Marion Cotillard: “Nolan is never locked in his world”

Marion Cotillard in Inception
Warner Bros.

Marion Cotillard confided in 2010 on her first collaboration with Christopher Nolan. Flashback, while waiting to see the film again on TF1 Séries Films.

Before working with Christopher Nolan, how did you view him as a spectator?
Marion Cotillard :
His work fascinates me even if I don’t understand everything. Its singularity is such that I let myself be carried away every time. For example, as a big fan of Tim Burton and his Batmanit was a priori impossible for me to appreciate a Batman made by someone other than himself. But the Batman Begins by Christopher literally blew me away! Because it transcends the superhero film: it respects the myth while capturing it with style. This sums up perfectly what his cinema is for me.

How was your first meeting for Inception ?

It took place in Paris. I knew absolutely nothing about the film at the time. That day, he just told me that my character, Mal, had many facets and played an essential role in the life of that of Leonardo DiCaprio. But he didn’t want to go into details to let me discover the film in the script he gave me at the end of the meeting. And he was right: Inception is not a film whose story is told since everyone will have a different interpretation. We also spent this meeting talking about… our nocturnal dreams, an important theme ofInception. However, this mysterious and impalpable world fascinates me. I talked with Christopher about how I try to control them when I find myself in a dangerous situation…It always makes me sad to meet people who never remember their dreams. Me, it’s the opposite. I even dreamed of the same thing every night for four months. It made me mad and insomniac from trying by all means not to plunge back into the same nightmare.

It may seem strange to talk about things as intimate as your dreams on a first date with a “stranger”…

I totally get it! (laughs) But my shyness naturally causes me to have a special sensitivity to communicating with certain people, including Christopher. Discussing on this subject, however, provokes a strange feeling, since we are telling something both very intimate and very detached from oneself. We learn a lot from a person by knowing their nocturnal dreams… but we can also easily cover our tracks!

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Once you had definitely chosen to play Mal, how did you build your character?

I started by discussing with Christopher what was not very clear to me in this story. We have indeed started working on a non-final version of the screenplay. However, as this one goes in a whole bunch of different directions, it gives rise to a lot of interpretations. So we had to agree on a common one, to be sure that we were all making the same film. This discussion is very simple because Christopher is both accessible and precise in his answers. He is not locked in his world. This upstream phase was essential.

And if you had only one image to remember from this shoot, what would it be?

Playing on a green screen makes me feel uncomfortable and doubtful. But since I knew I could trust Christopher, I was able to surrender to his vision. It was especially striking that day when he decided to add scenes written that morning. We were coming out of our preparatory work, I no longer had all the keys to understanding him but it was enough for me to follow him. Despite the moments of panic that it can arouse in me, I love nothing more than being taken on by someone located in a universe far from mine.

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