Marion Cotillard – A character behind her characters

If I could, I would travel back in time and be a fly on the wall in the Cotillard household. Both her parents were actors, and she recalls:

When I was little, there were many people in my house. Everyone was enjoying themselves, rehearsing, having fun. It was like a playground.”

I can just imagine how Marion could not have gone into anything else other than acting with that background. She was exposed to acting right from the start and inherited the same love her parents had for the art.

French actress Marion Cotillard reacts after winning the Oscar for best actress for her work in "La Vie En Rose" during the 80th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
French actress Marion Cotillard reacts after winning the Oscar for best actress for her work in “La Vie En Rose” during the 80th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

It is definitely evident that Cotillard was and is not only concerned about acting in itself, but about the questions it raises about humanity.

“When I was a kid, I started to have a lot of questions about human beings, and I was a troubled child because of all of these questions. I guess that’s why I became an actress. Not only because my parents were actors and, yeah, it’s a beautiful thing to tell stories, but I think I became an actress because I wanted to explore this – to explore what a human being is.”

If there is one thing that characterises her performance, it is a thorough exploration and backstory of the characters she plays.

I didn’t even know of her before the news buzzed with rumours about her being ‘the other woman’ in the relationship between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But I am extremely glad that she was brought to my attention because her performances are amazing.

Among the many outstanding characters she’s played, her brilliant performance of Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose definitely stands out. She won a well-deserved Academy Award for it and through it, became an overnight success in the USA.


Among many other movies, she would most commonly be known for her performances in Inception, Rust and Bone, The Dark Knight Rises, Macbeth and The Immigrant.

She never really considered to be anything other than an actress, and so she started pursuing it at the age of 16. She recalls:

“My parents always told me that if you want something, you can do whatever you have to do to get it. As long as it’s not against someone else.”

What fascinates me about her, besides her outstanding performances, is her persona. I never had the impression that she was arrogant, she speaks about the people she works with genuine appreciation and her joy is contagious. If would have to describe her in three words, they would probably be down-to-earth, curious and quirky.

Her earlier statement already gives us a much deeper glimpse into her character. She has an immense respect and genuine love for other people, and I have seen that in her interviews as well, and especially her response to the press on the rumours with her involvement in the ‘Brangelina’ relationship:

“This is going to be my first and only reaction to the whirlwind news that broke 24 hours ago and that I was swept up into. I am not used to commenting on things like this nor taking them seriously but as this situation is spiraling and affecting people I love, I have to speak up. Firstly, many years ago, I met the man of my life, father of our son and of the baby we are expecting. He is my love, my best friend, the only one that I need. Secondly to those who have indicated that I am devastated, I am very well thank you. This crafted conversation isn’t distressing. And to all the media and the haters who are quick to pass judgment, I sincerely wish you a swift recovery. Finally, I do very much wish that Angelina and Brad, both whom I deeply respect, will find peace in this very tumultuous moment. With all my love Marion”

Where she could have responded in anger, she chose respect and honour instead. When watching a lot of ‘Behind the Scenes’ and interviews with her, she always seems very down-to-earth and aware of the fact that she is a fellow human being. Her accent makes her seem even more likeable.


She is an actress who loves the art of acting for what it is: art. Fame definitely just seems to be a by-product of her hard work and her curiosity for the characters she takes on.

If there is something I want to take away from my research on her, it would be to love acting for the art that it is, not its by-products. To treat the character like a person you are getting to know, rather than focusing on what my portrayal of a character looks like.


  • Annette is part of the acting team with The Initiative Production Company. She is a German South-African, loves the smell of freshly baked bread and constantly has a list in her head of countries to visit and more languages to learn.


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