking out. With that said, it was an absolute pleasure to chat with Marion Cotillard, one of the greatest actors working today, about her work on the film.
Robert Kojder: It’s nice to meet you, first I just want to say that Annette is my favorite movie of the year so far.
Marion Cotillard: Thank you!
It’s so weird and amazing. And I love it. So may we start the interview?
So one of your major reasons for signing onto Annette is because you think Leos Carax’s Holy Motors is a masterpiece, which it is, but what is it about that movie and his body of work that really made you want to work with him?
I do think Holy Motors is a masterpiece. It’s one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. I think Leos is an amazing artist. He’s a poet, a peculiar human being. I felt so lucky he asked me to work with him. And when I read the script of Annette… I never try to find a connection between me, my life, and a character, but the connection there was obvious. One of the themes of the movie that really resonated in me was the need for recognition that any human being will face. Artists, especially, will have to deal with this need for recognition almost all their life. So I was very interested to explore what is the need for recognition, where it comes from, where it leads you, and to explore it through another person other than myself.
So this was initially conceived as a Sparks concept album with the brothers initially playing Henry and the Conductor. And from what I understand, Ann was sort of in the background of that album. When this got turned into a movie, did you work with Leos Carax and Sparks to expand the character for the movie? Or did they do that themselves in the script?
Actually when I came on board I had heard about the movie two years before because Leos reached out to me around five years ago to talk to me about this project, but I was not available when they wanted to shoot the movie. So it was really heartbreaking for me to tell him that I couldn’t do his movie when he’s such a rare director. He has only directed six movies in 40 years. But I was lucky enough that they didn’t find the money when they wanted to shoot. So two years later, they came back to me, and then I read the script. Before I got on board, like officially, it had been like four years since they had been working on the script. So basically everything was there.
Was there anything that you wanted to change at all or was it just fine the way it was?
Not really. I felt that I had the space to give what the character needed to be vibrant and alive.
Speaking of Sparks, the opening number ‘So May We Start’ really sets the tone of movie and it looks like everyone’s just having a blast singing that song. So I’m curious if that’s the first scene of the movie you shot to get on that wavelength of what the movie is?
It was actually the last part of the shooting. The movie takes place in LA, but we shot most of the movie in Europe and we were lucky to be able to come to LA to finish outside there. So, we wrapped in Europe and we came here for a few days and we shot a few scenes included, including, ‘So May We Start’ and ‘This is the End’, the closing scene. And it was such a wonderful moment because it was Leos’ dream to come and shoot those scenes in LA. There was a lot of joy. We had known each other for months so to be all together after this unique experience and here in LA, it was, it was really strong and powerful and, brought a lot of joy.
That sounds like a fun time. So you’ve played singers before, and you have an Oscar for doing so, but for Annette because it’s all live singing, do you throw everything out the window that you have learned, or are there things you take from those performances into this movie?
Yeah, well in La Vie En Rose, I didn’t sing because it was actually, Édith Piaf’s voice. I really wanted to reach perfection in the lip-sync so people would actually really think it was me singing. The fact that Annette is live was very stressful, but at the same time, so exciting because the whole movie is singing. So it would have been kind of frustrating to lip-sync the whole movie, even your own voice. But the experience of singing live adds something to the movie and makes it more special because there’s all this action that you have to do, like swimming, dancing, running, smoking cigarettes, and it’s kind of hard to find the balance between good singing and delivering emotion and at the same time, doing all the things you have to do and not alter the sound too much.
What was interesting as well is that Leos was looking for accidents, like when you cannot breathe anymore because you’re laying down and singing which is super difficult, but then it adds something because he wanted it to be real. He didn’t want beautiful singing while you’re lying down, because it won’t be as beautiful as when your whole body is involved in the music and in the song. So it was very interesting to accept that the sound and the singing wouldn’t be perfect, but we were not looking for perfection. We were looking for emotion and sometimes we were out of breath and it was good and we used it.
The movie is definitely emotional. So we have to wrap things up, but I just want to say you did a movie called Rust and Bone years ago that, as a physically disabled person, that performance means a lot to me. So I’m just wondering if there’s anything about that performance you remember fondly or still take with you into your day-to-day life?
Oh, that is one of my favorite movies I have done! That was such a strong experience. I think every movie and every experience that I have through another person/character opens my heart and my mind a little more. And that movie really stayed with me and is still with me.
Thank you! You’re a legend and thank you for your time.
Thank you very much.
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com