Marion Cotillard needs no introduction. For those in the know, she is beautiful, interesting and talented and someone with whom I was excited to have a conversation. Perhaps, because of her extraordinary diction. Of course she is an actress, but, despite being Parisian by birth, Cotillard speaks English – I am sure that Hollywood may have had something to do with that.
Directed by top directors such as Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Steven Soderbergh, Leos Carax, Olivier Dahan, Woody Allen and Tim Burton, Cotillard takes risks supporting promising youngsters and choosing scripts that constantly challenge her talent without pigeonholing her into a gender or role. Oscar, BAFTA, César and Golden Globe winner for her portrayal of Édith Piaf, in La Vie en Rose (2008), her French blood cannot deny the je ne sais quoi that acts as a magnet to her personality.
One morning in Mexico City and the afternoon in Paris, we begin talking against the clock on Cotillard’s new project, one that any actress – but especially one of French nationality – would die to make. A short film for one of the most emblematic houses in the fashion and beauty industry. One that was founded by a French woman who despite the time she lived in, had the ability to be absolutely free, absolutely creative, absolutely authentic: Chanel.
GRAZIA: How excited are you to be part of the centenary for the most famous perfume on the planet?
Marion Cotillard: “It’s very exciting, I feel very lucky to be part of this new story for Chanel No. 5. I have always loved the house and we’ve gotten to know each other more and more, and really we have become a family. I love the fragrance, I have always liked it. So I feel very lucky, very happy to be on board for this adventure.
Have you imagined yourself as the image of Chanel No. 5? What does this event represent for you and for your career?
MC: “No, I never imagined having the pleasure and opportunity to share a story with No.5 and it is, I don’t know exactly how, I don’t know if I can describe a before and after, but there sure is a beautiful beginning in working with incredibly creative people. The more I discover the Chanel house, I am more impressed by the way in which they share this art, which is a commercial art, perhaps like any other art today. However, it is the love they have for what they do, the people they work for and with whom they work, their evolution in the dimension of the set environment was truly inspiring and outstanding.”
Talking about talented and creative people, what was the most exciting part of working with Johan Renck?
MC: “The set was a lot of fun, there was an energy of happiness and joy that really went with the film and we worked very closely, Johan and I with choreographer Ryan Heffington and the way they worked as a team. The choreography is pretty much the entire movie and the way Ryan directed me, the expressions that came with dancing, that was really a very rich experience. Also there is this Children’s and rock and roll mix in Johan Renck that really raises the energy, we had a great time while filming.”
No. 5 owes its name to the fact that it was the fifth test that Ernest Beaux – nose of the Tsars and officially of the Parisian maison – liked it with Coco Chanel. Bitter orange blossom, Grasse jasmine, May rose, sandalwood, vanilla, vetiver and aldehydes (chemicals never smelled or used before) have made No. 5 an everlasting fragrance.
Were you able to improvise something while dancing?
MC: “No way! I respected the choreography because I had nothing to change, and it is that with the music and the rhythm I could not have improvised, I did not need it. The objective was to learn the choreography, and to be able to do it technically, to enter the precise moment and then to find the freedom to express everything we wanted to convey with the dance. That’s where Ryan was amazing to me as was dancer Jérémie Belingard, star dancer at the Paris Opera. They really created a space where I could be technically closest to perfection without being a dancer, but they also made me understand that it would not be perfect and that they were not looking for perfection in dance but for emotion and a story to tell through dance. And there I found my freedom, in acting while dancing.”
Wow, can you tell us within every experience what was the most important?
MC: “There were many because to begin with when we saw the set it was beautiful, so impressive. And throughout the experience I worked with incredible people and all the creative team of Chanel. We had to get to know each other more and more, and I learned to love them more and more every day. So I can’t tell you a precise moment, but we really enjoyed the whole experience itself. The whole adventure was great.”
I know you sing and dance, in addition to acting in this film … how did you find balance between the three?
MC: “It was a balance between all of them, it was a combination of all the things that I love to do that creates this beautiful and simple movie, so I would not like to choose one thing over the other.”
When did you get involved with all these disciplines? Or for you it is part of being a complete actress.
MC: “For me, these three disciplines would have to be part of being an actress, however not all actresses sing and dance. I myself do not know how to dance, I am not a singer but I love to sing, I love to dance and when I have a project that involves singing and dancing, I am the happiest because this expression through the voice and the body, the energy it gives you is something that I love both experiencing and sharing.”
Changing the subject a bit. The olfactory memory is super strong, do you have any special memories of Chanel No.5 besides this experience?
MC: “I remember the first time I smelled Chanel No.5 I loved it immediately, the scent, the bottle, I loved its uniqueness and knew that one day I would wear it. The first time I smelled it I was a teenager and it was a gift a friend gave my mother. At that time I couldn’t afford to buy it, but somehow I knew that one day I would use it.
On what occasions would you wear Chanel No.5 and why?
MC: “I have this relationship with fragrances and I don’t have a habit with them. I can wear it every day, and suddenly not wear any perfume for a certain period of time. At big events I always wear Chanel. But sometimes I don’t wear it, I just smell it for my personal pleasure. I don’t have a ritual that involves wearing perfume every day. Sometimes it will be for an important event and sometimes just for the pleasure of wearing it. There is no rule.
This is how it should be when you wear perfume?
MC: “I do not know. It is the way I like it, but I understand that for some people it is part of their routine like wearing a hat, a brooch or a certain type of clothing. There are people who put on makeup every day and they like it, they need it, others wear perfume every day. It’s the way people like things because it’s part of you. A perfume becomes a part of you.
Interview: Toni Salamanca/ GRAZIA Mexico