Marion Cotillard was born in Paris to a family of actors. As a child, she acted in one of her father’s plays. Cotillard’s acting career kicked off with an uncredited cameo in English series Highlander.
Her first big role on the silver-screen was in La Belle Verte, a 1996 French comedy. She earned her first major award (Cesar) nomination for her role in Luc Besson’s action feature Taxi (1998).
In the following decade, Marion Cotillard worked with A-list directors, including Tim Burton, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Ridley Scott, and Michael Mann.
Her Academy Award-winning portrayal of Edith Piaf in the 2007 French-language biopic, La vie en Rose strengthened Cotillard’s status as an international star.
From then on, she has been part of Hollywood blockbusters — Inception, Dark Knight Rises — and sublime art-house cinema.
Cotillard approaches acting through an exacting method, often disappearing into the character she plays.
The actress’ understated performances are at once empowering and heartbreaking.
Here’s a list of the most memorable roles, so far in her career:
10. Contagion (2011)
Steven Sodebergh’s intense docu-drama chronicles the spread of a lethal strain of virus around the world in a matter of days.
Marion Cotillard plays Dr. Leonora Orantes, an investigator from the World Health Organization.
Sodebergh’s unsensational take on global epidemic is well complimented by a great ensemble of actors.
Cotillard, Jude Law, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, and Gwyneth Paltrow deliver incredibly poignant performances.
They acutely bring across the narrative’s eerie sociopolitical message.
9. Love Me If You Dare (2003)
Yann Samuel’s directorial debut seems to be influenced by the hit Korean rom-com My Sassy Girl (2001).
In fact, Samuel did the American remake of the film.
Julien and Sophie, best friends from childhood, keep playing an odd game of truth and dare.
Their games gradually become increasingly dangerous and feckless, driving them apart.
Marion Cotillard and her real-life partner Guillaume Canet play the central characters with whimsicality and gusto.
Surprisingly, Cotillard who recurrently plays emotionally frayed personalities exhibits her perfect comic timing in this role.
Overall, it’s a strange fable watchable for Cotillard’s sweetness and appeal.
8. Public Enemies (2009)
Michael Mann’s prohibition-era gangster movie had Marion Cotillard playing Billie Frechette, the girlfriend of notorious mobster John Dillinger.
The narrative chronicles the final days of Dillinger’s crime life as the FBI takes steps to bring him to justice.
While Johnny Depp played Dillinger, his opponent — the FBI agent Melvin Purvis — was played by another Hollywood star, Christian Bale.
Cotillard did her research on Frechette to prepare for the role.
She has quite a few stand-out moments in the film.
Look out for the one where she’s caught and viciously interrogated.
7. Nine (2009)
Rob Marshall’s campy musical drama was loosely based on a 1982 Broadway show, which itself was loosely based on Federico Fellini’s 8 1⁄2.
Nine nowhere comes close to Marshall’s previous Oscar-winning musical Chicago (2002).
Yet the film boasts great seasoned performers like Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren, and Daniel Day-Lewis.
Interestingly, it’s Marion Cotillard who steals the thunder.
Her performance as Luisa Contini is simple and heartbreaking.
Cotillard’s powerful rendition of Take It All ballad is incredibly moving.
6. Midnight in Paris (2011)
Marion Cotillard graces the screen with her gentle, ethereal presence in Woody Allen’s delightful romantic fantasy.
The narrative revolves around Owen Wilson’s Gil, a surrogate Allen figure.
Gil is an American screenwriter holidaying in Paris with his fiancee’s family.
He is besotted with the city and considers 1920s as its golden age.
But his fiancee petulantly disapproves his romantic notions.
On a lonely midnight walk, Gil surprisingly comes across his ‘golden age’ fantasy.
Cotillard plays Ariadna, a costume designer and an artist’s muse.
Besides, she is immensely charming in the role, a sprite dispelling Gil’s existential quandaries.
5. Macbeth (2015)
Justin Kurzel’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragedy is visually magnificent although dramatically underwhelming.
The 17th century play is about a brave Scottish military man who’s tempted by power.
He murders his way to the throne with the help of his wife but swiftly falls deep into insanity.
Apart from the director’s stunning visual preoccupations, the fascinating aspect is Marion Cotillard playing Lady Macbeth.
She turns in an enigmatic, haunted take on the scheming king’s wife.
Not to mention, she elevates the classical role with gifted facial expression, full of madness and belligerence.
Altogether, it’s the most dynamic performance of the famous deceptive character.
4. The Immigrant (2013)
James Gray’s historical melodrama is set in 1921, at Ellis Island, the gateway of millions of immigrants to the US.
Marion Cotillard plays the titular character named Ewa Cybulski, a Polish Catholic.
Ewa disembarks at Ellis Island with her sister Magda, who is confined to the infirmary due to a lung disease.
Notably, she survives in the new world with the help of Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix), a burlesque-style showman.
He offers her a place to live and a job at his theater.
As Ewa, Cotillard spectacularly expresses her conflicted inner emotional-state.
The highest note of her performance is particularly the scene she forlornly confesses to the priest.
3. La Vie En Rose (2007)
Marion Cotillard’s marvelous portrayal of French cultural icon Edith Piaf earned her a BAFTA, Golden Globe, and an Oscar.
Director Olivier Dahan’s dramatic interpretation of Piaf’s life story gets at emotional truths about an artist.
The narrative jumps back and forth across decades, offering biographical details, while also showcasing powerful renditions of Piaf’s songs.
Interestingly, Dahan used Piaf’s own voice and original musical recordings, which Cotillard perfectly lip syncs.
Playing Piaf from age 19 to 47 (she died at 47 due to illness and drug use), Cotillard portrays every phase with dynamism and grace. The actress also took rigorous measures to absorb the character in method-acting style.
To begin with, she spoke in Piaf’s gravelly voice, shaved her eyebrows and hairline.
Cotillard later has confessed she was so deep into the character that she found it difficult to redeem even months after the production had wrapped.
2. Rust and Bone (2012)
In Jacques Audiard‘s soul-searching drama, Marion Cotillard plays a former whale-trainer who loses her legs in a terrible accident.
She forms a bond with a bouncer (Matthias Schoenaerts), who saves her from a bar-room brawl.
They get involved in a physical yet unsentimental relationship.
Notably, the film was inspired by two stories in a short-story collection by Canadian author Craig Davidson.
To say Cotillard’s performance is hypnotic and complex would be an understatement.
She once again proves her remarkable quality at diffusing deep emotional complexity to the character.
Marion’s eyes reveal a strength and fragility that are hard to be unmoved by.
Unfortunately, the thoroughly mesmerizing performance didn’t bring her any major awards.
1. Two Days, One Night (2014)
In Dardenne brothers’ social-realist drama, Marion Cotillard doesn’t go through grueling physical transformation as in La Vie En Rose.
But her impassioned and sadly introspective looks easily outdo her Oscar-winning performance.
Cotillard plays Sandra, a working-class wife and mother.
She returns to work at a solar panel factory after a nervous breakdown, only to discover that her job is in peril.
The inhumane bureaucracy of the company has decided to oust her.
Henceforth, it’s all put to simple vote: the struggling fellow workers can save Sandra’s job, provided they are ready to part with their year-end bonuses.
Before Monday’s vote, Sandra spends the weekend, knocking at the doors of her colleagues’ houses.
In due time, she needs 9 votes out of the 16.
Two Days, One Night is a brilliant recession-era drama that talks about the need for solidarity among the workers.
Cotillard’s restrained, stripped-down performance, full of self-resolve and dignity anchors the film.
Dardenne brothers are known for their repeat-takes and some of the scenes in the film took at least 50 takes.
Yet Cotillard retains subtlety and avoids sentimental expressions throughout such an emotionally taxing work.
Do you agree with our ranking? Which are your favourite films of Marion Cotillard? Tell us all in the comments below.
By Arun Kumar
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