How did you get attached to Public Enemies?
My American agent called and told me that Michael Mann wanted to meet me. At first I couldn′t believe it; but it was true!
Marion Cotillard in Public Enemies [See Photos | Videos]
Were you familiar with his work?
I had seen all his movies and was a huge fan.
The movie tells the story of John Dillinger, paying special attention to his relationship with Billie Frechette, your character. What did you know about them before getting involved in the film?
Before getting involved, I didn′t know much. The script was great so I did some research about them and that period of American History. I read a lot about The Depression and other subjects like the creation of the FBI.
Did you read the non-fiction book Public Enemies: America′s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-1934 that this movie is based on?
Yes, I really enjoyed it. I didn′t know that all those gangs were active around the same time. I like how it is written with an almost day-to-day and hour-to-hour recollection of events.
Had you seen any of the previous films about Dillinger?
No, and I didn′t want to. Maybe I will one day; but it is hard for me to see something that I will then have to go and do.
What was the shoot like?
We shot in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Los Angeles. Period movies are always special because you really feel you are going back in time it is like visiting a museum! You literally dive into History, which creates a very special atmosphere on set.
Were you attracted to that specific period of American History portrayed in the movie?
I am attracted to many things about the 30′s: the clothes, the architecture, the haircuts It is a beautiful period, from a stylistic point of view.
What kind of a woman was Billie Frechette?
She was a very nice woman and a survivor -like so many others during that tough era. Billie also had a strong character, which I believe she got from her Native American roots.
But how does a good person fall in love with a gangster?
Dillinger was a gangster, although I don′t believe he was a bad person. He spent 10 years in jail due to a stupid mistake, and then robbed banks because it was what he knew how to do; but he was not a murderer.
How did he treat her?
He treated her very well because he was a gentleman. John respected and protected Billie. And, for a young woman who was struggling to find her way in those difficult days, that meant a lot.
Their relationship is the core of the movie.
Yes, they were in love. One of the things I like about Michael Mann is that women always have a special place in his movies. They play a key role and are never just a love interest.
What is Michael Mann like as a director?
He feeds you with a lot of useful information and creates a world for you that will eventually enable you to get into his world and the story. Michael loves detail, and I think that it is precisely those small details that end up making the difference.
Most of your scenes are with Johnny Depp, who plays John Dillinger.
He is a very special guy and a gentleman that has a lot of respect for everything and everybody. And he is always the same, no matter whom he is with. Johnny is an amazing and intense actor who also has something original about him that makes him so special. I wouldn′t know how to explain it, but it is definitely there and you can sense it.
A scene from Public Enemies: Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard
How was the experience of working so closely with him?
I was a bit nervous when I arrived on set because it was my first movie in a long time and I was struggling with my English, but Johnny took care of me and was so reassuring. He is a very generous actor.
Was getting the accent right the biggest challenge for you?
Oh yes, even being old and sick like Piaf was easier than getting the American accent right! At first I didn′t think it would be possible, but I worked very hard with a dialect coach.
And what do you think Christian Bale brought to the role of the federal agent Melvin Purvis?
Christian is amazing, and like Johnny, he brought something very deep to his work which is why Public Enemies is much more than just a gangster movie. You can feel the violence of the story thanks to the performances of Johnny as Dillinger and Christian as Purvis. But their characters are also tough guys with a major failure, which makes them look even more real.
The truth is that Public Enemies feels very real
Yes, it truly shows you what it must have been like to live in Chicago during The Depression.
What did you think of the film when you saw it completed?
I loved it! It pulls you into the story and makes you believe what the characters are going through.
Were you happy to be back to work after the success of La vie en rose?
I was so happy to be back on set, because it had been two years since I shot La vie en rose. I really wanted to go back to work.
How has your life and career changed after the Oscar you received for your portrayal of Edith Piaf in that movie?
My life and career have changed on many levels. I am very grateful to the director Olivier Dahan because, thanks to him, I have all these wonderful opportunities now. And I have learned in my life to be true to myself in order to know what to do and be happy with my choices.